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Amid Regulatory Woes, Barclays Launches Compliance Career Academy

Joe Mont | July 7, 2014

What do you do when your bank faces staggering fines from regulators around the globe? The response, by British banking giant Barclays, is to redouble its training efforts for compliance personnel and the employees they oversee.

Barclays recently announced the creation of its Compliance Career Academy, a new effort intended “to transform and professionalize compliance.” A partnership with the U.K.'s Cambridge Judge Business School, it will deliver training to employees at all levels in locations including Cambridge, Johannesburg, New York and Singapore. The program is described as “a potential world-first academic and industry collaboration.”

“The ambition is for the academy to act as a benchmark for compliance practice across the industry and ultimately lead to the creation of a Certificate in Compliance that will be open to all,” a statement from Barclays announcing the training initiative says. In the meantime, the school has launched the Centre for Compliance and Trust as a platform for discussion, research and development across the financial sector.

“Strong and effective internal compliance is essential to ensuring banks operate in the right way," David Walker, Barclays chairman, said in a statement. "For the first time, the Compliance Career Academy sets a benchmark for compliance practitioners that I am confident will contribute to raising standards across the industry as a whole”. 

A statement from the school says its vision “is to re-frame the understanding and expectations of compliance to create a professional practice which encompasses both technical and behavioral aspects leading to significant cultural change in the way that the financial industry is run.” The focus will be on “a values and judgment-based approach to compliance… and creating understanding around the emerging regulatory regimes which are being developed around the world.

In recent years, the bank has made a public commitment to compliance, including ethics training for the 140,000 people it employs in more than 50 countries. Approximately $514 million is budgeted each year on its compliance function.

That spending alone, however, hasn't been enough to prevent fines and internal controversy. Earlier this year, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority slapped Barclays with a $3.75 million fine for systemic failures to preserve electronic records for more than a decade. More recently, in May, the U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority fined the bank 26 million pounds ($43.8 million) for internal control failures that permitted a trader to manipulate gold prices. It came on the heels of a massive $497 million fine for manipulating the London interbank offered rate.

Last month, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a lawsuit against Barclays that alleges it “dramatically increased the market share of its dark pool through a series of false statements to clients and investors about how, and for whose benefit, Barclays operates its dark pool.”

“Contrary to Barclays' representations that it has implemented special safeguards to protect clients from aggressive or predatory high-frequency traders, Barclays is accused of operating its dark pool to favor high-frequency traders,” a statement from his office says.

An independent review, released last year, was conducted at the request of Barclay's board after the bank paid $453 million in total fines and penalties to the Justice Department, Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and London's Financial Service Authority in June 2012 related to the LIBOR trading scandal. The report concluded that “reputational problems for Barclays stem in part from the perception that, at least in the UK, some bankers have appeared oblivious to reality.”

The report was also critical of what it described as a highly decentralized business model. “Across the whole bank, there were no clearly articulated and understood shared values, so there could hardly be much consensus among employees as to what the values were and what should guide everyday behaviors,” it said. “As a result there was no consistency to the development of a desired culture.”

Among the report's recommendations was instituting learning programs “that actively encourage frequent discussion of its chosen values among all staff, focusing on understanding potential conflicts and how to address them.”