Barclays CEO job may be tough sellAugust 6, 2012: 10:59 AM ET
Bob Diamond's downfall was swift, but Barclays' board of directors will be forced to take its time choosing his replacement.
The first problem, of course, is that of the missing chairman. Before the board of Barclays (BCS) can choose a new chief executive, the bank's interim chairman, Marcus Agius, said the first priority will be to find his replacement. Agius resigned his post just before CEO Diamond issued his resignation. Following Diamond's exodus, Agius was forced to stick around for awhile.
A spokesperson for Barclays declined to comment further on the CEO search.
Securing a chairman is expected to take at least another month, which could push back an announcement of a new CEO until late October at the earliest, according to several analysts who follow Barclays. A source close to the search process confirmed that the hunt for a CEO replacement is indeed in the very early stages.
"I'm quite sure we won't have two new people in position before Christmas," said Ian Gordon, a banking analyst at Investec.
Once a chairman is found, Barclays' board will have to land an executive with the right mix of experience to appeal to both shareholders and U.K. regulators. The board of directors must then convince that person to take the job.
"Who on earth would want this job?" asked Chris Wheeler, a banking analyst with Mediabanca. "It's unlikely that a new CEO would get assurances from the board that he could do what he wanted with the company."
Former JPMorgan (JPM) executive Bill Winters is considered to be at the top of Barclays' wish list. Few expect the bank to chose an internal candidate, because any individual would be tainted at the outset by the Libor scandal.
British regulators are said to like Winters because he served on the commission to help draft laws that would unwind U.K. banks in the event of another financial crisis. Winters currently runs the asset management fund Renshaw Bay, which invests money for Jacob Rothschild and South African billionaire Johann Rupert. Winters did not return calls for comment.
Still, there's a question of whether Barclays' shareholders and regulators will push to have a British native lead the bank. That could rule out Winters, who has dual U.S.-U.K. citizenship. Diamond was often lambasted by the British press for being a brash American.
Don't expect much clarity on the future of Barclays before a chief executive is chosen, analysts said. It's highly unlikely that the bank would undertake any major strategic changes without a CEO at the helm.
A Barclays breakup is seen as increasingly unlikely as well. One senior financial industry investment banker said he and his team have been wrestling with what pieces Barclays could sell, but he said it's hard to find a way for Barclays to hold sufficient capital without a retail banking arm. Should Barclays consider selling smaller divisions, both the bank's operations in Africa and its credit card division would be the assets most coveted by rival banks, the banker said.
"It's more likely that Barclays could endure death by 1000 cuts. They will have more and more constraints on what they do from U.K. regulators," said Investec's Gordon.
For now, even after the $453 million payout to regulators for its role in Libor manipulation, Barclays managed to show investors robust profits for the first half of the year. Barclays' stock is down 10% in 2012 but investors are taking some solace from these profits.
"As an investment proposition [the absence of a CEO] doesn't unduly concern me," said Gordon. "All divisions have the same management as beforehand, and unless you believe a radical shift at Barclays is required, this shouldn't be of paramount concern to investors."