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Morning Coffee: Do you work for a ‘sweatshop for the elite’? Barclays prioritizes unusual talents

sweatshop

Financial Times journalist Lucy Kellaway has a coined a new phrase. In a critique of a motivational article for Millennials written recently by BGC chief executive Rich Lesser, she makes reference to ‘sweatshops for the elites’, as in, ‘…it would be better if the CEO of one of the grandest management consultancies in the world told 20-year-olds that he ran a sweat shop for the elite and that working there would mean having to cancel all dates, all birthday parties and all fun outings at a moment’s notice.”

Kellaway is too clever to say explicitly that BCG, one of the world’s foremost strategy consulting firms, is a sweatshop for high-achieving, highly-connected, high-familial-income-students, but she does tell us how to identify one: a total lack of control over your personal time.

It’s a thought worth holding in light of last week’s testimony by Sean Stewart. The 35 year-old Yale graduate was earning nearly $1m a year in M&A until he was accused of insider trading after passing sensitive information to his father. Stewart’s defence is that he told his father about a healthcare deal he was working at J.P. Morgan because he thought it might force him to postpone his wedding. Stewart was working as a VP in J.P. Morgan when the deal cropped up. He said, it was ‘“a unique opportunity” with increased responsibility and contact with the client.’ But, it would mean that he relinquished the ability to plan his personal life for the duration.

You might argue that Stewart would say that. – He’s trying to build a defence against an accusation that could see him jailed for up to 20 years, after all. Then again, a rudderless personal life blown adrift by work commitments is likely to sound familiar to plenty of junior and mid-ranking bankers in M&A. 

So, does this mean you work for an elite sweatshop? – Maybe, if Kellaway’s definition holds. Banks have, of course, tried to address this. UBS recently introduced an initiative that allows bankers to take time out if they can find someone to cover for them. – But would you really want to relinquish your ‘unique opportunity’ to a colleague?  To the extent that banks are sweatshops, bankers are complicit in the perspiration.

Separately, John Mcfarlane, chairman of TheCityUK and Barclays, has penned an article for the Telegraph about Brexit. Therein, he describes the importance of a global talent market for Britain’s banks. Except, the talent McFarlane wants isn’t the traditional Masters in Finance student or London School of Economics Graduate. “We need to develop and retain access to a diverse and global workforce that is skilled in areas such as data science, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity,” McFarlane declares. This, basically, is who banks will need to hire in the next 10 years.

Meanwhile:

During the next week in court, Sean Stewart will attempt to woo the judge with tales from, ‘the unraveling of a life that had long focused on achievement.’ (Washington Times)  

A machine intelligence system, dubbed Emma AI, is starting a fund that hopes to outsmart the humans and computers. Its system of neural nets takes into account a complex set of factors affecting stocks, like management changes or monetary policy in Europe, that other programs miss. (Recode)

“There are a lot of people in the City and elsewhere who are a bit nervous and they are willing to wait months, but they are not willing to wait years before making business decisions [related to Brexit.]”  (Financial News) 

Jim Amine says Credit Suisse is committed to London, even doing some tiny hiring. (Financial News) 

Credit Suisse just sold a credit derivatives trading book to Citi. (WSJ)

UBS just set up a new team called Equity Electronic Agency Trading, and made 41 year-old Chris McConville, based in London, co-head. (Financial News) 

Ex-Commerzbanker wants to buy Panmure Gordon. (The Times)  

On banking and marathons: “If you’re running five hours, you have to get into the zone and find your zen.” (Business Insider) 

Birds can sleep while flying by keeping half their brains awake. (Science Explorer)  

Are you socially dominant? A test. (HBR) 

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