Bob Diamond, the controversial American investment banker chosen to be the next chief executive of Barclays, yesterday defended the British bank against accusations it was being run like a casino.
The appointment of Diamond, infamous for pocketing huge bonuses as head of the lender’s highly successful investment banking arm, to the top job at Barclays last week has proven controversial.
The 59-year-old will take over from British banker John Varley in the post at the end of March next year.
Diamond hit back at critics who have lambasted Barclays for “casino banking” — a term commonly used to describe the high risks taken by investment bankers, who have been heavily criticized for their role in the economic crisis.
In comments to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Diamond said the term “has no basis in reality.”
“These aren’t casino businesses. These are real, client-driven businesses,” he said.
“It’s disappointing when we hear reference that banks are casinos. It’s disappointing when we hear reference that Barclays Capital [the investment banking arm] is a casino,” Diamond said.
He added: “It is just not right to use a phrase like that to encompass investment banking or banking, it is not based on fact and it creates the wrong impression.”
Diamond has been at the forefront of Barclays’ transformation from a well-run retail bank into an investment banking giant able to compete with Wall Street titans. Earlier this year, the then British business minister Peter Mandelson described him as “the unacceptable face of banking” amid public outrage at bankers’ bonuses.
Mandelson had accused Diamond of receiving a bonus worth tens of millions of dollars — which Barclays denied.
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