Jes Staley’s crystal ball isn’t always as flawlessly clear as he’d like. If it were, the Barclays chief probably wouldn’t have had to sic his cops and the real cops to unmask that whistleblower, and probably would have steered clear of Epstein Island. Still, it has occasionally proven prescient, like when it told Staley to doggedly hold on to that investment bank. And wouldn’t you know that it’s still telling him that, and still proving right.

Barclays’ first-quarter results, unveiled Wednesday, gave Mr. Staley some ammunition to defend the so-called universal-banking model. The company’s corporate and investment bank delivered a 44% increase in profit from a year earlier as companies rushed to adjust hedges and raise finance. Meanwhile, income from the domestic and U.S. lending businesses fell. Overall returns of 5.1% on tangible equity weren’t stellar but included a £2 billion ($2.49 billion) provision for mostly Covid-19 and oil-related credit losses, which is in line with European peers.

While Staley’s oracle conveniently still sees a future for banks like Staley’s, to say nothing of bankers like Staley, it does forecasts some significant changes to the way said bank will do things in the post-COVID-19 world.

About 70,000 of Barclays' staff worldwide are working from home due to coronavirus lockdown measures…. Mr Staley said his bank was re-evaluating how much office space it needed, as it was now being run by staff working "from their kitchens".

He added that in the future retail branches could be used by investment banking and call centre workers, hinting at an end to long commutes for some workers.

"There will be a long-term adjustment to our location strategy," Mr Staley told reporters. "The notion of putting 7,000 people in the building may be a thing of the past."

Do enjoy the charms of Chelmsford, Barclays bankers.

Barclays Makes Case for Unloved Universal Banking [WSJ]
Barclays boss: Big offices ‘may be a thing of the past’ [BBC News]