Sir David Walker could almost have been hand-picked by Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King. Suspicious folk may wonder if perhaps he has been. The answer is 'sort of'. Threadneedle Street was asked to give its blessing.
It was as long ago as 1985 that Walker, then a senior employee of the Bank, was asked to clear up the great mess of the day. Johnson Matthey Bankers had had to be rescued by the Bank and Walker was selected to hose down the flames. He did such an effective job that he was even thought to be in the running to be governor of the Bank three years later.
That appointment never happened. Walker's CV is instead long and varied: chairman of the Securities & Investments Board, forerunner of the Financial Services Authority; deputy chairman of Lloyds; two stints as chairman of Morgan Stanley International; and go-to guy for hot inquiries such as the review three years ago into how banks and other financial firms should be governed.
In that final role one of his recommendations was 'a stronger chairman'. He now has the chance to practise what he preached.
Why, then, was he barely mentioned in speculative lists of runners and riders for the Barclays gig? It's probably an ageist thing. Walker will be 73 at the end of this year, a time of life when lesser mortals could be forgiven for declining the challenge of putting the Young Turks of the trading floor in their place. But, of course, Walker's real task is to find a chief executive capable of overhauling the culture; half a century's experience is probably an asset in making that appointment. Indeed, it's not as if Walker has to hang around for half a decade – Barclays needs to change quickly.
His arrival may also create options. Some argued that only an investment banker could be chief executive of Barclays as the division dominates the group. But, in theory at least, it's easier to appoint a retail banker if Walker, with recent experience at Morgan Stanley, is there as chairman. We shall see.
Either way, it is clear that Walker is determined to take a tougher line on pay. After Marcus Agius's supine performance on that front, that's a definite improvement. An intriguing appointment.
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