Six contenders emerge in race for A&O global banking head

As Morley triumphs in managing partner election, who will take on one of the biggest jobs in the City?

The champagne corks have barely been popped in celebration of David Morley’s election as Allen & Overy‘s (A&O) next managing partner (as revealed last week on But already banking lawyers across the City are asking who will step into his shoes as the firm’s global banking head when he quits that post in May next year.

Six names have so far come to the fore. Three are executive office holders on A&O’s new global banking board, set up in March this year. They are deputy head of banking Jonathan Brayne, managing partner of operations Chris Rushton and managing partner of strategy Stephen Gillespie. Also tipped for the top job are Stephen Kensell, Mike Duncan and Frankfurt partner Neil Weiand.

Structured finance specialist Rushton recently returned to London from Singapore, where he was regional managing partner for South Asia. He is closely involved in efforts to improve the banking group’s recovery of billings. As operations managing partner, he also deals with HR, IT and training, but his time outside the London office may count against him.

A partner since 1985, projects specialist Brayne is the most senior of the three frontrunners. As well as sitting on the global banking board, he was elected in April as one of five directors on A&O’s management board.

Gillespie is easily the most high profile of the three. Consistently one of A&O’s biggest billers, he can take much of the credit for putting the firm’s leveraged finance practice on the map. Key relationships include Goldman Sachs, West LB and UBS Warburg. An Ulsterman, he is known for speaking his mind, raising the issue of whether his blunt style would fit the job. The bigger question is whether A&O can afford to direct more of Gillespie’s time to management over fee-earning now that Morley is out of the picture.

Also tipped is Kensell, who recently acted for banks that included ABN Amro, Deutsche Bank and HSBC on the e3.2bn (£2bn) financing for Italy’s H3G telecommunications network. Kensell has shadowed much of Morley’s practice in recent years on investment-grade deals and has developed a strong relationship with Barclays. His relative youth may count against him, however.

Duncan is best known recently for his involvement with the Loan Market Association, working on the review and update of primary documents, and has been instrumental in the development of A&O’s New Change IT documentation. Client relationships include HSBC.

Weiand is the only non-UK partner likely to be in with a shot at the global banking job. He has been instrumental in growing A&O’s Frankfurt finance practice and growing relationships with foreign entrants into the loans market, such as Barclays and the German banks.