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Barclays CEO shares candid views during Penn State Smeal’s Executive Insights series

September 19, 2017

Staley and the Dean
Jes Staley, right, group chief executive officer of Barclays, engaged in a moderated discussion with Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal, last week during the latest installment of Executive Insights, Smeal's signature speaker series.
Barclays Group Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley informed the students, faculty, and staff that filled the Business Building Atrium on Friday about business, diversity, and leadership in the second installment of this semester’s Executive Insights speaker series.

The third and final Executive Insights guest of the semester will be Wanda Bryant Hope, chief diversity officer of Johnson & Johnson. Her appearance is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20 in the Struthers Auditorium, Room 110 of the Business Building. 

Staley shared his views in a moderated discussion with Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal. A sampling of the topics Staley addressed includes:

Privacy in banking
“It is a really, really tricky topic, I think. The movement right now is globally. What has been agreed to by the G20 is there is no financial secrecy anymore. Governments are going to swap financial information. No one can have a single financial record that is not fully known by your own country. The whole notion of having a Swiss bank account is over. The data thing provides extraordinary opportunities for us and it’s scary. I think it’s going to be a really big issue for this generation to deal with.” 

The new building block of banking
“One of the things that scares me about the job I have now is, accounting is nice, but the building block of Barclays today is not accounting, it is (computer) code, and I can’t read or write code. Having a familiarity with code or how computer science builds out products is a huge asset. It’s one thing I told my two kids when they were going through school. You have to understand basic coding. To me it’s almost like understanding how to write and read now.” 

The impact of technology on business
“Robots will not replace empathy. One thing I think we all need to learn is to be empathetic. That’s a characteristic that I think is going to be more and more important as certain processes become less and less personalized. How we deal with people and how people deal with us is the whole game. It’s the humanity of the institution that will ultimately determine its success or failure.” 

The evolving attitude about financial oversight
“Historically, I think banks saw the regulators as the enemies. I think that is irresponsible and frightening. At Barclays, we have said we want to be totally transparent about what we do. Investment banks seem to thrive on obfuscating everything. We need to sit down with our regulators and explain to them, with complete transparency, everything that we do. Hiding something to make an economic gain cannot be tolerated anymore.” 

Success in business
“A McKinsey study said success or failure in business will be very much a function of who can attract and retain the best of intellectual capital. One of the lessons for me, is the best way to attract and retain intellectual capital in today’s business world is through embracing diversity. In my career, it’s a slam dunk.” 

Advice for today’s students
“If you can build a skill, it’s to understand and learn and be sympathetic to someone who is different than you are.”

Now in its ninth year, Executive Insights is designed to complement the Smeal educational experience by bringing high-profile leaders to the college to connect with students, faculty, and administrators. Past Executive Insights guests include dozens of leaders from organizations such as Amazon, Archer Daniels Midland, BASF SE, Boeing, Credit Suisse Group, Dell, Deloitte, Dick’s Sporting Goods, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Kohl’s, KPMG, Macy’s, the National Retail Federation, Nestlé, Oracle, Procter & Gamble, PwC, Samsung, Siemens, Verizon, Tumi Holdings, Inc., and Urban Outfitters.  

The entire Executive Insights session with Staley is available on Smeal’s Facebook page. A collection of past Executive Insights speaker videos is available online.

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Andy Elder
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