Barclays hire Rothschild banker Higgins to replace McFarlane as Chairman

Barclays Chairman John McFarlane will step down in May 2019 and long-standing Rothschild banker Nigel Higgins taking the helm, with tough times ahead for the UK lender.

Barclays Bank
Source: Bloomberg

On Friday, Barclays (LON:BARC) announced that John McFarlane will retire as Chairman after serving four-years at the helm, with veteran Rothschild banker Nigel Higgins filling his shoes at a particularly challenging chapter for the UK lender.

‘Succeeding John McFarlane, who has done such a sterling job during a period of great change at Barclays, is a huge honour,’ Higgins said.

‘I have been lucky enough to enjoy 36 years at Rothschild, working with many wonderful colleagues and clients, and particularly lucky to lead the firm for a decade or so,’ he added.

Tough times for Barclays

Higgins appointment comes at a time when the bank must navigate Brexit uncertainty and fend off activist investor Sherbourne, whose owner Edward Bramson is applying pressure on Barclays to make cut backs on its investment banking unit.

Sherbourne has amassed a 5.4% stake in the UK lender this year and has attempted to build support for its divestment plan for the investment bank.

But Bramson’s plan to scale back Barclays investment banking unit have been criticised by some shareholders, with Old Mutual Global Investors CEO Richard Buxton labelling it ‘bizarre’ and ‘ill-timed’.

Last week, the UK lender recorded a 23% in profits before tax to £5.3 billion in the third quarter (Q3), with its investment bank business performing particularly well, as equity trading revenues went up 25% from the same period last year to £471 million.

Barclays bids farewell to McFarlane

Commenting, Crawford Gillies, the Senior Independent Director who led the process to appoint a successor to Mr McFarlane, said: ‘On behalf of the Board I would also like to place on record our sincere thanks to John McFarlane for the enormous contribution he has made to the development of Barclays over the course of the past three and a half years.

‘John has been an excellent Chairman during a period of fundamental restructuring of the business, and he has been instrumental in the huge effort to put the bank on a path to growth.’

Higgins appointment remains subject to regulatory approval by the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority, with McFarlane officially stepping down on 2 May 2019, assuming regulators have no objections.

‘Whilst it is always a difficult choice to retire from a company as prestigious as Barclays, I am delighted that the Board has appointed Nigel Higgins to succeed me as Chairman,’ McFarlane said.

‘I have every confidence that Nigel will be a superb steward of the Board and the bank as Barclays continues to progress following the substantial restructuring of the past few years, and I look forward to welcoming him when he joins our ranks in March,’ he added.

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