Two top British banks prepare for leadership changes at the top

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Plans for a change of leadership at two of Britain’s major banks could hardly be better timed. The economic shock of the pandemic, plus the uncertainty around Brexit, will probably demand a strategic re-set at both Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays.

Lloyds, the UK’s biggest mortgage lender, said this week that CEO António Horta-Osório will step down in 2021 once a successor is found. While Barclays says no search is underway, the lender could seek a replacement for CEO Jes Staley as soon as next year and recently reached out to potential candidates, Bloomberg News reported.

Just before markets turned in response to the spread of Covid-19, Lloyds’s stock price was roughly unchanged from its level when Horta-Osório started in 2011, while Barclays’s shares were down nearly 25% under Staley. Both stocks have fallen sharply in the crisis this year, with the less diversified Lloyds the worst hit. They languish close to lows last seen during the financial and eurozone debt crises, and trade at discounts to peers.

In February, Barclays said Staley was being investigated by the UK regulator over how he characterised his relationship with deceased financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The board unanimously backed him after concluding Staley had been sufficiently transparent with the company.