New Barclays chairman promises top-to-bottom review, hints he'll hold on to investment bank

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LONDON — The new chairman of Barclays Bank says he’ll undertake a top-to-bottom review of the embattled business, telling a British newspaper that he isn’t wedded to any of his predecessor’s policies.

Asked if he was committed to the current business plan of Barclays, which is reeling from a massive rate-fixing scandal, David Walker told The Sunday Telegraph that he wasn’t “committed to anything except getting it right.”

Walker said he wanted to review the company’s business plan, but didn’t want to sound “threatening.”

Walker is due to replace Marcus Agius, who offered his resignation last month after the imposition of a $453 million fine for manipulating the critical London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR, which is used to calculate borrowing costs for hundreds of trillions of dollars in loans and investments such as bonds, auto loans and derivatives.

The scandal has damaged the bank’s reputation and led to a slew of resignations – most publicly that of former Chief Executive Bob Diamond. Regulators are still weighing whether to bring criminal charges against those involved.

Market-watchers had speculated that the scandal would prompt Barclays to pare back its investment banking arm, Barclays Capital. But Walker, who takes over Nov. 1, seemed cool to the idea, telling the Telegraph he wanted to remain a “universal bank.”

But Walker did seem to suggest changes in the way the retail end of the bank works, saying “in principle” he was in favor of charging customers for bank accounts.

Most British banks offer users free standard checking accounts, but Walker said that created an incentive for banks to find more creative – and riskier – ways to extract money from customers. British banks have become embroiled in a series of scandals over interest rate swaps for small businesses and mis-selling payment protection insurance to consumers.

Such were “the consequence of not charging for bank accounts,” said Walker. “Because banks are not charging, it drives them inexorably into this sort of position.”

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