Group Archives

Group Archives


Matthew William Barrett (b 1944), was recruited to fill the void left by the resignation of Martin Taylor in November 1998 and to succeed Sir Peter Middleton who had acted as caretaker Chief Executive since Mr Taylor’s departure. He joined Barclays In October 1999 from Bank of Montreal, where he had been chief executive and chairman.

Matt was born in Ireland and has dual Irish and Canadian citizenship. He was educated at the Christian Brothers School in Kells, and attended the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme in 1981.

He joined the London office of the Bank of the Bank of Montreal in 1962 and in 1967 was transferred to head office as a management trainee. Senior appointments included; vice-president of the British Colombia Division in 1978; deputy general manager, International Banking in 1981; deputy group executive, Treasury in 1984; and executive vice-president and group executive, Retail Banking in 1985. In 1987 he was appointed president and chief operating officer with a seat on the board. He was appointed chief executive in 1989, and in 1990 was elected chairman, aged just 45. He was one of the youngest bankers in the world to attain such a position.

Matt Barrett is largely credited with turning Barclays around at a critical moment in its modern history, enabling the Barclays name and brand to preserve its corporate independence in a hostile period for the older British clearing banks. His time at the helm was the group’s most profitable in its history up to that point. Barclays was transformed from being an under-performer to one of the world’s best in terms of shareholder returns and grew to be ranked tenth in the world by market capitalisation by the end of 2004. Barclays achieved its top quartile total shareholder return goal versus its international peer group of twelve banks, as well as exceeding its £1bn cost reduction goal.

Under his leadership the Bank pursued a clear strategy of securing its UK heartland whilst looking for attractive overseas opportunities. As part of this, Barclays maintained and augmented a wide portfolio of businesses, addressing gaps and making acquisitions. This positioned the Bank well for future growth and hedged against changing economic conditions. In addition, the investment and asset management businesses (Barclays Capital and Barclays Global Investors) delivered record returns to become central to the Group’s growth. Barclays also developed its capabilities overseas: in 2002, 12% of income came from overseas – by 2004 this was 20%.

Matt Barrett built an admired management team, setting clear strategic priorities and stretching goals, whilst nurturing top talent throughout the organisation. Under his leadership Barclays became an industry-leading manager of risk. He was also responsible for the decision to move Barclays’ head office from its historic City location to Canary Wharf.

Matt was awarded the title of Canada’s Outstanding CEO of the Year in 1995, and became an Officer of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour. His interests include fly-fishing, theatre and literature.

On completion of his term as Chief Executive in September 2004 he was elected Chairman, filling the role for just over two years.