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A file photo of Jerry del Missier. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
A file photo of Jerry del Missier. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Jerry del Missier: A sudden halt to a stellar career Add to ...

When members of a Queen’s University advisory board headed to London in February for a series of meetings, Jerry del Missier made sure they got a visit to the House of Lords. The arrangement wasn’t too surprising, given his long association with Queen’s and his job as chief operating officer at Barclays Bank PLC.

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Now, just four months later, Mr. del Missier is gone from Barclays – along with chief executive Bob Diamond – amid growing pressure from British parliamentarians and allegations of widespread wrongdoing at the the bank.

Mr. del Missier has not been accused of any wrongdoing and in a statement Tuesday Barclays said he had been cleared by British regulators.

But he and Mr. Diamond have become lightning rods for British politicians and the public, furious about allegations of excessive compensation and reports the bank manipulated a key interest rate to boost profits and hide losses.

Barclays has alleged Mr. del Missier misconstrued information he received from Mr. Diamond, which led to manipulations in the Libor (London interbank offered rate), a key interest rate that is set daily by roughly 20 banks.

For Mr. del Missier, 50, the resignation marks a sudden halt to what had been a steep and lengthy upward career path, from his roots in Sudbury to engineering and business studies at Queen’s and a rapid rise through Barclays.

The company named him chief operating officer just last month, putting him second only to Mr. Diamond at the bank, one of the largest in the world.

“We intend to make Barclays the industry benchmark for operational excellence and control in the new economic and regulatory environment,” Mr. del Missier said in a statement at the time.

Barclays turned down Mr. del Missier at first, something he didn’t forget years later. He wrote to the bank in 1987, looking for a job after graduating from Queen’s with an MBA. He received a standard rejection letter, which he tucked away, and went on to work in the derivatives group at the Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto.

He later joined Bankers Trust of New York, which sent him to London – where he caught the eye of Mr. Diamond and Barclays. The British bank hired him in 1997 to run their global derivatives operations.

When he moved into his new office, Mr. del Missier put a framed copy of the 1987 rejection on the wall. It served as a “reminder of persevering through life’s challenges,” he once told a Queen’s alumni magazine.

By all accounts, Mr. del Missier he has been a relatively quiet, unassuming character in the largely brash world of international banking.

In addition to his duties at Barclays, he chaired an industry lobby group, served on the board of an American-based charity called Room to Read and worked tirelessly for Queen’s as a donor, member of the university’s advisory board and regular speaker to various classes.

He also ran marathons, once covering the Rotteram Marathon in just over four hours, and climbed mountains.

“He is low-key, he’s not the stereotypical Wall Street banker,” said Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan chief executive officer Jim Leech, who works with him on the Queen’s School of Business board of advisers. “He has been incredibly constructive with Queen’s and very active, and I hope that will continue.”

Mr. Leech added that he approves of Mr. del Missier’s decision to step down from Barclays. “In the face of this type of controversy, which is the quasi-political, it is the right thing to do – if you’re potentially the lightening rod – to step aside so that the institution can get back to business as usual quickly,” he said.

“I can tell you that Jerry has been a loyal alumnus, and a long-standing volunteer and supporter of both Queen’s University and Queen’s School of Business,” added Dr. David Saunders, dean of the Queen’s business school.

Mr. del Missier still has relatives in Sudbury, where he returns regularly. None were available Tuesday.

Mr. del Missier is on a committee, co-led by former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge, that seeks out the next potential trouble spots in the global financial system. The committee is part of the IIF, a group of major banks and financial institutions from across the globe.

It was in Kingston, Ont., at Queen’s, where his future seemed to be mapped out. He studied chemical engineering at first, earning a degree in 1985, and once marvelled to a Queen’s publication about a summer job he took in Italy in 1984 at a cement factory. “It was a real eye-opening experience,” Mr. del Missier said. “Even though I had spent my summers there because my family is of Italian origin, working there in the European environment was quite different. You realize it’s a big world full of opportunities.”

At Barclays, Mr. del Missier initially specialized in derivatives before moving on to trading, sales and research. In 2005 he became co-president of Barclays Capital, then president of the division three years later. When the financial crisis hit and sent firms such as Lehman Brothers into a tailspin, he was instrumental in helping Barclays pick up some of the pieces. He helped strike a deal that saw the bank buy much of what was left of Lehman and scoop up roughly 10,000 of the firm’s employees.

He also played a role in the asset backed commercial paper debacle in Canada, testifying during a trial involving Barclays and Devonshire Trust, partly owned by National Bank. But his testimony was largely discredited by the Ontario judge hearing the case and Barclays lost.

Mr. del Missier had little to say Tuesday after resigning other than to issue a statement praising his own efforts to help build “one of the premier global investment banks from scratch – something that we are all very proud of.”

 
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