A 29 year-old psychopathic nihilist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch?

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As the Rurik Jutting case recaptures headlines with the horrific revelations from his Hong Kong murder trial, it's worth questioning how someone as disturbed as Jutting was able to hold down so senior a role at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong.

Jutting's LinkedIn profile has now been disabled (he won't be working again). When it was live, it revealed that Jutting left Cambridge University in 2008 and joined Barclays' graduate recruitment programme in structured capital markets. Two years later, he joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) in structured equity finance and trading. BAML moved him to Hong Kong in 2013. At the time of his crimes he was aged 29 and a vice president and head of Structured Equity Finance & Trading (Asia).

Specifically, Jutting's role at Bank of America seems to have involved ‘dividend arbitrage trades,’ which help clients reduce taxes on stock dividends by exploiting differences in international tax rules. Such trades are said to generate high fees and Jutting appears to have been paid accordingly: he allegedly earned £350k a year; his Hong Kong flat cost £3k a month and colleagues said he was a big spender who earned as much as an MD.

Jutting's experience in banking was clearly not directly related to his murders, but his time in the industry may have contributed to his mental instability and nihilism. An ex-girlfriend told Channel Four news that Jutting tried to kill himself in 2013 due to pressure at work. During the videos he made after the murders, Jutting spoke of, "job depression," and guilt about not being in the office to close a "financing deal for a literally soulless project."

Bank of America has steadfastly refused to comment on Jutting's case, but it's possible the bank became alert to his drug abuse and instability in the days before the crimes took place and fired him. Either that, or Jutting resigned of his own accord.

Either way, Jutting's securities license was suspended on October 28th 2014, the day after the first murder allegedly took place. He posted an out of office message on his BAML email account stating: "I am out of the office. Indefinitely. For urgent inquiries, or indeed any inquiries, please contact someone who is not an insane psychopath...For escalation please contact God, though suspect the devil will have custody. [Last line only really worked if I had followed through.]" He also reportedly made a Facebook post stating: "Stepping back from the ledge, burden lifted, new journey begins. Scared and anxious but also excited. The first step us always the hardest.”

Jutting's lawyer is arguing that his client has a personality disorder and that he's guilty of manslaughter as opposed to murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Drug abuse also seems to have played a part. The court has rejected Jutting's plea and he is being tried for murder.

From Bank of America's perspective, the case raises a barrage of questions which will go unanswered but should be considered by HR departments everywhere. Most pertinently, whether or not Jutting was responsible for his actions on October 27th and October 31st, why didn't Bank of America notice that its head of structured equity finance and trading in Asia was murderously unstable? What processes were in place to monitor employees' mental health and drug addictions? Should more counselling be available to young expats transplanted to cities miles from emotional support networks? Jutting alone is culpable for his actions, but as his employer until the day after the first murder, BAML should be asking itself some hard questions too.

Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com

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