Barclays Sets up Compliance School

Barclays, which has suffered a series of hits to its reputation such as its involvement in manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), has created a compliance career academy in partnership with the UK’s Cambridge University to improve staff training.

The bank’s chairman, David Walker, said improved training would ensure that compliance staff could go a step further and mentor traders and other colleagues to improve culture and behaviour.

“Compliance has not been seen as a serious enough specialist activity,” Walker said. “Our track record in culture has not been good. It’s important for us all to have a concept of culture, conduct and compliance.”

Compliance officers, as well as internal auditors, have been regarded as vulnerable to pressure from sales staff not to adopt too stringent requirements and potentially limit earnings.

Walker agreed that this had been an issue in the past, and that “soft risks” such as avoiding reputational damage were the hardest to tackle. “One way of seeing it is that we are guilty until we prove ourselves to be innocent,” he added.

Barclays’ chairman also said raising standards among traders was the best solution for an overhaul of the foreign exchange (FX) market, currently the subject of investigation by global regulators.

The probe into the US$5.3 trillion-a-day currency market is looking into allegations of collusion and price rigging. Regulators are due to report in the coming months on possible reforms of how forex benchmarks are set.

“The problem is the way the market is vulnerable to taint and malpractice,” Walker admitted. “It needs some sensitive fine-tuning.” However, he said that overly stringent regulation would spoil the market by “throwing out the baby with the bath water” and simply spur traders to find ways round the rules.

The bank’s new compliance programme will be taught in partnership with the Cambridge Judge Business School.

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