Morning Coffee: French banker’s novel way of annoying an ex-employer. Fund manager’s semi-inconsequential affair with colleague

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Morning Coffee: French banker’s novel way of annoying an ex-employer. Fund manager’s semi-inconsequential affair with colleague

One of the great joys of being an investment banker is the occasional gardening leave.  People grumble about the long hours and never seeing their families, but if you reach the level where three months’ notice is standard and you move jobs a bit, you can enjoy two or three fabulous summers of endless leisurely coffees after doing the school run.  To deprive a banker of this by making them work out their notice is a pretty aggressive thing for a bank to do.  And employers rarely do it; as well as the obvious issues of client confidentiality and proprietary information, who wants someone who has no stake in the success of the franchise, just hanging around lowering morale for a quarter of the year?

A leisurely period of gardening leave does not seem to be what Christian Menard had in mind when he resigned from Edmond de Rothschild Corporate Finance.  Menard didn’t actually plan to enjoy the vita bella; he was in a hurry to hand back his security pass because he was halfway through a deal for an organic food wholesaler, and wanted to be able to bring it to his new employers.  For whatever reason – possibly because they suspected this coming – the bank said no.  And so Mr Menard decided to substantially up the ante.

He came into the office in June 2017 with “speakers and a sound system” and preceded to put it “on full blast”.  It’s not clear what he was playing – there is an electronic musician of the same name but we don’t think this is a DJ D-Sol situation.  Several of his colleagues sent emails to senior management complaining that they weren’t able to get any work done.  It worked; in order to get some peace and quiet and be able to work, the employers relented and the notice period was excused.

You might correctly surmise that the reason we are hearing this hilariously undignified tale is that, once more, something has ended up in court.  In this case, Mr Menard is suing Edmond de Rothschild for deferred compensation, and they are countersuing him for the lost fees on the organic food company deal. 

The French labour court is actually being asked, though, to rule on a quite fundamental point about the banking industry.  Mr Menard’s lawyer is arguing that the client relationship was with him, not with the bank, and that it was none of their business that he was moving to a rival – he was hardly to be expected to “all of a sudden become a baker”.

The bank seems to be sticking to somewhat more conventional arguments, involving the transfer of confidential presentations; their main issue appears to be to convince the court that their deferred compensation scheme was not like the one at Morgan Stanley, which Bernard Mourad won a $1.6m judgement against a few months ago.  But it is hard to escape the suspicion that there are a few personal animosities being worked out here too.  There are few things less welcome in the office than someone else’s music taste.

Separately, Blackrock has demonstrated that they are serious about their culture.  They say that “a value isn’t a value until it’s cost you something”, and for the second time this year, they’ve found themselves having to let go of a senior player that they’d really rather have kept for breaking a company policy.  Mark Wiseman, formerly seen as one of the potential successors to Larry Fink “engaged in a consensual relationship with one of our colleagues without reporting it as required by Blackrock’s relationships at work policy”, although it’s debatable whether reporting would have helped as a) it was with a direct report and b) he’s married (or at least, was) to the head of Blackrock Canada.

But need they have bothered?  According to a survey by the Investment Management Due Diligence Association, even non-consensual harassment allegations aren’t necessarily a deal-breaker for 9% of allocators (they didn’t ask about consensual affairs, but one has to imagine the numbers would be better).  That’s up from 4% in the same survey last year.  And it isn’t just a matter of turning a blind eye – the proportion of investors who ask specific questions, including following up evasive answers, is significantly up year on year. They want to know, but then they don’t care. It is, apparently “a bit of desperation to get that alpha”, according to the survey’s author.

Meanwhile …

Once a crown jewel built around the unshakeable Orcel/Santander relationship, UBS’ Spanish investment banking business is shedding MDs.  Luis García-Royo Díaz, head of advisory for the asset management industry and Javier Echavarri, a country coverage MD have left the bank as the headcount reduction program continues. (Financial News)

Bank of Ireland governor Gabriel Makhlouf has pledged that although KBC have complained about his regulators, “one of the things I can tell you that he may regret is the fact that we may continue to be annoying”.  Showing up to an office with a boom box seems to do the trick.  (Bloomberg)

UBS is losing the head of its wellness initiative – Claudia Oeken has been poached by a coaching company that originally specialised in optimising the performance of Formula 1 drivers having been founded by a trauma surgeon.  The coaching company is hoping to apply its expertise to bankers across Europe. (Finews)

It probably counts as a contrarian take these days for someone to defend the traditional office Christmas party. (Financial News)

A former JP Morgan commodities trader is selling his NYBoT jacket and badge on eBay.  He’s hoping to get $150,000 for it from a nostalgic JPM banker or pit trader, but since the badge was for the soft commodities trading operation, including the Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice contract, he might do better as film memorabilia from an Eddie Murphy fan. (Euromoney)

A profile of Alex Gerko, founder of XTX Markets.  It’s quite heavy on quant clichés, although XTX are actually hiring markets guys at the moment, most recently Andrew Webber from BNP Paribas. (Bloomberg)

More Light Research at UBS.  That’s not a jibe at the post-MiFID output, it’s the name of a neon and glass art installation currently on display, along with a selection of Damien Hirsts, Tracey Emins and other British artists at their London office. (Euromoney)

Photo by Josh Sorenson on Unsplash

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