Barclays' new boss: Who is CS Venkatakrishnan?

·4 min read
CS Venkatakrishnan, Barclays' new CEO. Photo: Barclays
CS Venkatakrishnan, Barclays' new CEO. Photo: Barclays

Succession planning at the world's biggest banks is no easy job. But a PhD from MIT, decades of risk management at US investment bank JP Morgan (JPM) and years spent in management at Barclays (BARC.L) have meant the stage has been set for CS Venkatakrishnan (known as Venkat) to become chief executive for quite some time. 

As he succeeds Jes Staley, who, on Monday stepped down due to an investigation into his links with the late, disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, he has a big job on his hands. Staley had previously said in 2020 he intended to stay on for a couple of years. 

The decision was taken after Barclays had been shown conclusions from the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority following an investigation launched last year. 

The bank said in a statement: "In view of those conclusions, and Mr Staley's intention to contest them, the Board and Mr Staley have agreed that he will step down from his role as Group Chief Executive and as a director of Barclays."

Read more: Barclays CEO Jes Staley steps down over Epstein inquiry

As the bank tries to move past the Epstein connections, Venkat is also heading into the top spot in a banking environment braced for an interest rates rise from the Bank of England, as inflation threatens. Over in the US, the prospect of tapering of Federal Reserve support is also on the near horizon. 

Despite a potentially challenging environment, Barclays has done well out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last quarter it reported record profits and better-than-expected results off the back of an investment banking and M&A boom. At the time, it said it has a "highly liquid, well-funded, growing deposit base."

Venkat was brought into the bank by Staley himself as one of his first hires as CEO in 2015. Staley is said to have mentored Venkat, who met the shock departure "with deeply mixed emotions". 

In his previous position at JP Morgan he held roles in asset management and was chief investment officer in global fixed income, as well as in investment banking, and in risk.

Watch: Barclays CEO Staley to step down 

According to Bloomberg, Venkat turned heads at the American investment bank back in March 2012 as he began to make his mark working in risk. Under his stewardship, his team flagged a potential £6.3bn in losses after looking into a derivatives trade in London.

Barclays said on Monday that the board has had succession planning on its agenda for some time, including reviewing potential external appointees. 

It identified Venkat as its preferred candidate for this role over a year ago. Following this, he moved from the position of group chief risk officer to head of global markets in October 2020.

Read more: Barclays 'well positioned' for rising interest rates as Q3 beats expectations

Venkat is due for a bumper payday in his new role, with a fixed package of £2.7m, delivered 50% in cash (paid monthly) and 50% in Barclays shares. The bank said the shares will be delivered quarterly and will be subject to a holding period with restrictions lifting over five years. 

He will also receive a cash payment in lieu of pension of £135,000 per annum. Per year, he will also be in line for a bonus up to a maximum value of 93% of fixed pay. 

Barclays shares moved 2.8% lower at the opening bell in London before trading around 1.7% on Monday. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
Barclays shares moved 2.8% lower at the opening bell in London on Monday. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

Venkat's rise to the top speaks to an environment where big banks are now looking to soothe regulators and avoid risky, potentially reputation-ruining scandals such as Greensill Capital or Archegos. 

He had previously been pitted against the bank's head of investment banking and co-president, Paul Compton as they both ran some of its most important fee-earning divisions.  

According to a memo seen by Bloomberg reporters, Venkat plans to steer Barclays along the same path planned out by Staley. 

“We have a lot to do: provide the financial means and leadership to help our communities and society recover from the pandemic, and maintain and improve the performance of our bank,” he wrote. 

Watch: What is inflation and why is it important?

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