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Morning Coffee: End of the ex-Goldman banker who hired hundreds, wanted to fire them all. Unnerving calm upsetting traders’ psyches

Revolving doors at VTB

Revolving doors at VTB

Persons working for VTB Capital in London can breathe a sigh of relief, possibly. Bloomberg reports that Atanas Bostandjiev, the ex-Goldman banker who expanded the Russian bank’s international operations and then wanted to chop them back again, is leaving. Bostandjiev may even have left already: he’s been replaced by Nick Hutt, CFO on an interim basis and is ‘travelling’ incommunicado.

Bostandjiev joined VTB in 2011 and promptly announced some exuberant growth plans. Under the Bostandjiev masterplan, revenues generated by the Russian bank’s international operations were supposed to grow from 6% to 30% of VTB’s total. To achieve this, he declared in June 2011 that VTB would be “competing for talent with the best Western firms” and hiring bankers in Europe, Asia and the U.S..

In 2012, VTB increased its headcount of London-based registered staff by 40%. But Bostandjiev’s star fell to earth in December 2013, when it was reported that he’d produced a secret strategy document advocating the dismissal of 40% of the staff at VTB’s International Business. This included shutting VTB’s equity derivatives unit, closing its commodities and ending its structured credit trading group, along with cutting the number of clients the business served from 1,100 to 300. Now Bostandjiev himself is leaving. VTB International staff may still not be entirely safe, however: the company has missed its profitability targets for five years running. Hutt may take up where Bostandjiev left off.

Separately, the calmness on the markets has been unsettling traders’ psychic well being. The Wall Street Journal has become the latest news outlet to visit UBS’s celebrated and once buzzing giant trading floor in Stamford, Connecticut, now home only to spooky back office, legal, and technology staff.  Markets everywhere are so quiet that traders don’t know what to do with themselves, says the WSJ. There was a fight on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a trader got his shirt ripped. Listless salespeople are being encouraged to call clients even though there’s not much to say to them. Bill Nichols, head of U.S. equity trading at Cantor Fitzgerald, came across a ‘young equity salesman’ who was, ‘shaking his head’ over the inactivity. Nichols reportedly advised him to call clients regardless, to get busy with administrative tasks, or to take an equity researcher out to lunch, maybe. “There’s always something to call about,” he soothed, reportedly.

Meanwhile:

Citigroup’s equities business had a bad second quarter because it was hedging against the Ukraine crisis. (Bloomberg) 

Revenue from equity trading fell 26%, driven by at least $90 million in losses the bank took on bets to protect itself against swings in stock prices triggered by Russia’s conflict with Ukraine. About 40% of the equity losses were attributable to the Ukraine positions. (Businessweek)

Citi’s fixed income revenues only fell 12% in the second quarter and things seem to be getting better. “Markets activity during the month of June was clearly much stronger than it had been for the first seven weeks of the quarter. As we closed out the very last week of May and the month of June, the market just picked up,” said Citi’s CFO. (Financial News)

Trading in Barclays’ dark pool fell by 37% in the week after it became apparent that there were dark creatures swimming there. (Telegraph) 

Bill Gross has calmed down a bit. However, he still interrupted a French colleague with the words, “I never understand what you’re saying. Ever.” That colleague left Pimco the next day and set up a van selling croque monsieurs.  (WSJ)

London-based brokers from Switzerland-based Tradition Financial Services tried to impress Libyan clients by taking them to Marrakesh, Morocco, and inviting them to a London lingerie-modeling party. (WSJ)

UBS poached Ross Hammerman, a healthcare banker from Citi. (WSJ)

Nicola Horlick is raising money for films starring Benedict Cumberbatch. (Guardian) 

Make money on the side driving a taxi for Uber. (Bloomberg)  

41% of bankers in the UK are expecting a pay rise this year. (Bloomberg) 

Related articles:

Where to find 8,500 finance jobs a month. When senior bankers’ sons get summer jobs in banking

McKinsey’s advice for fixed income traders. How to build an algorithm when you can’t code

Earnest young bankers snatch last opportunities for inebriation. Compliance hiring overdrive

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