He did well, starting with the dutiful confession that the bank has made "serious mistakes in recent years and clearly failed to keep pace with stakeholders' expectations". That was stating the bleedin' obvious but needed to be said, especially by an internal appointment.
But lest he scare too many traders in the investment bank, whose services are required until the moment they are not, he didn't overdo the transformational rhetoric. The bank's culture has to be "modified", said Jenkins, which made it sound like a matter of tweaking a few dials when surely he knows it's the work of half a decade at least. And what does Barclays want to be? A "go to" bank, apparently, which could mean anything or nothing.
Where Jenkins did stick out his neck it was on a non-controversial point. Investors never trusted predecessor Bob Diamond's pledge that he could raise Barclays' returns on equity to 13%. The target was too hard and shareholders suspected victory would be declared after a single bull's-eye in a boom year. Jenkins' aim for "sustainable" returns above the bank's cost of capital is more sensible.
Vague words of good intent are, of course, all one could expect on day one. Jenkins' first test comes when the business units have been reviewed and decisions made on where to allocate capital. How will his appointment be received in the investment bank, which makes half the group's profits but is an enormous consumer of capital and thus faces some degree of slimming?
It's impossible to know at this stage. BarCap, as it used to be called, has been run as a fiefdom within Barclays since Diamond's early years – that was the John Varley formula. That arm's-length arrangement clearly has to end, but how will the highly paid employees react to being told what to do by a mere retail banker, albeit a successful one from the other side of Barclays? Will Rich Ricci, a Diamond lieutenant who is running the investment bank, stay to help?
We shall see. It's not a good moment for aggrieved investment bankers to seek alternative employment, but there's clearly a risk that the slimming exercise at BarCap becomes chaotic. Jenkins' challenge is to get control of the process and keep control. Six months' time, when his cards are on the table, is the earliest point when the success of this appointment can start to be judged. Jenkins seems to have a clear sense of how Barclays needs to change, which is a big plus. The hard part is making it happen.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010