By Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON Oct 15 The head of compliance at
Barclays Plc has become the latest senior banker to
take time off for stress as the fallout from the financial
crisis takes its toll on employees' health.
Hector Sants was suffering from exhaustion and stress
following five years at the helm of Britain's top financial
regulator, the Financial Services Authority, and a busy start to
his role at Barclays this year, the bank said on Tuesday.
His diagnosis has parallels to that of Lloyds Chief
Executive Antonio Horta-Osorio who took two months off at the
end of 2011 on doctors' orders after suffering sleep deprivation
and exhaustion while trying to turn the bank around.
Sants' illness fueled calls for banks to find better ways to
handle the physical and mental health of staff, many of whom
were vilified as the villains of the financial crisis due to a
culture of excess in many of the world's top banks.
Michael Sinclair, consultant psychologist and clinical
director of the City Psychology Group in London, said both
senior and junior bankers were under greater pressure due to job
cuts, tough sales targets and increased regulatory scrutiny.
"It is still very much a threatening environment ... we are
seeing more people coming in, year on year," said Sinclair.
About 90 percent of his clients come from the financial services
"What we are seeing is people working longer and harder even
though they are unwell, even though they are stressed, to try
and ensure they are not next to be marched out of the office."
Hundreds of thousands of financial services jobs have been
cut in the past five years, exacerbating a long-hours culture in
the highly competitive but potentially lucrative sector.
That culture hit the headlines this summer when Bank of
America Merrill Lynch intern Moritz Erhardt was found
dead in his London lodgings after working through the night
several days running.
In Switzerland, Zurich Insurance is investigating
whether the suicide of Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthier
in August was due to undue strain at work and is looking into
the 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, will
take a leave of absence until the end of the year following
medical advice. He is expected to return to work in 2014.
Lloyd's Horta-Osorio returned to work in early 2012 after
his leave and has since been praised for leading a recovery at
Lloyds and held up as an example to combat the stigma of mental
illness in the fast-paced world of banking.
Last week the Bank of England took the unusual step of
joining a public campaign on mental health, urging its staff to
seek help from managers or an in-house counsellor if needed, and
setting an example for other banks.
"In London particularly there is a sense of shame and
embarrassment in saying it is hard to cope and that is part of
the culture that banks need to find ways to change,"
London-based executive coach and therapist Karin Peeters told