Barclays considered moving its investment banking headquarters from London to New York but ultimately decided against it, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The move would have punched a massive dent in the collective ego of the bank and The City as a whole, as Barclays is one of Britain’s most famous finance brand names. HSBC’s holding company is considering a similar move, but that bank originated in Hong Kong and Shanghai, so it doesn’t “feel” as bad.
New York was one of the options Barclays looked at as it began to formulate strategies to comply with rules forcing banks to split their retail and risk-taking divisions.
A move isn’t part of current thinking in the bank’s plan, a source tells Business Insider. A Barclays spokesperson declined to comment.
As with all banks, Barclays, is currently reviewing how to adapt its structure to rules forcing major UK banks to install a firewall between their retail arms and their riskier investment banking activities.
The rules, which come into force in 2019, were designed to prevent high-street lenders taking too much risk and needing a bailout in the event of a financial crisis.
The investment bank is one of five key business lines, along with Barclaycard (consumer credit), corporate and retail banking, Africa banking and the non-core division, which holds the bank’s toxic assets.
Earlier this month, Barclays signed off on a radical restructuring of its personal and corporate banking business, dividing it into three separate parts, in the plan to comply with the bank split rules.
For Barclays, shifting the investment bank to the US isn’t without its logic.
Tom King, the investment bank’s CEO, is already based in New York.
Meanwhile, tough European bonus rules are hitting senior bankers where it hurts.
In Europe, banks are banned from paying bonuses more than twice salary and there are limits on how much they can give bankers in immediate cash payouts as part of rules designed to curb short-term risk-taking. European banks have said that the rules make it harder to hire and retain staff.
Barclays began slimming down its investment bank last year, to cut costs and improve profitability.
“It was a real pivot point for us, not just because we really reshaped, both in size and balance, our investment bank, but it was a move of the organisation from really being a balance sheet, revenue-focused investment bank to a much more returns-based model,” King said in September.
HSBC launched its review earlier this year into whether to shift its base overseas. It has considered Hong Kong and New York as possible bases, as tougher regulations on areas such as bonuses, bank capital and senior managers’ responsibilities take hold in the UK.
Barclays chairman John McFarlane said in his debut press conference in July: “When you look at the dominant investment banks, they’re North American.”
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