In 2000, Barclays, a UK-based bank and financial services group promoted a campaign ‘A big world needs a big bank’. Barclays had spent £15 million on its ‘Big’ campaign, which featured celebrities such as Sir Anthony Hopkins and Tim Roth. The advertisements had received good pre-publicity, but they turned into a communication disaster when they coincided with the news that Barclays was closing about 170 branches in the UK, many in rural areas, including the village of Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Barclays’ image crisis worsened when it was revealed that the new Chief Executive, Matthew Barrett, had been paid £1.3 million for just three months’ work.
Matthew Barrett had explained the branch closures by saying, ‘We are an economic enterprise, not a government agency, and therefore have obligations to conduct our business in a way that provides a decent return to the owners of the business. We will continue to take value-maximizing decisions without sentimentality or excuses.’
Hopkins issued a clarification of being used as a scapegoat, he is just an actor and he did not run Barclays Bank.
In an attempt to respond to the image crisis, Barclays extended opening hours at 84 per cent of its branches and recruited an extra 2,000 staff to
service the extra hours.
In 2003, the CEO Matthew Barrett made a blunder by saying that he did not borrow on credit cards because they were too expensive and that he has advised his four children not to pile up debts on their credit cards.
In 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis, many banks and financial services institutions (including the Royal Bank of Scotland) turned
to the UK government for cash injections. Barclays, however, decided not to turn to the government for aid. Having the government as a main shareholder would lead to all sorts of business decisions under the scrutiny of journalists and taxpayers.