Barclays held an ad-hoc town hall meeting to calm staff shocked by the sudden departure of their boss — but a key exec was conspicuous by his absence
Barclays’ shock management overhaul and the departure of investment banking chief Tim Throsby was such a bombshell to staff that management called a last-minute, ad-hoc town hall to soothe nerves of staff in one of its most important units.
Along with Throsby’s departure after only two years at Barclays, the bank’s statement outlined a big shake-up in which CEO Jes Staley is taking on a clutch of new direct reports and more control of various units of the bank.
Conspicuously absent was any mention of one of the bank’s most important units — the Firmwide Resource Management (FiRM) group, insiders said. Its star leader, and Throsby’s deputy, Art Mbanefo was also not mentioned.
To say FiRM is a key division of the bank is an understatement. Under Mbanefo since the unit’s debut in 2017, FiRM was front-and-center of Throsby’s mission to invigorate risk-taking while kick-starting returns at the bank.
“Mbanefo’s job is to squeeze capital out of the unit that can be redeployed to juice up returns,” the Wall Street Journal has written of the executive.
Highlighting FiRM’s vital role, it was also reportedly tasked with fighting off activist investor Ed Bramson, who has been trying to force Barclays into spinning out its sales and trading business.
The surprise town hall, insiders say, was specifically intended to soothe nerved for confused FiRM employees. The omission of Mbanefo from the announcement was worrying, said one insider.
Making things more confusing, Mbanefo wasn’t even at the meeting. He was on holiday abroad, the insiders said.
The town hall instead was hosted by a managing director in the FiRM unit, David Simpson. Financial News reported that Mbanefo may have learned the news of his boss’s departure alongside the rest of staff.
The absence of Mbanefo during the announcement spoke to the surprise nature of Throsby’s departure. Insiders say that text messages bounced around trading floors well into Thursday, pondering what Throsby’s and the other executives’ moves mean for the investment bank unit and for Barclays as a whole.
It also raises unanswered questions about Mbanefo’s role at Barclays, along with what eFinancialCareers estimates as at least 80 MDs hired under Throsby.
One big issue is whether the management overhaul will make any difference in the bank’s performance.
Barclays said it aims to generate about a 10% return on equity this year, but Bank of America said in a March 28 note that “challenging” investment banking conditions mean that the bank would need to slash costs by 7% to achieve that, “which looks hard to do even if investment spend is delayed.”
Mbanefo did not respond to a request for comment. A Barclays spokesman on Wednesday that the bank was as committed as ever to the investment banking unit and any talk of the contrary was “ridiculous.” The spokesman declined to comment for this article.
The bank announced in late August that Mbanefo would expand his role to oversee business managers and the office of the CEO. Insiders said that some of those duties now go under Chief Operating Officer Paul Compton.
“Art lost half his empire,” an insider said.
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