Senior Barclays banker takes time off for stress

Reuters

By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The head of compliance atBarclays Plc has become the latest senior banker totake time off for stress as the fallout from the financialcrisis takes its toll on employees' health.

Hector Sants was suffering from exhaustion and stressfollowing five years at the helm of Britain's top financialregulator, the Financial Services Authority, and a busy start tohis role at Barclays this year, the bank said on Tuesday.

His diagnosis has parallels to that of Lloyds ChiefExecutive Antonio Horta-Osorio who took two months off at theend of 2011 on doctors' orders after suffering sleep deprivationand exhaustion while trying to turn the bank around.

Sants' illness fueled calls for banks to find better ways tohandle the physical and mental health of staff, many of whomwere vilified as the villains of the financial crisis due to aculture of excess in many of the world's top banks.

Michael Sinclair, consultant psychologist and clinicaldirector of the City Psychology Group in London, said bothsenior and junior bankers were under greater pressure due to jobcuts, tough sales targets and increased regulatory scrutiny.

"It is still very much a threatening environment ... we areseeing more people coming in, year on year," said Sinclair.About 90 percent of his clients come from the financial servicessector.

"What we are seeing is people working longer and harder eventhough they are unwell, even though they are stressed, to tryand ensure they are not next to be marched out of the office."

LONG-HOURS CULTURE

Hundreds of thousands of financial services jobs have beencut in the past five years, exacerbating a long-hours culture inthe highly competitive but potentially lucrative sector.

That culture hit the headlines this summer when Bank ofAmerica Merrill Lynch intern Moritz Erhardt was founddead in his London lodgings after working through the nightseveral days running.

In Switzerland, Zurich Insurance is investigatingwhether the suicide of Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthierin August was due to undue strain at work and is looking intothe company's wider corporate culture and behaviour.

A Barclays spokesman said Sants, who is head of compliance,government affairs and regulatory relations for the bank, willtake a leave of absence until the end of the year followingmedical advice. He is expected to return to work in 2014.

Lloyd's Horta-Osorio returned to work in early 2012 afterhis leave and has since been praised for leading a recovery atLloyds and held up as an example to combat the stigma of mentalillness in the fast-paced world of banking.

Last week the Bank of England took the unusual step ofjoining a public campaign on mental health, urging its staff toseek help from managers or an in-house counsellor if needed, andsetting an example for other banks.

"In London particularly there is a sense of shame andembarrassment in saying it is hard to cope and that is part ofthe culture that banks need to find ways to change,"London-based executive coach and therapist Karin Peeters toldReuters.

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