Thursday 22 February 2018

Morgan Stanley appoints Irish man Colm Kelleher as president

Colm Kelleher
Colm Kelleher

An Irishman, Colm Kelleher, has been named president of US investment bank Morgan Stanley.

The move means the Bandon, Co Cork native, who joined the firm in 1989, is now linked with the chief executive role at the bank, currently filled by Jack Gorman.

On Wednesday Gorman appointed Kelleher, originally from Bandon, as sole president and his heir apparent, leaving co-president Greg Fleming in the cold. Kelleher is the ultimate Wall Street survivor. But Fleming may find his skills in high demand.

Last year the Irish Independent listed him as the country's 184th richest man, with a value of €71m.

Between them, the bankers have helped get Morgan Stanley back on its feet. Fleming oversaw the integration of Citigroup’s former brokerage arm, Smith Barney, into the wealth-management division and drove its pre-tax profit margin up to a respectable 23pc in the first nine months of last year.

Kelleher has arguably had more of a slog: the fixed-income trading franchise was more of a mess. And he butted heads with his former co-head of the institutional securities division, Paul Taubman. The latter’s more strait-laced approach did not gel well with the Irishman’s more colorful, salesman-like charm. As with today’s shuffle, he came out on top.

But Kelleher’s chances of assuming Gorman’s corner office are low. The Australian former McKinsey consultant intends staying in charge until he reaches 65, the company’s retirement age, in seven years’ time. Kelleher is a year older than his boss, so would be more of an interim emergency replacement. That leaves a next generation of potential leaders to groom.

Fleming, 52, may have missed some of the more obvious recent CEO jobs in the financial industry – assuming he wanted them – such as running Barclays. The board of BlackRock, though, may fancy him as a successor to 63-year-old chief Larry Fink, with whom Fleming is close.

American Express’s Kenneth Chenault has been having problems of late. The stock has dropped nearly a third in the past 12 months and attracted the attention of activist hedge fund ValueAct after the credit-card and payments company lost a big-ticket contract with retailer Costco. Now on the market, Fleming may hold appeal to Amex’s directors as a potential replacement.

Some of America’s regional banks may fancy hiring Fleming, too. Advising them on M&A was his specialty earlier in his career at Merrill Lynch. With the Federal Reserve now showing more willingness to allow lenders to merge, Fleming might even be in a position to put his old tricks to use. This may be an occasion on Wall Street when both ferrets emerge from the sack intact.


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