UBS chair Colm Kelleher heads the list of finance winners of the year


When December comes and it’s time to draw up the list of the year’s winners and losers, it usually feels too soon to be sure. All too often, one year’s heroes become the next year’s villains.

Despite that caveat, it seems fairly safe to say that one of the lasting winners of 2023 will prove to be UBS chair Colm Kelleher. The Wall Street veteran knew when he took the job last year there was a chance the bank might one day be asked to bail out struggling cross-town rival Credit Suisse. But the call in March from the Swiss authorities probably came rather sooner than he had expected.

However, the subsequent takeover confirmed his position as Europe’s most powerful banker and seems set to make his shareholders a great deal of money.

The losers will be Credit Suisse investors and the tens of thousands of its employees whose jobs are expected to be cut.

Another winner was James Gorman, who has been running Morgan Stanley since beating Kelleher to the top job in 2010. Gorman announced in October that he would be passing the baton to Ted Pick, one of his other long-time lieutenants. The succession was handled with the smooth professionalism that has characterised his tenure, during which the bank has overtaken rival Goldman Sachs.

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His success has made life even more difficult for David Solomon, his Goldman counterpart. Solomon should probably feature in the 2023 losers’ list thanks to the mounting speculation about his future. He even had to give up his side hustle as a DJ.

Jamie Dimon, the biggest of the big beasts of Wall Street, was also a winner in 2023.

JPMorgan profited handsomely from the US regional bank turmoil triggered by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, buying First Republic from the regulators. It was a sweet deal that is likely to prove much more lucrative than its rescue of Bear Stearns in the financial crisis.

Dimon rightly slammed US banking regulators for missing risks “hiding in plain sight” in regional banks. Yet the Federal Reserve’s chair Jerome Powell escapes the losers’ list by taming inflation without causing a recession — a feat most predicted was impossible.

By contrast, his Bank of England counterpart, Andrew Bailey, is still in the reputational doghouse. Bailey combined a slow response to rising inflation with a string of communication blunders .

There will be sympathy for some of the year’s other losers such as Dame Alison Rose. Rose lost her job as chief executive of NatWest — as well as £7.6m of potential payouts — after leaking details of Nigel Farage’s bank account to a BBC journalist.

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But there will be few tears shed over the shaming of Crispin Odey. Odey denied a string of sexual harassment allegations but was ousted from the hedge fund he founded, which subsequently closed.

There was more embarrassment for the board at Barclays over its support of former chief executive Jes Staley, whom the Financial Conduct Authority fined £1.8m for failing to disclose the extent of his relationship with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. But more importantly for other Barclays employees, the firm announced a cost-cutting plan that is expected to lead to big job losses in the investment bank.

Citigroup’s chief executive Jane Fraser has also warned there will be job cuts as part of a major restructuring at the Wall Street giant.

In terms of sheer numbers, the biggest losers were the City workers who depend on corporate deals and flotations. Volumes have remained at multi-year lows, which has put severe pressure on headcount and pay.

London missed out on Arm Holdings’ listing, which was one of the few big IPOs of the year. This deepened the gloom about the moribund UK equity market. Work continued on the government’s Edinburgh Reforms, which are designed to breathe new life into the market. But MPs on the Treasury Committee concluded the reforms had so far proved “a damp squib”.

The deal that may have the most long-term impact on the City was Magic Circle law firm Allen & Overy’s merger with New York’s Shearman & Sterling. The marriage was a personal coup for long-time A&O leader Wim Dejonghe, who has been trying for years to find a way to crack the massive US market.

In contrast, EY’s global chief executive Carmine Di Sibio had less luck reshaping his firm. His plan to split its accounting and consulting arms was killed off by opposition from EY’s US business. Di Sibio is now handing over the reins to Janet Truncale, who will be the first female head of a Big Four accounting firm.

As for this year’s hero-to-zero award, it must surely go to Sam Bankman-Fried. The former crypto billionaire acclaimed by Time magazine as one of the most influential people of 2022 ended 2023 as a convicted fraudster facing decades in jail.

Some of this year’s losers may turn out to be next year’s winners. SBF is unlikely to be among them.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email David Wighton

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