City stunned as Venkat takes on the Barclays hot seat: But will £9m-a-year boss be based in London or New York?
The new boss of Barclays heaped praise on Jes Staley as he vowed to press on with the strategy started by his ‘manager, mentor and friend’.
CS Venkatakrishnan told shell-shocked staff in an email that he would ‘continue our existing plans to transform our organisation and build on our financial prowess’.
The message to 84,000 Barclays bankers around the world followed the sudden exit of Staley over his links with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Shock appointment: New Barclays boss CS Venkatakrishnan (pictured) – who is known as Venkat – vowed to press on with the strategy started by his ‘mentor and friend’ Jes Staley
‘Jes has been my manager, mentor and friend for many years,’ Venkatakrishnan said in the memo.
‘He became chief executive of Barclays in one of our darkest hours and devised and implemented a successful recovery strategy of outstanding vision.’
The new Barclays boss – his full name is Coimbatore Sundararajan Venkatakrishnan but he is known as Venkat – takes the reins on a package worth up to £9million a year.
In a clear signal he plans to emulate Staley’s commitment to the investment banking arm, his message went on: ‘The strategy we have in place is the right one, and we will continue our existing plans to transform our organisation and build on our financial prowess. I know that with continued focus on delivery the best is yet to come.’
Soon after joining Barclays from JP Morgan in 2015, Staley returned to his former bank to poach Venkat along with Australian Paul Compton.
Staley described them as ‘two of the best bankers I know’ and last year both were promoted to senior roles in Barclays’ investment bank as the board tested their mettle while trying to decide who would eventually take the top job.
Those succession plans were put on fast-forward yesterday as the City was left stunned by Staley’s departure.
One senior analyst said: ‘I wouldn’t have been surprised if Barclays had announced Staley’s departure next year, but we weren’t expecting it so soon.’
Even Barclays itself was left in the lurch by the Financial Conduct Authority’s report into Staley’s links to Epstein.
As recently as Friday afternoon, it had been planning for Staley to represent the bank at this week’s Cop26 climate talks.
And the bank could not yet confirm whether or not Indian-born Venkat, who holds US nationality and is based in New York, would even move to the UK as he takes the reins as Barclays boss.
A respected City insider said: ‘I don’t see how you can have the chief executive of a British bank who’s not based in Britain.’
Barclays said Venkat had been its ‘preferred candidate’ for over a year having been promoted to head of global markets.
Joseph Dickerson, at Jefferies, said: ‘Venkat’s appointment creates continuity in the strategy. He’s well-respected and investors generally like him.’
Venkat will be paid slightly more than his predecessor – his base wage will be £2.7million, compared with Staley’s £2.4million, so his maximum bonuses will be proportionally larger. Staley said he plans to contest the FCA’s findings.
The report will not be published until the process is complete.
Curse of the top job strikes again
Casualty: Bob Diamond (pictured) left Barclays with his reputation in tatters
Jes Staley is not the first Barclays boss to leave under a cloud.
Heading up the 125-year-old bank is one of the most prestigious jobs in global finance – a passport to rubbing shoulders with the great and the good.
But it has also finished off many a top career.
Staley’s predecessor, Antony Jenkins, was sacked in 2015 following a row over the direction of the bank after three unremarkable years in the job.
Before that, both John Varley and Bob Diamond left with their reputations in tatters and never truly recovered. Varley was taken to court for the way the bank raised emergency funds from the Qataris during the financial crisis.
Once tipped as a successor to Lord King at the Bank of England, he was cleared of fraud but remains in the wilderness.
Diamond, Varley’s successor, was branded the ‘unacceptable face of banking’ before his swashbuckling ‘up and at ’em’ mantra saw him resign over the Libor scandal.
He tried to kick start banking in Africa with a venture called Atlas Mara and recently took over broker Panmure Gordon.
In 1999, Michael O’Neill lasted two months after developing a heart problem.
Predecessor Martin Taylor said his health never recovered from his spell in the post. Venkat will hope the Barclays curse does not also do for him.