IFR Awards 2023

IFR Awards 2023
3 min read

IFR marks its 50th anniversary in 2024. Since the first issue on March 22 1974, we’ve been covering the ups and downs and ins and outs of capital markets and investment banking. What to outsiders might seem a dry and technical subject has actually provided no end of drama and intrigue. And it was the same again in 2023. If anything, even more so.

For all the clever deals covered in this awards book, 2023 wasn’t a vintage year for capital markets activity (especially if you’re counting fees). Rather, the spectacle came from two more banking crises: a relatively small one in the US – when a host of regional banks forgot to hedge their interest rate risk – and a potentially cataclysmic one in Europe – when Credit Suisse forgot how to run a solvent bank.

The common thread in both crises was – once again – the big getting bigger.

In the US, First Republic was pushed into the hands of JP Morgan, and much of what was left of Silicon Valley Bank was taken on by HSBC. Even in the absence of formal acquisitions, the business that those banks had done was hoovered up by the big players.

In Switzerland, the only realistic way to stave off the catastrophe for financial stability that would have resulted from a disorderly collapse of Credit Suisse was for the authorities to lean on UBS to take it over. The irony that UBS – perhaps the most badly managed bank ahead of the 2008 financial crisis (among stiff competition) – was the one doing the rescuing was lost on no one.

It was "too big to fail" all over again. That might or might not be fine. But it was definitely what all of the post-2008 regulation was supposed to prevent.

We can now all acknowledge, surely, that those efforts failed. Regulations and regulators now need to adapt to that reality.

In contrast, most of the big banks were islands of stability during 2023. None more so than Morgan Stanley – and, again, given its near-death experience in 2008 and previous disputed successions, there’s an irony there too.

The bank went through the kind of generational handing over of power that has broken (or at least damaged) many institutions over the period that IFR has been writing about banking and markets. And it did so professionally and smoothly, with the important players kept on board and a business model fit for the future.

The succession from James Gorman to Ted Pick also provided another model: one for JP Morgan, which surely can’t have long left before it too has to go through the process of moving on from an inspirational leader.

Whatever happens next for JP Morgan – and, indeed, the rest of the industry – IFR will be here to report on it, to weigh it up and hopefully to add a bit of insight. Just as we do when covering deals – the good, bad and in between – and the people who make them.

Here’s to the next 50 years.

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