[NEW YORK] British bank Barclays PLC is close to naming former JPMorgan Chase banker Jes Staley as chief executive, signaling a renewed focus on an investment banking division that has been pared back over the past three years.
Barclays offered the position to Staley, currently managing partner of US hedge fund firm BlueMountain Capital Management, and he accepted the offer, a person with knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Monday.
Boston-born Staley ran JPMorgan's investment bank and asset management business and had been at the bank for 34 years before leaving in early 2013 to join BlueMountain. He made the shortlist when Barclays last looked for a CEO three years ago. "His appointment will indicate a greater commitment to the IB (investment bank), but then Barclays' profitability problems are linked to the IB and not the traditional bank," said Chintan Joshi, analyst at Nomura.
Joshi said Staley is likely to have a close relationship with Barclays Finance Director Tushar Morzaria, another former JPMorgan banker, which bodes well for a coordinated strategy and execution, though he said investors don't want to see the investment bank built back up aggressively. "On his appointment, he needs to clearly indicate that the core IB will not form a bigger proportion of the group RWAs (risk-weighted assets) than under the current strategy as investors are unlikely (to) take a growing investment bank positively," Joshi said.
Barclays shares were down 1.3 per cent at 253.7 pence by 0710 GMT, in line with a weaker European bank index.
Any appointment would also still depend on Staley getting approval from Britain's financial regulators.
The appointment is expected to be announced in the next two weeks, according to the Financial Times, which first reported the expected appointment, citing two people familiar with the matter. "If this change is approved, it could signal that UK and U.S. regulators are comfortable with the renewed ascendancy of investment banking," said Jim Antos, analyst at Mizuho Securities Asia in Hong Kong.
Previous Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins was fired in July after losing the support of non-executive directors in a clash over style and the pace of the bank's turnaround.
He said Barclays had to reduce the importance of the investment bank after a series of scandals, while changes in regulation also made many trading activities unprofitable.
He set about shrinking the investment bank and putting its focus on its two core markets of the United States and Britain.
Chairman John McFarlane, who has been running the bank in the interim since Jenkins' exit, had said earlier in July that Barclays would look at internal as well as external candidates to make an appointment.
McFarlane has also put more emphasis back on the investment bank, and this week said European investment banks should consider merging to create a regional champion to compete with US rivals, who are gaining market share.
An appointment of Staley would see a second former JPMorgan investment bank boss running a British bank, after Standard Chartered this year picked Bill Winters as its new CEO.
The two British banks are not alone in picking new CEOs, and new bosses also started at European rivals Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse over the summer.
Barclays declined to comment.