September 13, 2011 8:52 pm

Diamond gives surprise welcome to Vickers

Bob Diamond, Barclays’ chief executive, has given a surprisingly warm welcome to the Vickers Commission report, in the first public response from a UK bank chief executive to the proposed shake-up of the industry.

In comments which reformers will see as proof that bankers succeeded in diluting the commission’s recommendations, Mr Diamond said the report represented “a welcome step towards the greater clarity that banks need to be able to operate with confidence”. The publication meant “a cloud has been lifted” from the regulatory landscape, he said later.

Mr Diamond, who was one of the most vocal opponents of excessive re-regulation during the 15 months of the report’s preparation, also praised the late decision by the Independent Commission on Banking, chaired by Sir John Vickers, to make the core ringfencing plan flexible.

Mr Diamond’s speech – at a Barclays Capital conference in New York – stopped short of fully endorsing the Vickers report due, he said, to the ongoing complexities of the process needed to implement it.

But his comments mark an abrupt change of tone from the sometimes confrontational language he has used in recent months, particularly in private meetings with ICB officials.

The supportive stance echoed the broadly positive comments of other senior UK bankers over the past two days.

Speaking at the same Barclays conference on Monday, representatives of Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC welcomed the report’s main aspects, including the delayed implementation date of 2019 and the flexibility of the ringfence structure.

All three of the big banks most affected by the structural changes recommended in the Vickers report said the tougher capital requirements were achievable. Their shares all rallied on Tuesday.

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