Barclays PLC on Thursday named Rothschild & Co. veteran Nigel Higgins as its next chairman, with a mandate likely to include restoring investor confidence and improving the bank’s sunken share price.
He will take over next year from departing chairman John McFarlane, who confirmed he will leave the bank in May, as widely expected.
Mr. Higgins will step into a role seen as one of the toughest in global banking because of ongoing question marks around the bank’s strategy. Since the financial crisis of 2008, Barclays has undergone a series of restructurings while being battered by scandals including over weak financial crime controls and alleged interest rate rigging by its traders, some of whom went to prison.
This year, the British bank has come under pressure from activist Sherborne Investors to improve returns, potentially by making further strategic changes. Chief Executive Jes Staley has indicated there is no appetite within the bank to do so. In August, Sherborne said it was in talks with Barclays about finding its next chairman, but a person familiar with the matter said it didn’t have any role in the selection process.
Barclays had started a search for Mr. McFarlane’s replacement earlier this year, after the 71-year-old said he’d likely depart in 2019. A front-runner candidate, Barclays board member Gerry Grimstone, unexpectedly pulled out of the race several months ago.
Mr. Higgins, 58 years old, will join a very different institution from family-controlled Rothschild, where he’s worked for 36 years since joining out of college. Unlike that staid institution, Barclays has been walloped by a decade of financial and trading scandals and changed CEOs three times in five years.
Mr. Staley has been in the role since December 2015. He was hired by Mr. McFarlane, who had joined Barclays earlier that year before swiftly firing Mr. Staley’s predecessor.
At Barclays, Mr. Higgins will be tasked with assessing the success and prospects of a strategy set out by Mr. Staley, focused around the U.S. and U.K. The bank’s units include a U.K. retail bank, a New York- and London-based investment bank and a large credit cards business.
Barclays shares are near two-year lows, in part because some investors continue to question its trans-Atlantic diversification strategy. Shares in British banks have also fallen this year because of concerns about how the country’s economy will perform once it leaves the European Union next year.
At Rothschild, Mr. Higgins rose from graduate trainee to a string of top roles including co-head of global investment banking. In 2010, he became chief executive. That role evolved into a co-CEO job as Rothschild’s structure changed, and he more recently served as managing partner and co-chairman of the group’s executive committee.
In September, he stepped down from those roles and became deputy chairman.
Rothschild didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Thursday.
Barclays said Mr. Higgins will joins its board in March before taking over the chairman job two months later.
Write to Margot Patrick at [email protected]
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