Shameful ex-Barclays executive Stephen Jones shares how three banks avoided him following a storm of obscene remarks: “My language was sexist – I regret it”
Upset: Former UK CFO Stephen Jones now works as non-executive chairman of OneBanks
Stephen Jones stares at the table in front of him and nervously scratches his fingers. “I very much regret what I said,” he admits. “What I said was on an internally recorded phone call – but I understand that in the context of the very public role I have had at UK Finance, what I said posed a big reputational issue for them and for the industry. ”
The former Barclays banker talks about a now infamous phone call with a then-colleague of his in 2008 as they rushed to secure an investment that would keep the bank afloat during the financial crisis.
The £ 7 billion deal with Middle Eastern investors was ultimately successful – and it prepared Jones for a career at the top of the bank. He became the CFO of Santander, then head of the influential banking lobby group UK Finance.
But the words he said on that phone call came back to haunt him last summer. Court documents have revealed he made a number of derogatory remarks about Amanda Staveley, the high-profile financier who organized the Barclays bailout deal. Staveley brought in key investors from the United Arab Emirates and then sued the bank, claiming it was not paid properly.
The case sent shockwaves across town when it emerged Jones had described Staveley as “thick as shit” and commented on the size of her breasts. Court documents released in connection with the case also revealed that Jones referred to Staveley as Prince Andrew’s ex-girlfriend and said that this particular romantic relationship was how she had “approached a few. sheikhs, “including the Abu Dhabi royal and potential Barclays investor Sheikh Mansour. .
Jones was recorded saying of Staveley’s ties to the Sheikh, “Whether she sleeps with him or not, I couldn’t tell you. I doubt it to be honest, but anyway, I mean, you know.
His interview with The Mail on Sunday today is the first time Jones has publicly addressed the remarks since leaving UK Finance in disgrace in June of last year. Jones says: “If in a moment of stress I hadn’t slept much for three weeks, and in the context of a possible nationalization of the bank, I described [Amanda Staveley] in very unflattering, rude and sexist language, then it’s my fault, ”he says. “I shouldn’t have done it.
He seems to relax as soon as the words come out of his mouth. It’s clearly gnawed at him over the past year or so. Jones reveals he made things right with Staveley – the pair are now on good terms – but he certainly paid a price.
While he insists that friends in the city have expressed their support in private, he says he has indeed been “kicked” out of the highest level of banking. He reveals that he has now been rejected by three banks of roles in the boardroom.
“It can be a pretty lonely place once you’ve been kicked out,” Jones says. ‘I’m not asking for sympathy, but when you were working 90 hours a week [representing the banking industry in the Covid crisis] and suddenly it’s gone, it’s quite difficult.
“I was turned down by three bank boards where presidents asked me if I wanted to participate, but someone else on the board felt I was too risky to take care of. I really regret it because a lot of it is out of fear of the media’s reaction, rather than an understanding of who I am as a person. The surprising thing was that one of the banks was overseas. There’s a big ripple effect because people can obviously find these things on Google. ‘
Jones, 57, tries to stress that his comments in 2008 in no way reflect his attitudes towards women in banking, which he regularly championed in his role at UK Finance. But he knows it will take time to convince his detractors.
“It’s just one of those times in life when you have to be humble and go back through a lot of small actions,” he says. “I have to rebuild my reputation. I think I’m still young enough and energetic enough to contribute more.
SEXISM REVEALED IN Staveley’s £ 1.6bn CASE
Prosecuted: Financial Amanda Staveley
The storm of sexism atop Barclays erupted when financier Amanda Staveley sued the bank for £ 1.6 billion.
It appeared in court last year that Stephen Jones was one of many executives – including then-investment banking director Roger Jenkins – to use derogatory language about him.
Staveley wanted to prove that her investment firm had been sidelined and denied lucrative fees as part of a deal she orchestrated to save Barclays in 2008. As part of her case, she alleged that she was sexist when raising multibillion pounds.
Court papers showed Jenkins referred to Staveley as a “pie” and a “dolly bird” in the high-pressure negotiations. Jenkins apologized in court and said he had already apologized to Staveley. It also emerged that Jones himself had described Jenkins as a “deeply disagreeable man” for whom he was “very, very disagreeable to work.”
Staveley lost the lawsuit against Barclays, although the judge said the bank had acted “with deception”.
“I am happy to accept unique leadership positions if they are offered. For now, Jones is taking “whatever is available.” He advises investment firms Bain Capital and Warburg Pincus on possible financial services transactions, and is about to start working for Global Counsel, the public affairs group founded by Lord Mandelson. He also maintains a keen interest in ensuring communities are not left behind by Britain’s biggest banks. To this end, he assumed the role of non-executive chairman of
OneBanks, a start-up aiming to build a network of pooled banking terminals in shopping centers and supermarkets. OneBanks plans to open 150 kiosks across the country by 2025. The company shared its ideas with an industry group that is negotiating a plan for hundreds of shared bank branches. Jones will also help OneBanks contribute to the political debate over new laws that will allow anyone who needs money to access them. The Treasury is currently consulting companies on the drafting of legislation.
“My feeling is that banks will not be prohibited from closing branches, but it will be necessary to consider the provision of alternative services that must be introduced if a branch is to close,” Jones said.
“I suspect there will also be a kitty that will allow communities to come forward and say that the services in their area are inadequate and that they would like to bid for money. Banks could then pay someone like the post office or OneBanks to locate in their area.
It’s admirable work, but a far cry from his high-level conversations with the Chancellor when the pandemic hit last year and banks were tasked with issuing emergency business loans.
‘[Leaving] was very sad for me because I loved my role at UK Finance, ”Jones says. “It was like a family and I had the impression that we had mobilized the [banking] sector as a force for good in response to the pandemic.