Morning Coffee: Deutsche Bank hires a guy who knows where the bodies are buried. And theme tunes for banks!

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So … we meet again.  Even presuming there were no unfortunate events at the leaving drinks and that the exit interview was carried out on a tactful and polite basis rather than getting into home truths, it’s always a nervous moment to be pitching your former employer as a client. But Tagdh Flood, formerly head of FIG investment banking at Deutsche Bank and now at advisory boutique Centerview Partners, has managed to get over the awkwardness and has won the mandate alongside Citigroup to advise on the Commerzbank deal.

In many ways, it’s an understandable call for Deutsche to have made.  It’s potentially the biggest deal in your corporate history. Getting the execution wrong could be a disaster.  Who do you go to for advice?  Your own internal FIG investment bankers, who have the advantage of an intimate knowledge of your particular circumstances?  Or an external advisor, who might be a bit more objective and have a sense of critical distance.  If you have the chance to appoint someone who can combine knowledge with objectivity, that’s arguably the best of both worlds.

In fact, when you consider the sheer turnover that Deutsche FIG has experienced over the last six months, Deutsche might even be in the position of having to turn to external parties in order to find someone who knows their own bank.  Flood left in September of 2018, but his team was already in meltdown at the time; at least four other FIG Managing Directors also left around the same time, as well as a scattering of lower ranks.  It’s not clear whether Deutsche had even managed to fill the vacancies.  According to company insiders, “most of the analysis on the deal is being done internally”, but there’s analysis and there’s analysis and the Deutsche internal corporate team might find themselves leaning quite heavily on Tadgh Flood’s expertise.

The ironic thing is that this is a deal which, in an ideal world, Mr Flood might rather wasn’t happening.  In the weeks leading up to his departure, he had been attracting attention as one of the few people in Deutsche’s investment bank to have anything good to say about Christian Sewing’s strategy.  It’s possible that Flood has been brought in by a management team which is by no means committed to the merger to provide a counterbalance to their other advisors who might be more motivated to get ‘er done and bank the fees and league table credit.

Either way, he’s back and he’s got the ear of top management.  If you’re working in a senior position at Deutsche Bank, and you’re in one of the functions which might reasonably be thought in danger of being cut back, or treated as “merger synergy”, then it’s worth going through your memory to see if you’ve ever got on the wrong side of Tadgh.

Elsewhere, those investors and analysts who were disposed to be sceptical about HSBC’s commitment to cost cutting might be looking questioningly at the decision to commission a corporate theme tune from Jean-Michel Jarre.  “Together We Thrive” apparently reflects the fact that HSBC is “more than a bank” and comes in a variety of versions for different HSBC events, from “airport ad” to “corporate seminar” to “telephone banking hold music”.

It makes you think about other possible pairings of slightly outdated pop artists and global banks.  Deutsche Bank would presumably like to think of themselves as Kraftwerk, motoring with sleek precision down the “Autobahn”, but more realistically, they’re German heavy metal stalwarts The Scorpions, waiting for “The Wind of Change”.  Goldman Sachs could celebrate their new dress code by teaming up their CEO with ZZ Top for a dance remix of “Sharp Dressed Man”, possibly changing the lyrics to “Sharp Dressed Person” to reflect their new gender balanced hiring policy.  And of course, it is hard to think of either JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon or Unicredit’s Jean-Pierre Mustier taking the stage at a results presentation to any other theme song than “Simply The Best”.

(It may be memory playing tricks, but this Morning Coffee author distinctly remembers a conference call held by a European bank which was meant to discuss the three topics of a profit warning, a rights issue and a large regulatory fine.  The hold music was 1999s indie classic “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”)

Meanwhile …

A longread on the long history of Deutsche Bank’s relationship with Donald Trump.  In actual fact, Deutsche have lent to and raised bonds for many borrowers in the gaming industry with results sometimes better and sometimes worse than its Trump portfolio.  The story is well worth a look, though, if only for the startling revelation that 15 Deutsche bankers were desperate to play golf with a pre-Presidency, post-Apprentice Donald down at Mar-A-Lago (New York Times)

The big gap in representation of women at the top ranks in investment banking has a lot to do with family life, career breaks and the difficulty of returning to the industry after a few years out of the market.  Here’s what banks are doing to try to mitigate these problems (Financial News)

Karen Fang, head of FICC sales at Bank of America, is moving over to the trading side, as several other senior executives shuffle between jobs or retire.  It looks like there’s a shake-up happening (Business Insider)

As well as getting investment banking internships, there are now proposals to make video games take the place of SAT tests in the USA. (Bloomberg)

IBM says that large banks are considering following JP Morgan’s lead and issuing their own digital coins …(Bloomberg)

…but Citigroup has given up on its digicoin project (Business Insider)

HSBC has made a lot of promotions in its investment bank, including 83 new managing directors.  To an extent it needed to do this to replace last year’s large number of senior departures, but the bank has taken the opportunity to address some of its ratio issues; the new promotion class of 2019 is noticeably full of women. (Reuters)

Everything’s awesome and nobody’s happy – the OECD has surveyed 22,000 people in the world’s richest countries and found that even the healthiest people with the best opportunities still feel deep insecurity and injustice (Bloomberg)

And JP Morgan wants to hire more ex-felons.  Probably better to go down the lateral hiring route in this case, rather than trying to make felons out of the staff you already have. (CNN)

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