Not so long ago, we remarked on the strange lack of enthusiasm for getting out of Lehman Brothers, but things have obviously moved on a bit since then.
With the stock down another 45%, KDB suddenly deciding that it doesn’t fancy Lehman after all, and Lehman left with little choice but to sell Neuberger Berman, spin off its toxic assets and unveil its true self, the future for its bankers looks misty to say the least.
Despite all this, Lehman bankers are still hanging on. During today’s conference call, an exhausted-sounding Dick Fuld said staff turnover is under control.
Determined or deluded?
Lee Thacker, at search firm Silvermine Partners, says the big sticking point to extracting anyone from Lehman remains
the lack of any viable alternative Lehman insiders’ conviction that the bank’s stock is heavily undervalued – a position shared by Fuld, who’s allegedly refusing to sell assets at what he considers fire sale prices.
“The average Lehman guy has taken an 80% hit on his net worth,” says Thacker. “What a number of them are saying is that you can buy me out – but at a stock price that’s higher than we’re seeing currently. It’s a question of psychology – they’re not willing to accept the current situation.”
Shaun Springer, chief executive of search firm Napier Scott, confirms stock is the sticking point: “Whilst a prospective employer will value unvested and/or unsold stock at the market value, the employees realise it is not a true value.”
Stock aside, whether Lehman remains a good career bet depends on the success of the toxic spin-off. If everything goes to plan, people at ‘Core Lehman’ who hold relationships look likely to come out on top. “Our objective is to refocus our efforts on our client-facing franchise,” CFO Ian Lowitt insisted on today’s call.