Barclays, the 300-year-old British financial institution, is doubling down on investment banking in the United States.
The firm finished 2016 ranked fifth in the US for fees from advising on acquisitions and equity and debt deals excluding self-led transactions, where banks lead a deal to issue their own debt, according to Dealogic.
That represents an improvement on 2015, where it finished sixth, and delivers bragging rights. Barclays is the top-ranked non-US-domiciled investment bank in the US market, and is going toe-to-toe with the big five American banks.
But John Miller, who is head of the corporate and investment bank in the Americas, wants to ditch that line for a simpler, more straight-forward one.
“Our narrative needs to be: ‘We are a top, fifth-ranked firm in the US’ investment banking market — period,” he recently told Business Insider.
“The Americas is super important; it’s a huge chunk of the wallet that we all play for. For Barclays in particular we rely heavily on this market, so therefore it is a must-win market for us.”
About two-and-a-half years ago, Barclays’ US investment banking team embarked on a client-tiering exercise, with every product and industry group head identifying the most important clients they needed to dominate in order to become top-five in fee share in their space.
They then compared notes to ensure that the entire organisation was working together to support those clients — from risk solutions to lending to strategic advice.
Miller and his team have also been strategically hiring star bankers in the US. In his view, hiring smart people translates directly into fee share gain.
The firm has made more than a dozen big hires in the past two years across M&A, retail, financial institutions, financial sponsors, healthcare, industrials, and tech, media, and telecom banking, including Tony Whittemore, Tim Main, Christopher Turner, and Peter Cohen.
In some cases, that’s already started to pay off. Barclays was the lead sell-side adviser on Mars Inc.’s January deal for VCA Animal Hospitals, a role the firm announced 18 months after hiring the healthcare banker Todd Richter from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He has had a relationship with VCA’s chief executive, Bob Antin, for 30 years, Miller said.
“The hiring that we’ve done evidences the support that we’ve gotten for the business from our CEO,” Miller said.
Barclay’s CEO is Jes Staley, a Boston-born investment banker who spent more than three decades at JPMorgan, eventually becoming CEO of the investment bank, before taking over as Barclays’ chief executive in 2015 after a brief stint at a hedge fund.
Miller said Staley has been a key player in the investment bank’s comeback story.
“The evolution of this business has been underway for some period of time,” Miller said. “The difference is when you have a CEO sitting at the top of the business who really understands what you do and can speak to the troops and the press and the regulators and the clients in an authoritative and consistent way about his understanding and appreciation for what the business is.”
In fact, Staley even joins senior bankers in pitching business to clients, Miller said.
“Jes understands that business [Americas banking]; he understands how to attract and retain talent in that world and he loves the client business, so he is on the field with us — out in front of clients on a regular basis — and has really been a part of our story,” Miller said, adding that Staley is willing to help at a moment’s notice.
“I can literally call Jes at 2 — and I have by the way — in the afternoon on a Sunday and have him on the phone with a CEO at 4,” he said.
Staley worked in corporate finance, equity capital markets, private banking, and asset management throughout his more than three decades at JPMorgan, before joining the hedge fund BlueMountain Capital in 2013.
With an improved roster of top bankers and a CEO behind him, Miller and his team are setting their sights on their rivals.
“We are completely set up where we want to be — it’s all about taking share now,” Miller said, adding that unlike some of his firm’s European rivals, which are restructuring right now, “We moved early.”
His strategy, now, is pretty straightforward:
“You’ve got to have a team that is cohesive, that’s been together for a long time, that trusts one another, and has knit together a cultural fabric across the platform, across product, across industry, and across geography … And you’ve got to have an organisation where the group leadership gets it and wants to empower that team to win. And then it’s just all about running a consistent play with our clients.”