Rich Ricci leaves Barclays firing on all cylinders

David Hellier
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FOR the past few months, Rich Ricci, who is leaving Barclays, must have felt like his time had come, his rainmaking powers no longer overly appreciated at the British banking giant.

Ricci helped create Barclays’ investment bank with the group’s former chief executive Bob Diamond – who stepped down in the wake of the Libor scandal – but in the end became associated with some of its excesses.

Since the beginning of the year, as new chief executive Antony Jenkins opined about the need to change the culture of what was an extremely entrepreneurial bank, Ricci, as boss of the investment bank, has sat uneasily within the new construct.

Not only are some members of his investment banking team said to have dissed Jenkins’ efforts to “clean up the bank” but Ricci himself has been carrying on in a way that can not have gone down well at HQ.

No doubt Jenkins’ spin doctors will have been telling him there is little point trying to change the culture of an organisation when one of your fellow directors behaves as if nothing’s different, even if he does so in a jocular way. The tabloid images of Ricci at the Cheltenham racing festival, where one of his runners was cheekily named Fatcatinthehat, almost certainly wasn’t what the doctors ordered.

Ricci, however, leaves behind an investment bank that has definitely not collapsed in the way many feared when Diamond left in July last year. There used to be apocryphal stories that Diamond pitched for almost every bit of business Barclays won in the advisory side of investment banking.

Yet even without him the bank is creating waves. Only on Monday, the New York Times wrote the headline Merger Monday for Barclays, referring to two big deals that were announced on the same day.

Barclays advised Dish Network on its $22.5bn offer for Sprint Nextel and also advised Thermo Fisher Scientific on its $13.6bn acquisition of Life Technologies. The deals together took the bank up to third place from eighth in the global league tables for M&A.

Even in Europe, where Barclays built its equity advisory business from scratch – as opposed to the US, where it acquired Lehman’s operations – the investment bank is doing well under the stewardship of Mark Warham and Richard Taylor.

Ricci probably leaves for presentational reasons, if nothing else. But he leaves an investment bank in better shape than many had expected this far out from his old ally’s departure.

The trouble with blocks Banks have angered investors in their handling of block trades this year.

Barclays took the most flak when it was left with a 14 per cent stake in Ziggo, with investors concerned that a large overhang would depress the price going forward.

Earlier this week the reverse happened, with investors seeming to get the upper hand.

Prior to Daimler selling its seven per cent stake in EADS, shares in the Airbus parent dropped markedly owing to a leak, according to the specialist publisher IFR.

As the shares climbed back after the deal, Daimler must have wondered whether it had sold too cheaply.