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Morning Coffee – The traumatic stress of being a Morgan Stanley banker. Standard Chartered matches Goldman for banking dads

Bankers have something of a reputation for using over-dramatic military metaphors to describe basically prosaic activity.  Lloyd Blankfein famously had to remind a colleague that “you’re getting out of a Mercedes to go to the Federal Reserve, you’re not getting out of a Higgins boat on Omaha Beach”.  But although the physical danger isn’t comparable, the stress is genuine in high-stakes financial transactions, and PTSD is relevant to all sorts of trauma, not just war.

Colm Kelleher, for example, had to deal with the daily cash financing needs of Morgan Stanley during the 2008 financial crisis, and believes that he has been permanently scarred by the experience.  It was an incredibly stressful period for him; not only did he spend weeks sleeping in the office and putting on 35 pounds (16kg) in weight, but there was a period when he had to relocate to a hotel in Northern England in order to be near his dying father and still keep in touch with the New York office. 

According to the profile of him in the FT, Kelleher was rendered speechless for two minutes when, as chairman of UBS, the call came from the Swiss government telling him that Credit Suisse needed to be rescued.  He said “I can’t believe this is happening again”.  The flashbacks must have been intense, and they’ve probably had an effect on his actions as “Europe’s most important banker”.

It’s almost axiomatic in investment banking that you should always be cautious of someone who has been passed over for promotion at another place.  They tend to be much too aggressive and to set unrealistic market share targets, because they’re driven by a need to prove that they could have done better.  This doesn’t seem to be so much the case with Kelleher, though. 

Although he lost the succession battle at MS to James Gorman and left shortly after, he didn’t arrive in the UBS chair with any obvious bulge bracket ambitions.  In the aftermath of the Credit Suisse merger, it seems likely that he could easily have put himself forward for the CEO post and gained support from the board, but instead he made the calls (apparently nicknamed “Operational El Toro”) to bring back Sergio Ermotti.  It seems as if his career has taught him that there’s enough satisfaction to be gained from being the playmaker and organiser, and that the additional stress associated with also being the figurehead and ultimate source of responsibility isn’t necessarily worth it.

Which is probably a good lesson for everyone to learn.  One thing that’s been a constant feature of Colm Kelleher’s career is that almost everyone likes him.  He’s neither excessively flashy nor excessively folksy, and although he doesn’t put up with under-prepared executives at meetings, he doesn’t make people feel bad about themselves.  John Mack nicknamed him “Eeyore”, suggesting that even in the bad times he managed to combine a realistic pessimism with an underlying loveability.  All this is a way of saying that he’s a top banker who managed to keep his ego under control, which is one of the most difficult and rare things in the industry.

Elsewhere, Standard Chartered has decided that from September 1, fathers and adoptive parents will be entitled to the same 20 weeks’ parental leave that was previously allowed to new mothers (up from two weeks).  This puts new dads at the Asian lender in line with Goldman Sachs, and a month ahead of the rest of the pack – Barclays, JPM and Bank of America all give 16 weeks, while Morgan Stanley offers “at least” 16 and Deutsche gives 26 weeks to “primary caregiver” parents.  Standard Chartered is also offering the new policy globally rather than just in the US or UK, “subject to approval from local regulators”, although it’s possibly hard to understand why banking regulators would or should have an opinion.

We would guess that 20 weeks will become the norm pretty quickly.  According to SC, “Family formation is one of life’s key moments and supporting colleagues through this personal milestone is critical to attract, motivate and retain talent”, which is correct – losing a top banker for five months’ paternity leave might be annoying, but losing them for six months’ gardening leave could be disastrous.  And as benefits go, it’s hard to misuse; any employee starting a family in order to get extra leisure time really is going to learn the meaning of the phrase “short term gain, long term pain”.

Meanwhile …

Don’t believe LinkedIn thoughtfluencers with their stories of waking up at 5am for a cold shower.  It’s likely not to be true and it has almost no real correlation with success. (CityAM)

They say that success has a hundred fathers while failure is an orphan, so it’s good to see a detailed write-up (with contributions from the man himself) of David Herro’s thought processes in holding on to a stake in Credit Suisse right up to the bitter end.  In retrospect, he seems to think he should have got out when Tidjane Thiam did, and that he only held on because he thought Urs Rohner would be leaving sooner. (Morningstar)

Spanish superboutique Alantra is still staffing up in Dubai – having got a local licence and moved some of its shipping and marine coverage team there, it’s now interviewing and hoping to announce new hires in healthcare, real estate and consumer goods. (Reuters)

Tuvia Borok, an MD in Goldman Sachs’ legal team in London, reminisces about homophobia in days gone by, including the time that a Wall Street legal firm told him that his “mannerisms” meant he’d be better off working as a flight attendant. (Attitude)

Pharma bro Martin Shkreli wants his Twitter account back (he was banned a while ago over what he describes as “a silly mistake” in a feud with a journalist) and is prepared to pay $10,000.  He says he needs it to keep in touch with CEOs; nobody has so far asked the CEOs how much they would pay to keep him away. (NY Post)

Former JPM highflyer Sarah Youngwood was an accidental casualty of the Credit Suisse collapse – UBS decided it wanted an insider as CFO and she left not long after Ralph Hamers.  Now, as expected, she’s back in the game, taking the same job at NASDAQ. (Reuters)

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AUTHORDaniel Davies Insider Comment

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