INTERVIEW: Raghavan still a humble CB banker at heart

3 min read
Americas, EMEA
Matthew Davies

News that Viswas Raghavan is taking over as CEO for JP Morgan in the EMEA region comes at a time of impressive success for the bank.

He succeeds Daniel Pinto who remains in charge of JP Morgan’s global investment bank with the bank riding high in the regional banking fee league tables. On Thomson Reuters’ figures, the bank has a 6.6% share of regional investment banking fees so far this year – an impressive two percentage points higher than Goldman Sachs in second place.

“It’s a great performance across the board,” Raghavan told IFR. “But it’s about not being a one-quarter wonder. Consistency is key; making sure performance is repeatable.”

There are many ways to measure investment banking wallet share. He notes that, on the figures that JP Morgan uses, the bank has been number one in EMEA for 11 straight quarters, with a similar two percentage point gap to Goldman, but with an 8% share of fees.

“We’ve looked back for 20 years and that gap has never been this large in that period,” he said. “And on only a couple of occasions – in the dotcom boom and after the financial crisis – has anyone had a market share of more than 8% in EMEA. This is the first time in, as it were, ‘peace time’.”

Asked if he has come a long way from being a humble convertible bond banker, he responded that he was “still a humble CB banker” – as well as being head of EMEA investment banking – and that he was still active with clients. For instance, he worked on a so-called “POEM” mandatory exchangeable bond for Vedanta Resources’ Anil Agarwal that raised £1.5bn at the end of September.

Despite being proud of getting the top job in the region – “it’s very nice; very flattering. A privilege and an honour” – he says that the move is really a “formalisation of the way we’ve run the business for some time”.

“Daniel runs a massive business. He’s on planes all the time, especially now he runs the tech agenda with Gordon [Smith, Chase’s CEO of consumer & community banking] and since Matt [Zames, JP Morgan’s chief operating officer] left.

“I’ve been running the day-to-day business as deputy CEO anyway.”

Raghavan said his new role will not be entirely dominated by the run up to Britain’s departure from the European Union.

He will be the bank’s lead executive for communicating with UK regulators on its Brexit strategy, but Pinto will still drive the bank’s Brexit thinking, along with the board.

The key, he said, is doing what is possible to “serve clients seamlessly, however the Brexit negotiations turn out. We’ve got to put clients at the heart of everything.”

He insisted that the recently announced plan to hire more than 3,000 people in a new operations centre in Poland is not Brexit-related and denied that, were it not for Brexit, those jobs would have ended up at the bank’s back-office site in Bournemouth in the south of the UK.

“We have centres in Bangalore, in the Philippines and elsewhere. Adding people in Poland is an extension of that and part of that overall vision.

“It is coincidental; not about Brexit.”

Viswas Raghavan