Morning Coffee: Who’s the best boss in banking? Meet the banker with six fleece vests

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Tidjane Thiam of Credit Suisse is “Banker of the Year” according to Euromoney, but ask his employees and you might get a different response. That’s the implication from a new piece of research from the UBS Evidence Lab. It has taken 56,000 employee comments from Glassdoor and crunched them into a “satisfaction index” for the top investment banking CEOs.  They published the data in a research report about Deutsche Bank, and Thiam was right down there with Christian Sewing on an approval rating in the 60% range. The top US houses, by comparison, scored approval ratings of closer to 80% for James Gorman (Morgan Stanley), Jamie Dimon (J.P. Morgan) and Lloyd Blankfein (departing from Goldman Sachs; there is no rating yet for David Solomon, but his approval rating in the DJ booth at a bar in the Hamptons is apparently off the charts).

They also provide us with charts showing the annual change – interestingly, Blankfein's rating at Goldman is slightly down on last year, and although Thiam is propping up the table along with Deutsche Bank, he’s slightly less unpopular with Credit Suisse employees than he was the last time the numbers were run. The big moves are a positive improvement for Morgan Stanley and for HSBC, and a material worsening for Citi. What do we think might be driving these trends?

Well, the most obvious driver is sheer noise. The sample size is big – even divided by the number of banks in the survey, 56,000 data points is a lot. But they might not be representative. Glassdoor reviews are anonymous (or nearly anonymous and there’s no way of checking whether the person posting the review has an axe to grind. And the sample is hardly unbiased – it’s an English language site which is more popular in the U.S. than in Europe and more importantly, people who are really happy with their current boss are usually not spending much time posting online reviews.

And there’s a pretty obvious reason why Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank are at the bottom of the table; investment bankers like money, and they get paid in multi-year long term packages based on the company share price and earnings. For a lot of the potential voters, their stock options are so far underwater that they’re evolving gills. A year ago, Citi’s share price was on a tear – it went from $42 to $66 between July 2016 and July 2017 – so it’s not surprising that Mike Corbat was getting the kind of favourable employee reaction that ended up being hard to sustain.

In fact, if you line these banks up in terms of their five year shareholder return, the top three are JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, and the bottom two are Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. Is it as simple as that? Possibly. The anomaly would be HSBC, which comes in not too far below the whole industry average and above Citi, despite having share price performance that would put it closer to the Europeans. Perhaps John Flint and Stuart Gulliver really have been doing something to make their employees like them.

Separately, silly season is fast approaching and the WSJ has an almost frighteningly thorough analysis of the social anthropology of the humble fleece vest. The newspaper interviews a junior investment banker who has six of them in his wardrobe, one for every day of the working week, assuming you’re at a bank with a “protected weekends” policy. When you can’t just wear a shirt, but you don’t feel you have to wear a jacket – when your chest is a bit cold, but your arms kind of warm, and when you want to walk out into the business district in the knowledge that you will blend perfectly into the rest of the brushed nylon crowd, the fleece is the perfect compromise. The WSJ thinks that the original style icon may have been Jared Dunn from the TV series “Silicon Valley”, and that the progress of the fleece vest toward ubiquity may have been helped by the fact that its price point is almost exactly a dollar below the “acceptable gift” level set by financial regulators.

Meanwhile:

Despite negative comments from Michel Barnier, the UK is still lobbying for its plan to get an “enhanced” equivalence regime for the financial sector post Brexit. It also wants to extend the equivalence to areas like securities trading and lending, where there isn’t even an existing equivalence regime. The discussions are now being taken to national capitals. (Financial Times)

Goldman Sachs employees have been playing in their annual wiffle ball tournament to help after school programs in Harlem.  The winners were the team called “Ken Wiffey Jr”, while the more thematically named “Hittin Bids” left early in the context (Business Insider)

According to an interview, Lloyd Blankfein called David Solomon into his office to tell him he was the next CEO by shouting across the corridor.  In a video interview posted on Twitter, Solomon demonstrates the “raise the roof” move that he later did to celebrate. (Twitter)

Lazard has gone for politically connected bank bailout veterans as its new regional heads of M&A in both Europe and North America. Joerg Asmussen (formerly of the ECB) and Peter Orszag (formerly of the Geithner US Treasury) are apparently going to “drive the next phase of growth”. Does Lazard know something we don’t? (Bloomberg)

An astonishing infographic shows all of Softbank’s corporate relationships, VC investments and business units. Another infographic would be interesting to show all the former investment bankers working there and their previous career links.(Pitchbook)

Setl, the blockchain transaction recording startup, has parted company with its co-founder, Francois Barthelemy. The departure appears to be due to a disagreement over strategy, but nobody is commenting on what that disagreement was.(Financial News)

JP Morgan has hired five analysts for its China equities research team – Billy Feng, Patrick Xu, Han Fu all coming from other bulge bracket banks, with Qian Yao hired from Huatai Financial and Lei Mu joining from Sinopec to cover energy stocks.(Reuters)

The reorganisation at UBS continues, with former head of wealth management Europe, Jakob Stott set to leave at the end of the year. (Reuters)

Some more analysis of Glassdoor listings reveals that as many as 4 in 10 jobs with tech companies are for roles which do not require any programming ability. (Bloomberg)

The trials of Barclays over its 2008 Qatar fund-raising are still not over – after the charges were dismissed in Southwark Crown Court, the Serious Fraud Office have applied to the High Court to have them reinstated. (Guardian)

A man stripped off and started to work out naked at a Planet Fitness in New Hampshire, repeating its slogan that the gym is a “judgement free zone”.  One thing led to another and he is currently on bail, and will indeed be judged at some time soon.  (Business Insider)

Image credit: runeer, Getty

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