Barclays, which is facing allegations of fraud in the US, is setting up an academy with Cambridge Judge Business School where it will send all 2,100 of its compliance staff for specialised training by academics ranging from philosophers to lawyers.
Launching the Compliance Career Academy barely a week after being hit by a fresh range of allegations about the treatment of customers trading in so-called "dark pools", the chairman Sir David Walker said: "We have a Barclays way, guidance on the way we want people to conduct themselves, that has to be embedded in the business. If we can't embed it from the top to the bottom we will have failed."
Barclays, which spends £300m a year on compliance, said the new academy cost tens of millions and would offer courses that other banks will be able to send their staff on.
The latest allegations by the New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman about the specialist dark pool trading system – which allows trades to be placed anonymously – have forced Barclays to assemble a 50-strong hit squad to respond to the criticisms.
The allegations have come exactly two years after the bank was hit with a £290m fine for rigging Libor, which forced out the previous management and led to the appointment of Walker and the promotion of Antony Jenkins to chief executive.
Walker said the plan to improve the reputation of Barclays was on track and the latest allegations were not evidence of failure. "I am sorry to say there will be accidents. They are not evidence of the failure of what we are running, they are indicative that it takes time," he added.
The academics at Cambridge Judge Business School – led by Dame Sandra Dawson who sat on the Barclays board for six years until 2009 – will train Barclays staff on subjects such as truthfulness and "what is compliance?"
A City veteran who intends to chair one more annual meeting next spring before stepping aside later in 2015, Walker said that compliance had not been seen as a serious activity in the run-up to the crisis and that the role needed to change. It should not just be seen as a policeman role but a broader approach to overseeing the way the organisation is run.
Walker, a former regulator, said many of the problems in the industry stemmed from the move 25 years ago to introduce free in-credit banking for current accounts, driving banks to seek income elsewhere.
The expectations of regulators had also increased, he said, using the current investigation into the foreign exchange markets as an example. "It's not an excuse, (but) in things like the foreign exchange market, what you're seeing is … a raising of expectations or raising of the regulatory bar," Walker said. But, he said, the way the £3.5trn a day market was "vulnerable to taint" and needed fine tuning to eliminate that risk of dealing before clients.
Walker gave his support to Jenkins, who has faced criticism over the bank's pay deals. "I can't think of any executive I would rather have in charge in these circumstances," Walker said.
Mike Roemer, head of compliance at Barclays, said the bank would not be hiring more compliance staff. "Other people are hiring arms and legs. We're in investing in brains," Roemer said.
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