Banker who defined professionalism in ABS
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People and Markets

Banker who defined professionalism in ABS

Richard Mann, who has died aged 60, was a central figure in the European securitization market in the 1990s and 2000s, when it grew from almost nothing to one of the most dynamic segments of the capital markets.

Mann was head of ABS syndicate at Barclays Capital from 1997 until he took early retirement in June 2008. But even before that, as a syndicate banker at BZW and then BarCap from about 1988, Mann had worked on many of Europe’s early securitizations, at a time when there were no specialists, but when a deal came, it was all hands to the pump.

After graduating in German and Business Studies from Aston University in Birmingham, Mann had joined the City in the mid-1980s, first at Bank of Tokyo and then Toronto-Dominion.

In the 80s and early 90s BZW specialised in retail-driven bond issues in niche currencies, and Mann cut his teeth on those, as well as public sector and bank bond issues. In those days, before the smoking ban, he would watch the screens, cheroot in hand, and occasionally leap to his feet to encourage the market quite vocally to go up or down.

With the arrival of Bob Diamond in 1996 Barclays became a more ambitious, institutional investment bank. Diamond hired Roman Schmidt as head of syndicate in 1997 and he immediately saw that Mann’s gift for complexity and patience with detail meant he was a natural choice to take responsibility for securitization.

Growth to great things

In 1994, when the ABS market revived after the UK’s housing market recession, there was $13bn of issuance in EMEA, according to Dealogic. After a stumble in 1995, issuance grew every single year until 2008, when it reached $915bn.

Richard Mann was one of a small group of syndicate bankers at the leading firms who became experts in this product, which to most bond bankers was a geeky backwater — until its revenues started to put theirs in the shade.

Every ABS deal and tranche is unique, and investors like to pick through deals with a microscope, comparing minutiae of structure and portfolio quality — such as how many of the subprime mortgage borrowers in a portfolio had more than two County Court judgments against them for debt defaults — as they work out relative value between one security and another.

To guide an issuer through this bazaar and win it the best price required bankers who could master all this knowledge and recall it at the drop of a hat.

Mann excelled at this, and set a standard of professionalism for this fast-developing market.

The extra mile

Debates over fine points could become almost fanatical. One colleague recalls listening to Mann on a multi-hour syndicate call in the mid-2000s, debating some point such as whether the price guidance should be 11bp area or 10bp-11bp. Mann summoned all his dignity and declared: “I have drawn a line in the sand with my logic and I will not barter away my credibility.”

Besides his natural gift, Mann achieved this through hard work. He was almost always first in the office in the morning and last to leave at night — which had the side benefit that he could avoid paying the congestion charge as he drove from home in Beaconsfield to Canary Wharf.

He kept thick files of documents on each deal, which piled up into a fort around him on his desk. And if a colleague asked him where a Portuguese CMBS deal ought to be priced, he could rummage around and find his relative value thoughts on the last such deal two years before.

At one point when he was absorbed in selling the Italian government’s largest securitization, colleagues changed his nickname from Manny to Ricardo.

Mann was popular with issuers, too, and held in high esteem by his peers on syndicate desks at other banks. In situations when others might try to score points and outdo their competitors, Mann dealt with others openly and fairly and even helped rivals with less knowledge and experience.

Waxing lyrical

In his devotion to his trade, Mann elevated it almost into an art, and this extended to his desire to inform the market through the press. Colleagues were astonished at how, after a marathon session in the office, when everyone else had gone home or to the pub, he would still stay on, sometimes until after 10pm, to give EuroWeek the full download on how BarCap had “achieved execution” for the client. His commentary was so clear it sounded like he had written it in advance.

Mann was held in great affection by his colleagues, especially for his good humour, calmness and kindness to juniors. “He was a tremendous colleague,” says one. “His work ethic was phenomenal — he would work whatever hours he had to to get the job done. He was very unselfish and a font of knowledge. He knew more than others did but was very modest and unassuming. He would just plug away and never moaned or complained. I never had an argument with him or heard a bad word against him.”

For long periods when management changes were going on, Mann ran the syndicate desk.

Life in the round

But despite his dedication to his job, there were many other sides to Mann. He was devoted to his family, and when he got home for the weekend threw himself into home life, such as taking the children to his beloved Wycombe Wanderers football club or Wasps rugby team.

Having grown up in Theydon Bois, Essex, Mann went to university, where he failed the first year, having spent too much time on the golf course. Bailed out by his grandmother, he went on to finish his degree and met his wife Linda at university. They married in 1985 and lived first in Chingford and then in Beaconsfield, where their children Sarah and Nick were born.

He enjoyed life and had a wide variety of interests, such as a fluctuating collection of classic and new sports cars, including an Alfa Romeo, Honda NSX and a tiny Lotus that he could hardly squeeze his tall frame into. "Richard was a car fanatic," said one colleague. "He looked after his cars meticulously and boy, could he drive. Speed cameras were just a mild annoyance to him. He always coveted a Ferrari and we were glad to hear that after he left Barclays he finally got his hands on one. No doubt he would have spent the previous two years poring over the for sale ads and doing side-by-side comparisons."

He and Linda used to go to race meetings such as Le Mans on highly equipped camping expeditions, and Mann would terrify Linda and others by driving them round racetracks at stomach-churning speed.

In retirement, Richard threw himself into community life, becoming a trustee of a couple of local charities, and always being willing to help anyone who needed it, including with his financial expertise.

In his dedication to his professional craft, just as in his generosity and thoughtfulness to family, friends, colleagues and anyone who needed him, for Mann, nothing was too much trouble.

For details of Richard’s funeral, on May 8, please contact