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Morning Coffee: The best job in the world is breaking the man who got it. A warning for bankers who would commute to Europe from London

When Mike Schroepfer joined Facebook as head of engineering in 2008 , he was stepping into an exciting if gruelling job. - The Stanford graduate's role was to manage thousands of engineers, many of whom had to be talked "off the ledge of quitting," because Facebook in those days was like, "a bus rolling downhill on fire with four flat tires" and the engineers were being asked to deal with issues at all hours. Aged 33, Schroepfer succeeded. - He more than succeeded; he scaled-up technologies, he rolled-out programming tools, he streamlined data centres. Schroepfer earned the approbation of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who said he had a "superpower" of managing diverse teams.

And then came another promotion.

Schroepfer was made Facebook's chief technology officer in 2013. He was asked to build a new artificial intelligence (A.I.) team with the intention of designing chatbots, improving facial recognition and upgrading ad targeting. Schroepfer and Zuckerberg went shopping at the annual NIPS conference and sought-out the best A.I. talent. It was going great. - Until November 2015. 

The Paris terrorist attacks seem to have been a changing point for Schroepfer and his team. After 130 people were killed in the French capital, Facebook's focus became using A.I. to identify and remove terrorist propaganda from Facebook's network. By mid-2017, this accounted for more work than anything else. A.I. specialists who joined Facebook to design chatbots were more likely to work on systems to identify beheadings.

On some measures, Schroepfer - who now sits between  Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg - has succeeded. Facebook's AI now identifies 96% of all nudity and 65% of all hate speech. But it didn't spot the livestream of the murder of 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019, and it was a nearly an hour before the video was removed from Facebook's site. 

It's a huge deal for Schroepfer, who has watched the Christchurch video over and over to work out how it got missed. When the New York Times asked about Christchurch, Schroepfer was overcome with emotion. He admitted that coming to work has sometimes become a struggle, and a former colleague said he's been known to cry in the office. "What a burden. What a responsibility,” said another of Schroepfer's role.

The NYT's weekend interview with Schroepfer is a reminder that all that glitters is not gold. - That the sorts of technology and data jobs at Facebook that most technology professionals in finance aspire to, can come with a visceral emotional price. Facebook's appeal to top computer science talent at U.S. universities is already waning. The next time that Facebook tries picking-up top talent at NIPS, data science students might choose Two Sigma or Point72 instead.

Separately (and also rather gloomily), James O’Shea, the chief auditor at MUFG has a very cautionary tale for any London bankers who are thinking of commuting in and out of Europe after Brexit. 

In 2016, O'Shea's family were living in Ireland and he was working in London. He'd fly home for the weekend at get up at 3.30am on Monday morning to come into work. Left to his own devices O'Shea regularly worked long days, starting at 7.30am and continuing past midnight. He didn't eat properly. He didn't sleep.

And then came the breakdown. Whilst in Tokyo for a meeting in 2016, O'Shea found himself unable to face the world. He wrote an email of resignation and flew back to Ireland to address his mental health.

In fact, O'Shea only took two months off and then his wife and children moved back to London to be nearer him.  But there's a lesson here - it's not easy doing a demanding job in finance; it's even harder when you're doing it alone and commuting to your family in your spare time.


Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank say they spotted strange transactions involving Donald Trump and Jared Kushner in 2016 and 2017. They advised that the transactions should be escalated to the Treasury Department. Deutsche Bank ignored their advice. “You present them with everything, and you give them a recommendation, and nothing happens...It’s the D.B. way. They are prone to discounting everything." (New York Times) 

Amedeo Ferri-Ricchi, the head of Deutsche Bank's FX business in EMEA, has quit. He was a big revenue earner and his business had been spared big cuts. (Financial News)

The Financial Conduct Authority is contemplating a formal investigation into the fitness and propriety of the UBS banker who allegedly raped a trainee, along with another one of her seniors who is alleged to have groped her in a separate incident in 2017. The latter employee is still at UBS. (Financial Times) 

Morgan Stanley's top technology banker Michael Grimes is a bit tainted after Uber's IPO. Uber's CFO Nelson Chai is insistent that it's not Grimes' fault: “I know there’s a question about how do we think Morgan Stanley did...They did a fine job. Morgan Stanley did a very good job for us.” (Financial Times) 

From the chairwoman of a bank who often wears men's ties to meetings: “It remains widely accepted among investors that women — especially those of childbearing age — aren’t going to give their business ideas their full efforts and attention.” (Sunday Times) 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • An
    21 May 2019

    Why are the FCA now looking at allegations, and does this now mean they'll be looking at cases where people are alleging that they were falsely accused of things by HR or others? And why wouldn't someone still be in a job just because an allegation was made against them? Just because something is alleged doesn't mean it happened.

  • Ro
    20 May 2019

    EDIT Mike identifies "65% of all non-left-dogma" speech.
    That's far easier than solving the ancient religious-philosophical question of "evil."

  • An
    20 May 2019

    I thought that the UBS rape claim had been investigated by the police, with no further action to be taken. Is that not the case? If so, not sure what the FCA are doing investigating the individual accused. They may as well investigate the fitness and propriety of the accuser (which is also well outside their remit).

  • Ra
    20 May 2019

    Our brains have two sides, left (rational) and right (emotional). To be propely functional, your right hemisphere needs to be as active as your left, working creatively: men are far worse at this than women, having shuffled that side of things off for millennia. That means that as well as sleep, which has two phases in most people, simple physical recovery (allpha phase) and experiential resolution (beta phase) you need to divide the rest of your time to ensure the right hemisphere gets its chance. No, watching the goggle box doesn't count, nor does time on online games. Social interaction does, as long as it's not too organised. Meditation and it's little brother mindfulness do, Organised Religion mostly doesn't. Yoga doesm, gym doesn't. Cooking and sex do, all the arts. Reading doesn't.
    I did an interesting experiment recently. I'm weird, I admit, I took the kiddy wheels off my brain aged 8 and use around 30% of it - and it was pretty clever to start with. As a result, it multitracks, networked. I recently did some Ganzfeld experiments, and watched as my right hemisphere, the creative side, came up with an icon (four yellow bars) which the left hemisphere, the logical side, immediately used pattern recognition to decide was the image of a hawk in full stoop. It was dominant, insistant that that was what was seen, although it had to accept that it hadn't actually seen anything. Tricks like that are things we need to be alert to.

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