Q&A: Bob Diamond, Barclays president

Phil Mickelson and Barclays president Bob Diamond during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Feb. 13, 2010, in Pebble Beach, California.

Phil Mickelson and Barclays president Bob Diamond during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Feb. 13, 2010, in Pebble Beach, California.

Where many banks have shunned ties to golf amid public bailouts, London-based Barclays is all-in. Why? It works, Barclays president Bob Diamond says. The multinational bank sponsors the Singapore Open, Scottish Open and the PGA Tour’s first FedEx Cup event, The Barclays.

Diamond spoke with Golfweek during his firm’s eponymous event in Paramus, N.J.:

Barclays deal with the PGA Tour is through 2012. When do the next negotiations begin?

There’s never a beginning and there’s hardly ever an end. We’re in discussions now. And it’s rather positive, too. I would find it very surprising if we don’t extend, in a pretty easy manner.

How much has it helped to have Tiger Woods in the field the last two years compared to the first two years when he didn’t play the event?

There was a clear impact the day Tiger technically said, “Yes, I’m there.” Ticket sales soared that day. He’s going through a very difficult time personally, but I think anyone who says he isn’t a big impact on the game of golf would be wrong and the clients would want to see him back and playing.

In the current environment, has it become more of a challenge to explain to your board why Barclays is so heavily involved in the sport of golf?

Not at all. I think the reason is that we’re very clear about what we wanted to accomplish for Barclays. . . In each of the (events) we surpassed what we had hoped. . . Barclays Scottish Open was the first time we ever got involved with golf as a branding exercise. It’s very, very popular with our clients and our staff. And it’s an event that when we put it on every year, to give you some examples, on Monday and Tuesday following the event, we have 200 clients and friends of the firm playing golf on that course. We get the whole course.

In the business that we’re in spending time with, the people that we’re doing business is really important.

The Barclays was very much brand, brand, brand. Now, we got all the other things that we’re doing well and the other things, through time. If you recall, Barclays was small enough in the U.S. where I so often heard from clients, “Were you that bank that had the trouble in Singapore?” I say, “No, that was Bearings, not Barclays, and we’re building our businesses.” And there (was) no reason for so many of our corporate clients and institutional investor clients to have known Barclays.

So the board’s actually delighted. Fair question for somebody to look at it and say, “this looks like a little bit too much fun.”

How does Barclays benefit from sponsoring an event in Asia?

The Singapore Open is a completely different venue, different audience. We do it in partnership with the government of Singapore, one of our biggest clients. They wanted our expertise on how to run a tournament. And we have a client event, the Barclays Asian Forum, (where) 400 clients in Asia spend Thursday and part of Friday with us talking about what’s going on in the financial markets. Two years ago, Dr. Henry Kissinger hosted it with me. Last year, Dr. Condoleezza Rice was there. And this year, President (Bill) Clinton is hosting it with me. And each year we bring these clients for education sessions. To do it when they can stay for the weekend and see some golf is important.

What impact do you think golf’s presence in the 2016 Olympics will have for the game?

Well, I don’t like to see Phil (Mickelson) play in any event where he can’t wear Barclays on his shirt. But I think it’s good for the game of golf. Golf belongs in the Olympics. I think it can only be a positive.

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