Investment bank Lazard has appointed Peter Orszag as its next chief executive, entrusting the former adviser to US president Barack Obama with reviving its fortunes amid a slump in dealmaking.
Orszag, who joined Lazard in 2016 and leads its financial advisory business, will take over from longstanding chief executive Ken Jacobs in October. Jacobs will become executive chair and continue to advise clients.
The promotion caps a meteoric rise for Orszag, who came to finance late in his career after working as top economic adviser in the Obama administration, including as director of the office of management and budget.
Orszag takes the top job after Lazard, which has hubs in New York and Paris, reported a first-quarter loss and announced plans to cut about 300 jobs, or roughly 10 per cent of its staff.
As well as a dearth of M&A, Lazard has had to contend with increased competition from newer companies such as Centerview Partners, Evercore and PJT Partners, a trio that have enjoyed success since the global financial crisis.
Shares in Lazard, which also has an asset management business, are down almost 50 per cent from their 2021 peak.
In a memo to Lazard employees seen by the Financial Times, Orszag told employees that he hoped to combine the investment bank’s prestige with a modernised approach to advising clients and managing money.
“We should aim higher: our ambition should be to become the pre-eminent independent, global, go-to destination on all aspects of complex corporate finance, investing and strategic decision-making . . . Success requires us to embrace innovation and risk-taking,” he wrote.
As head of the bank’s financial services business, Orszag has been implementing processes in an effort to better deploy resources as well as measure success at a company that historically has given senior bankers wide latitude to operate.
Since joining Lazard after a stint at Citigroup, Orszag has frequently worked with clients in healthcare and life sciences, where he can draw on his academic background and knowledge of social policy.
Most recently, he advised the board of First Republic Bank when it sought to raise capital and then sell itself amid a slow-moving run on its deposits.
But the turmoil among US regional banks has helped choke off dealmaking, along with recession fears, a jump in financing costs and tougher antitrust enforcement from Joe Biden’s administration.
Orszag remains close to several prominent past Democratic policymakers including Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner and Jason Furman.