Morrice retirement comes at key time for Barclays

Robert Morrice, chairman and chief executive of Barclays Asia-Pacific, built the UK bank's regional investment banking operations.
Robert Morrice
Robert Morrice

The retirement of Robert Morrice, chairman and chief executive of Barclays Asia-Pacific, comes at a delicate time for the UK bank, which is due to report its first-quarter earnings on Tuesday.

Barclays announced on Friday that Morrice is to retire after 17 years at the bank, 12 of which he spent as regional CEO. 

Morrice, one of Asia’s longest-serving CEOs, oversaw the bank’s regional response to the financial crisis, building up Barclays' investment banking operations in Asia from scratch. More recently he also navigated a broad -- and global -- review of the business dubbed Project Mango.

He will leave the bank at the end of June and be replaced by Andrew Jones and Eiji Nakai, who will become co-CEOs on July 1, subject to regulatory approval. The bank has not made a decision yet on the role of chairman, a spokesman for Barclays told FinanceAsia.

Under Morrice, 51, Barclays built up its investment banking and cash equities business in Asia, part of a global expansion following the purchase of Lehman Brothers’ US assets. Although Barclays does not break out revenue figures for Asia-Pacific, the bank says it enjoyed a record year in the region in 2013.

Morrice's retirement coincides with the departure of other key executives as Barclays undergoes its global root-and-branch review. Hugh “Skip” McGee left his position as head of Barclays Americas last month. It also emerged this weekend that Ros Stephenson has quit as global chairman of investment banking to join UBS.  

Project Mango 

Project Mango -- a couple of years old now -- has seen Barclays review its global investment banking business. A report released by financial research firm Sanford C. Bernstein last week said the bank could yet cut 7,500 jobs globally as part of the review, according to media reports.

Barclays, when it announces quarterly results, is also expected to announce the creation of a bad bank to hold assets that it will sell or run down. These include some of its foreign exchange and commodities businesses, according to media reports.

There has been little indication what part - if any - Asia could play in the reorganisation but the departure of someone of Morrice's stature does come at a sensitive time and speculation is rife.

“It is well rumoured that Barclays may be about to undertake a strategic review of its head count in Asia in order to improve efficiency and reduce overall operating costs,” a well-known investment banking headhunter who declined to be named told FinanceAsia.

Morrice’s replacements

Barclays' Asia-Pacific co-CEO-in-waiting Jones, who is based in Singapore, has more than 20 years of investment banking experience in Europe and Asia-Pacific, including fixed-income, currencies and capital markets.

He joined Barclays in London in 2000, taking responsibility for European financial institutions syndicate, before relocating to Hong Kong in 2004 as head of syndicate for Asia-Pacific. His latest role is the combined position of chief operating officer of corporate and investment banking, Asia-Pacific, and head of corporate banking, Asia-Pacific -- positions he has held since 2012.

Before Barclays, Jones worked for Credit Suisse First Boston.

Nakai, based in Tokyo, is president and CEO of Barclays Securities Japan, having joined Barclays in 2004.

Before this he worked for nine years at Deutsche Securities, where he was a managing director and head of global markets. Nakai began his career at Goldman Sachs in 1987, where he held a number of roles, including head of yen fixed-income trading in Japan.

Jones will divide his time between Singapore and Hong Kong, while Nakai will remain in Tokyo, the bank spokesman told FinanceAsia. They will report to Eric Bommensath and Tom King, co-CEOs of corporate and investment banking at Barclays.

“Given [Andrew's] and Eiji’s experience in building businesses and their deep client relationship in Asia, we are confident that they will continue to drive Barclays forward in Asia-Pacific, building on Robert’s significant achievements,” Bommensath and King said in a statement.

Morrice, Jones and Nakai could not be reached for comment.

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