Ignore the explanation from Barclays for why Skip McGee, its best-known and perhaps best-paid investment banker, is hopping off.
It strains credibility to suggest that it's all because McGee is a deal-doing kinda guy at a moment when the head of Barclays Americas should be a specialist in regulation. It is far more likely that McGee doesn't like the look of Antony Jenkins's latest strategic masterplan.
After all, the technical task of meeting the requirements of section 165 of the Dodd-Frank Act as it relates to intermediate holding companies is surely one that could be delegated to lawyers. If McGee wanted to stay at Barclays – and if Jenkins really wanted to keep him – it would have been a simple matter to find a fudge.
Has Jenkins finally accepted that Barclays cannot be beholden to its big-name bankers, especially McGee's ex-Lehman Brothers crew in the US?
Let's hope so because last year's cave-in on bonuses was a failure in almost every respect. Jenkins, in the face of falling profits, abandoned his "pay for performance" mantra and instead spouted feeble lines about the risk of a "death spiral"– a tired old cliche, as Robert Pickering, successful former boss of Cazenove, said this week. Some of the supposed stars left anyway and some major shareholders, including Standard Life, were annoyed.
A fresh start for Barclays in investment banking, accompanied by big cuts in costs, was the only logical response after last year's mess. If McGee didn't approve, that's life.
We will discover next week whether Jenkins's latest thinking on how to give shareholders a fairer slice of returns from investment banking is credible. He will also have to explain if, and why, he has lost his fear of the "death spiral". But Barclays shareholders should not be alarmed by the departure of McGee. On the contrary, it may be a small sign that Jenkins has accepted – finally – that it is time to get serious in overhauling the investment bank.
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