Rich Ricci: the back office banker who made it big

eFC logo

If you work in an operations function of an investment bank, Rich Ricci - the ex-head of Barclays' investment bank who was 'retired' yesterday - should be your hero. Here is a man who didn't attend an elite university, who didn't join a top bank's graduate training programme, who didn't work as a trader or M&A banker, and who yet became chief executive of an investment bank.

Ricci studied finance at Creighton University, a small Jesuit university in Omaha. Creighton is not the ivy league: it ranked between 226 and 250 on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.  In 2011, the starting salary for Creighton Finance graduates was $48k (£32k). Creighton is not a feeder school for Wall Street.

From Creighton, Ricci went to the Bank of Boston and the Bank of New England. From the Bank of New England, he went to Barclays, where he fell in with Bob Diamond. Throughout his career, Ricci has never worked in a front office client facing position. Instead, the Financial Times reported that he has worked in technology, HR, and senior operations (chief operating officer - COO) positions.

One ex-Barclays product controller told us he met Ricci during his tenure at the British bank and that Ricci's approach was straightforward. "His advice was to keep my head down and to work hard and get noticed," he said. "Ricci spent most of his time at BarCap implementing overhauls of various back office functions, including HR, technology and operations. Every project he worked on was a success and so he managed to climb up the ladder. He had a reputation for being a grafter," he added.

Another former Barclays back office banker who left a comment on our article suggesting why Ricci had to leave Barclays  yesterday, said Ricci was an inspiration to everyone in Barclays' back office. "Ricci is a genius," he said. "This is a guy who started out in IT change...and got to the apex of the i-banking world despite having no sales, corporate finance, or trading background whatsoever."

Barclays didn't immediately return a call for elaboration on Ricci's career path. Chris Wheeler, banking analyst at Mediobanca, said Ricci's progression reflects the growing importance of operations professionals within investment banks. "Ricci was never a client man - he was an ops guy. His rise mirrored the need for banks to get their operational costs down in the new electronic trading environment. To succeed, a bank needs a single low cost platform."

In most cases, investment banks have an operations professional and a client-focused professional in their most senior roles, said Wheeler. This is what Bob Diamond implemented when he made Ricci and Jerry Del Missier co-heads of Barclays Capital in 2010. "Del Missier was always the client guy," said Wheeler. However, Del Missier was made COO of the whole of Barclays in June 2012 before resigning two months later in July, leaving Ricci - the back office banker from Nebraska - in charge of the  entire investment bank.

Ricci has made a lot of money from his operations career. According to the Sunday Times rich list, he was worth £54m in 2011. "He was an inspiration to all us gormless mugs in the Barcap back office," said one ex-Barclays back office banker.  "He was very direct and plain speaking and always wore braces," another told us. "His London office was very ordinary but he always had a fridge stocked full of Diet Coke."

Related links:

The ten real reasons Rich Ricci had to go from Barclays