Investment banking is meant to be a ruthless profession full of tough-skinned predators who are purely focused on the bottom line. But smart managers know that egos can be as vulnerable and feelings as easily hurt as in a theatre troupe. - If someone’s not invited to a dinner, or put in a less favourable desk, or left off a “congratulations” email the ill-feeling can be considerable.
At Citi’s Paris equity operation, though, there seems to have been a very extreme version of this ego-wounding phenomenon. Henri-Jean Reville used to be the Head of Equities in Paris, with additional responsibility for Benelux. He was rated as a top decile performer between 2010 and 2015 and thought things were going well. Then suddenly, he fell out with his bosses, and colleagues started to “shun” him. Junior colleagues were invited to meetings instead of him. And, worst of all, his name was left off a list of people who were being thanked for their hard work.
Citi’s case at the ensuing tribunal seems to be that, unpleasant though this might have been, it doesn’t really amount to a reason to have gone on medical leave or constitute “harassment” worthy of a $770k claim for damages. As always in employment cases, it’s hard to tell who’s right, unlikely that there will be any real winner, and you have to feel sorry for someone whose health has been damaged by the way they felt treated at work. Mr Reville claims that it all got a lot nastier than this, that he was the subject of unsubstantiated claims and was shouted at in meetings, although Citi has described the evidence as “thin”.
Looking more deeply at the story, it’s not hard to work out what caused the sudden change of sentiment on the part of Citi Paris with respect to Henri-Jean Reville – it was, after all, money. As well as his role managing the equities sales and trading operation, he was responsible for an equity portfolio (it’s not made clear if this was a prop desk or a client model portfolio). In the first half of 2016, this portfolio fell in value by 17%. During the same period, the CAC40 and Eurostoxx indices were flat. (The Banks sector underperformed horribly, so it’s possible that Mr Reville was trying a bit of knife-catching in SocGen or Deutsche). It’s a sad truth about the industry that people are always a lot nicer and more respectful when you’re making money than when you’ve just lost a bundle. Client revenues were also heavily down.
This may well be the underlying emotional truth behind this case. - In a world where pressure and big drawdowns are inevitable, you need to have a strong sense of self-worth that isn’t dependent on being treated like a star by your colleagues. Like a boxing ring, a trading floor can be an expensive and painful place to find out who you really are. Mr Reville now operates his own consultancy firm called “Botanist SA” where he can be his own boss and that might be all for the best.
Elsewhere, do you know this man? According to a Twitter user, there’s a Goldman Sachs senior executive who has been living in New Orleans for five years, and drives an extremely expensive car as an Uber because it’s a good way to meet people and learn the language. This would be the second most noteworthy investment banking Uber moonlighter after Michael Grimes of Morgan Stanley.
This might be apocryphal, of course. Goldman Sachs doesn’t have a New Orleans office and it would be a 350 mile commute to Houston. GS is, we know, recruiting bankers for smaller companies in Middle America, but bringing in a German-speaker five years ago doesn’t sound like part of this plan. It’s possible that the Twitter user misheard, or that the guy in the photo is a former GS executive, living out his retirement in the world capital of jazz. In any case, he’s picked an adventurous way to meet people. Let us know if you recognise him!
SocGen has been talked about as a potential acquirer for Commerzbank and a potential target for Jean-Pierre Mustier. Frédéric Oudéa says he doesn’t think any big mergers in Europe are likely in the near term, even though the idea intrinsically makes sense. (FT)
Indeed, there’s at least half a dozen banks that are believed to be potentially looking at Commerzbank. Bloomberg looks through the field (Bloomberg)
After taking majority control of its Chinese joint venture, UBS is moving quickly to make senior hires – Shen Dehua has come in from HSBC, Eric Zhang from China Merchant Bank Co and three MD-level hires are apparently in progress. (Bloomberg)
More co-head retirements at GS – 25-year veteran Brian Levine is stepping down from his post co-heading global equity trade and execution services. The management reorganisation shows that Goldman has no fear of the often-criticised co-head structure – the memo announcing the appointment of three co-heads for the Global Equities business was signed by all three co-heads of the Global Securities business. Maybe if you keep one in Europe, one in America and one in Asia they don’t tread on each other’s toes (Reuters)
Erickson Davis has left Autonomous Research as the Bernstein deal closes, to become head of European equities at KBW (Financial News)
Barclays is making a big investment in algorithmic equities trading, taking the opposite approach to Citigroup and doubling up to try and reverse its 20% decline in trading revenue in Q1 (Bloomberg)
How seriously are the big asset managers taking the strategic outlook for their industry and the outflows of 2018? At both Franklin Templeton and Invesco, they’ve reduced their chief executives’ private jet allowance. (Financial News)
Did you ever wonder what would happen if someone put up a LinkedIn profile for a sea bream who claimed to live inside a pineapple and to be an iOS developer? Apparently, they got quite a lot of job offers, suggesting perhaps that the spam problem may not be 100% under control. (Twitter)
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