Barclays looks outside for King successor
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Barclays looks outside for King successor

Barclays CEO Jes Staley has moved quickly to fill the top positions of his management team, with one big exception.

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Tom King retired in March

There is a vacancy at the top of the Corporate & International division, a role that will effectively include the positions previously held by Tom King at the top of the investment bank and John Winter, CEO of corporate banking.

The time taken reflects three realities. First, the importance of getting the right person. Second, the difficulty of finding them. And third, the fact that the division is far from rudderless right now.

The last person to run the investment bank itself was King, the veteran Citigroup banker who joined Barclays in late 2009 and who was one of the notable senior survivors from the Bob Diamond days. Winter predated him, serving as EMEA head of investment banking from 2001 until 2009, and had been CEO of corporate banking since 2010. Both men retired this year, Winter as recently as May.

The received wisdom is that King was influential in the board’s decision to replace Antony Jenkins, who was seen by some as an obstacle to the preservation of the investment bank franchise, let alone its continued development.

It might seem odd, therefore, that King chose to retire in March this year instead of pursuing the opportunities presented by a change in strategy that, while perhaps not overtly IB-led, undoubtedly puts the division right back at the centre of things.

Those at the firm say King’s decision was driven by a reluctance to take on the new regulatory burden imposed by the UK’s Senior Managers Regime for banks, which came into force just three days after King’s departure. 

The obsessive interest in some areas of the market as to who might replace him at Barclays does not quite tally with the reality on the ground at the firm, where staff see little evidence of a troublesome vacuum given the presence of, first, Staley, and second, Joe Gold. Gold is the former Americas CEO whom Staley appointed in March this year to be deputy CEO of Corporate & International to support Staley in his capacity as interim CEO of the unit. 

US-based Gold is said to have strong support within the US senior staff in particular. Bankers have also noted that Staley takes every opportunity to praise him.

A candidate to take on the role full-time, then? Apparently not. Despite the fact that Staley told the media on April 27 that he had a long slate of internal and external candidates for the job of CEO of the C&I division, just one day later Barclays chairman John McFarlane told shareholders at the annual general meeting that the appointment would be an external one; a mixed message that, however slight, was noted in the market.

Staley is clearly in no desperate hurry: he merely wants to make an appointment this year. That said, he is thought to have approached former JPMorgan global head of commodities Blythe Masters late last year, only to have her turn it down to focus on her work as CEO of fintech firm Digital Asset Holdings.

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