Welcome to FN Weekend, your Friday smörgåsbord of the best news, features and opinion from Financial News this week.
A long and glittering career at the top of the game, but hardly one immune from controversy over the years, now looks set to enter an interesting new chapter.
No, I haven’t been listening to Fareed and Tom’s alternating whoops and cries of despair about someone called the “Special One” — what is a Hotspur anyway? I’m talking about Samir Assaf stepping down as the head of HSBC’s investment bank.
While still in the hot seat for the time being, he is expected to take a non-executive role at the bank early next year. And when he does, these are some of the names that could be in the frame to succeed him, wrote our investment banking editor Paul Clarke.
One of the best-known and most respected names in European investment banking, Lebanese-born Assaf has helmed HSBC’s banking and markets arm since 2011. But the latter part of his tenure was marred by some controversy over the role of Robin Phillips, the man in charge of HSBC’s advisory business, who was heavily criticised in an infamous and anonymous memo last year.
One of the disgruntled memo-writers’ biggest beefs with their bosses was HSBC’s lack of big mandates. Well, if HSBC’s role on Saudi Aramco’s forthcoming IPO is anything to go by — and Saudi is a country where Assaf has personally spent a bit of time — then it looks like he will be able to go out on a high, having adroitly answered that critique.
Elsewhere this week:
No Moore Capital Talking about glittering careers drawing to a close, the decision by Louis Bacon, one of the kings of global macro investing, to shut the doors on his hedge fund Moore Capital to outside money really does — in that overused phrase — mark the end of an era. It has been tough out there for global macro’s big boys, who have been undone by a lack of predictable trends to follow; though Alan Howard has enjoyed something of a recovery this year, just as he hands on the reins of his firm.
Diminishing retweets President Trump’s use of Twitter to blast his critics, push his agenda and announce new trade policy is a novel but now accepted part of life for the millions of us who have to live in his world. But do they still move markets? Tom Teodorczuk took an in-depth look at the traders and hedge fund managers keeping an eye on his social media feed, and found the power of the tweet may no longer be all it has been cracked up to be.
FN Weekend is edited this week by Financial News’s deputy online editor Mark Cobley (@Fanfaronade). Please send any (good or bad) feedback and tips to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
What the AI taketh away, the AI giveth These days, we are all used to keeping a nervous eye on the machines set to steal our jobs, but at UBS, it seems the robots are both foe and friend. The Swiss bank is using super-fast algorithms to find work for back-office staff whose jobs have been replaced by, er, super-fast algorithms. Let us hope that those shown the door at Deutsche Bank are given similar help in finding pastures new.
Manifesto Destiny In case you had forgotten, the UK is heading for a somewhat important vote in early December, and the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties graced us with their plans for government on Wednesday and Thursday. Fair to say the City will probably not be delighted by everything in either — our columnist David Wighton reckons the only certain thing is more taxes. And that probably applies even to the Conservatives, whose manifesto is due over the weekend. We shall duly comb its small print when it lands.
Barbarians in the States Switching our political focus across the Atlantic for a moment, while most of that great nation has been glued to the Democrats’ attempt to impeach Trump, one of the candidates jostling to take him on for the White House next year, leftwing senator Elizabeth Warren, is also causing a stir among the private equity community. Step forward unlikely Swedish champion Nordic Capital, which has arrived in New York to find an ideological war in full swing. And it’s not just Warren. The Carlyle Group has found itself under attack from both star Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and, even worse, country-pop idol Taylor Swift… and before you guffaw, that pair have ninety-one million Twitter followers between them and we know who your kids are backing.
‘Ridiculously stupid’ David Rutter, the CEO of banking blockchain firm R3, gave us the benefit of his plain and unvarnished thoughts when he sat down with our fintech correspondent Ryan Weeks. He does not think much of Facebook’s foray into cryptocurrency, safe to say. Of course, Facebook’s Libra is just one of a recent spate of financial ventures from Big Tech that have turned out to be less impressive than first promised (or feared)… as Jack Hough, associate editor at FN’s US sister-publication Barron’s, reminded us. And another fintech not exactly short of troubles is the German payments group Wirecard, so it was notable when Jupiter dropped its £585m stake in the company. Its European funds, of course, are under new management, following the exit of star manager Alexander Darwall: it is likely the new duo simply did not have his conviction in the stock.
This is fine There are few worse PR disasters for a fund manager than being fined almost £2m for overcharging your clients, especially at a time when stock-pickers are losing ground to index funds. Janus Henderson had to endure this humiliation earlier in the week, and while it did point out the episode took place several years ago, and it qualified for the FCA’s discount for co-operation, others will still be watching nervously. It comes as new regulations come into force for mutual funds in the UK, empowering independent directors to run value-for-money rules over all products. They had better do a good job…
Until next week…
WEEKEND READING, VIEWING, LISTENING + EATING
Boom, Bust & Bankers (Channel 4)
Recommended by David Ricketts
Thriving on Chaos: IS after Al-Baghdadi (The London Review of Books)
Recommended by me
Inspired by the East: How the Islamic world influenced Western art (The British Museum)
Recommended by Fareed Sahloul
Why almost everyone believes in an afterlife – even atheists (New Scientist)
Recommended by me
Eat here The award for most succinct restaurant review in this email’s history — possibly of all time — goes to FN’s art director Barry Ainslie, who recently visited St Leonard’s, a new restaurant in Shoreditch. Here it is: “Get the cheese on toast! It comes with a leek kimchi!” Barry was clearly pushing the boat out with his ordering but for those not wanting to go quite so crazy there are all manner of scrumptious fish and meat dishes on offer. The menu isn’t the most vegetarian-friendly when it comes to mains but to all non-meat eaters out there, I refer you to Barry’s words above.
To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Mark Cobley