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John King

John King is the master of the understatement. He describes the FSA as

having “quite a lot of work ahead of it”. On the subject of his duties as

being responsible for Barclays&#39 mortgages, life and pensions plus general

insurance operations, he says they keep him “quite busy”.

The only thing which really brings an emotional reaction from him is when

he describes a recent sailing trip to the Arctic. “It was absolutely


But ask him about the time he found himself sailing in treacherous

conditions against the tide in a force-eight gale off the South coast, he

will just say: “It was quite a close shave.”

This approach is typicalof his stress-free stance on life. He claims never

to get stressed because situations are very rarely the life and death level

people would have you believe. Although even when they are, King remains


Barclays has taken a beating in the public eye in the wake of the ATM

charges&#39 debacle and IFAs might not be too enamoured with the bank&#39s

decision to take on stakeholder as well as looking to double its new

business levels for mortgages.

King says Barclays is inan excellent position to make its mark in the

stakeholder world, given its existing links with smaller enterprises.

He also says it should be far bigger in the mortgage market, having

traditionally specialised in high-net-worth individuals. Now it is going

for the mass market and intends to start by targeting its existing


He is a man motivated by success and for him this seems quite narrowly

defined, revolving around Barclays being number one.

He says: “I am motivated by the aspiration of mak-ing sure that we get as

many Barclays&#39 customers as poss-ible to buy Barclays&#39 products and


King describes himself as hard working, and admits he probably works too

hard to the extent the security guards know him well. He works as long as

the job requires and regularly does not return to his Westminster home

until after midnight.

He says: “I am sure I have weaknesses, I am just not sure what they are. I

probably try to fit too much into the day. Someone, when asked about their

weaknesses, said, that&#39s for me to know and you to find out.I quite liked


King joined Barclays in 1994 and managed the introduction of product and

commission disclosure for Bar- clays Life. The task is something that he

refers to sev-eral times as “interesting”and it seems like the onlytime

that the calm Kingreally felt he was up against it.

He says: “That is the problem with tasks which do not have moveable deadlines.”

He went on to consolidate the life and pensions sales of Barclays Life and

Bisco into one channel.

In 1995, he left Barclays to join Towry Law Financial Planning where he

took on the role of operations director before returning to the bank in

1997 to head the sales, marketing and product dev-elopment at Barclays Insur

ance Services.

In 1998, he was appointed deputy managing director at Barclays Life

Assurance, before taking responsibility last year for product development

and marketing for Barclays mortgages, general insurance, life and pensions.

He was made managing director of the arm in March.

But King&#39s background is computing. He was one of the first wave of

computer science students and says: “In the dark ages of computing, the

modems were huge and looked ridiculous. Making a connection involved

dialling the number and literally plugging the phone in the modem.”

He studied computingat night school while he was still at a grammar

schoolin Lowestoft, Suffolk.

At first, King wanted to become an engineer. He applied to Cambridge but

when he was turned down he took a year out with a view to reapplying but

never bothered.

He says: “Once I got a taste of the world of workand a job I enjoyed I

didn&#39t want to go back.”

King says he is a perfectionist and at school always liked to be top of

the class,just as now he wants Barclays to be top.

On the subject of regulation, he is typically relaxed. He says: “The

regulatory landscape is changing. It is not getting bigger or smaller but

the focus is altering as customers become more discerning and aware.”

King is also single-minded. He has no heroes, no idols and no mentors

which figure in his career path and motivations. His passions include

motorsports and he owns an Aston Martin, an Alfa Spyder and a “very old


Sailing in his boat with his friend and co-owner is where King truly

relaxes and manages to think “about noth-ing to do with work what-soever,

it&#39s just you againstthe elements”.


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