It's Halloween and Morgan Stanley has got a slightly scary new hire. The latest C-Suite position at the bank is going to Dr. David Stark, Morgan Stanley's new Chief Medical Officer. The press release announcing his appointment tries to make it sound heartwarming, with a lot of statistics about the cost of healthcare and the extent to which MS cares about the “wellness” of its employees. There’s also a tech angle to it (medical technology at a financial institution is presumably “finmedtech” and might be the hottest IPO trend of next year), as the CMO title is going to be combined with “Head of HR Data and Analytics” and Dr Stark comes to Morgan Stanley from “Lab100” a clinic-of-the-future project in a medical school.
... which is where it all starts to get a bit uncomfortable. The post of Chief Medical Officer isn’t actually there to run a general practitioner’s office for investment bankers, or even to bring the cutting edge of medical science to the Morgan Stanley health benefits program. He’s going to “leverage data and technology to unlock value-based care” (this sounds like it means cut costs, fair enough) but also to “harness our HR data” and to “generate data-driven insights” to “foster innovation in wellness”. It all sounds a bit Orwellian, particularly as banks like J.P. Morgan have already been using Palantir's data techniques to unearth disgruntled employees - presumably Morgan Stanley's medical data will be its own source of competitive advantage.
The thing about massive unspecific data-gathering exercises is that once the data is gathered, it can be put to a variety of uses. Some people at Morgan Stanley do other things that are bad for them, like smoke, drink and eat unhealthy food. Some of these people might think that these habits are none of their employer’s business as long as they do their job, but they might be wrong. Or in an even more dystopian vein, the health data could be used to reverse-engineer around the central health problem of the industry; Morgan Stanley could start selecting people for long term promotion on the basis of predictions about how physically robust they are going to be after ten years working 80 hour weeks. It doesn’t take long to come up with all sorts of alarming things that might pop out of a “wellness analytics” project which also presents an opportunity to gather large amounts of personal health data on employees.
You also don’t need a medical degree to know that a significant proportion of Morgan Stanley employees (like all bankers) probably do one thing that’s well known to be bad for your health in the long term – they fail to get enough sleep. We don’t have access to anyone’s HR data, but it’s not much of a stretch to assume that if we did, we’d find that this well-known medical fact would show up clear links between working practices and employee health. But the long-hours culture in finance is deeply embedded and has survived many previous attempts to alter it. To put it bluntly, banks don't need to hire someone from Sinai to tell them that they’re working juniors beyond healthy norms, and if that’s what the Chief Medical Officer does in fact tell them, they’re unlikely to be impressed.
Separately, the kings of building up mountains of creepy personal data have historically been the hedge fund philosophers at Bridgewater. Given that, this profile of Karen Karniol-Tambour seems surprisngly normal. Ms Karniol-Tambour is quite shockingly young (confirmed as an “idea generator” at 23 and promoted last year to Head of Investment Research at the age of 31), obviously incredibly intelligent, but unlike so many of her senior colleagues at Bridgewater, she manages to get through a whole profile without straying into esoteric management theory. A colleague is even quoted as saying that she is “kind” and “cares about others”, although since this is Bridgewater they are quick to say that they mean kind and caring in a ruthless sort of way. Ms Karniel-Tambour has the job of prioritising dozens of research projects and setting teams of people to come up with answers, and her speciality is apparently in “joining the dots”. If you read down to the end of the profile, there are some more or less mainstream views on China, but some really interesting and nuanced thoughts about the relationship between the USA, emerging markets and the future.
At the UBS France whistle-blower trial, the judge appears to have lost patience with the bank’s strategy of discrediting successive witnesses as disgruntled and underperforming employees, many of whom have subsequently been convicted of offences. “There appears to have been quite a serious hiring problem”, noted Judge Christine Mee. It’s a valid point to make; banks are often very quick to suddenly discover that inconvenient employees were bad apples all along (Bloomberg)
Millennium and Citadel, two of the only major hedge fund groups who have kept their reputation over the last few years, are putting their track record to work, with longer lock-ups and higher fees. Both firms are returning cash to investors, and only allowing them to reinvest it in new share classes with worse terms. Noticeably, Izzy Englander is no longer listed as a “key man” in the Millennium documentation (WSJ)
Cabaret at the European Commodities Exchange agriculture futures conference in Rouen this week featured dancers in thongs and rhinestone-studded bras. A small number of those present gave unconvincing quotes about the Moulin Rouge and how France is much more sophisticated about these things (Bloomberg)
A well-informed opinion piece on the strategic dilemmas facing UBS post-Orcel... (Financial News)
... as the bank opens up a fourth Indian offshore centre ...(Finews)
... and considers asset management acquisitions and partnerships, possibly in the USA or UK... (Bloomberg)
... and announces Phillipe Drouin, who joined from BAML four years ago, as its new head of consumer and retail IBD (Financial News)
JP Morgan has hired Foster + Partners, most famous for the Apple HQ, to build their new skyscraper in New York (Bloomberg)
Tattoos officially won’t hurt your job prospects, although maybe keep your sleeves rolled down during ECM pitches (Harvard Business Review)
In a scene that will be oddly familiar to many workers on trading floors, a Russian scientist has stabbed a colleague with whom he was trapped at an Antarctic base, who kept telling him the ending of the books he was trying to read. (Daily Mirror)
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