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Barclays signs up Rothschild's Higgins as next chairman

By Sean Farrell

Date: Friday 02 Nov 2018

Barclays signs up Rothschild's Higgins as next chairman

(Sharecast News) - Barclays has recruited Nigel Higgins from Rothschild to replace John McFarlane as the bank's chairman.


Higgins will take over at Barclays' next annual meeting on 2 May when McFarlane will leave the bank after leading the board for four years. Higgins will join Barclays as a non-executive director in March.

The veteran investment banker will remain deputy chairman at Rothschild until he takes up his job at Barclays. Higgins, aged 58, has worked for the banking dynasty since joining as a graduate recruit in 1982.

One of his main tasks at Barclays will be to deal with agitation by Edward Bramson, the New York-based activist investor, whose fund bought a stake in Barclays early in 2018. Bramson wants Barclays to scale back its investment banking operations, a proposal at odds with the strategy of chief executive Jes Staley.

McFarlane has supported Staley in resisting Bramson and over the CEO's attempt to root out a whistleblower - an error that cost Staley a regulatory censure and a fine of more than £600,000.

McFarlane, nicknamed "Mack the Knife" for his tendency to fire people, including Staley's predecessor Antony Jenkins, said it was "a difficult choice to retire from a company as prestigious as Barclays". Gary Greenwood, an analyst at Shore Capital, said McFarlane's tenure as chairman, during which Barclays' shares fell by almost £1 from 360p, was a "miserable failure".

"The announcement of Mr Higgins appointment comes at a time when there is still much work to do in order to rehabilitate financial performance and, more importantly, the beleaguered Barclays' share price," Greenwood said. "Whether Mr Bramson ... supports the appointment of Mr Higgins remains to be seen. Either way, we hope the new chairman can bring a fresh perspective and impetus to the group."

Barclays said Higgins was the ideal successor to McFarlane with banking and leadership experience and a record of advising large companies and governments. He was the first non-family member to lead Rothschild - though Barclays is a far bigger and more complex business.

Crawford Gillies, Barclays' senior independent director, who led the search for a new chairman, said: "He is a hugely respected banker, a strategic thinker, someone with extensive international experience, and he has a strong positive leadership style. These are all great qualities that he will bring to the role."

At Barclays' last AGM McFarlane said he had asked the board to look for a replacement but that he intended to stay on for at least another year. Some investors had called for McFarlane to go after he failed to revive the share price and was reported to have considered a bid for Standard Chartered.

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