Morning Coffee: Secret feng shui at Barclays. New nightmare for Garth Ritchie.

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Are senior people in banking superstitious? Some traders have historically had lucky gonks lurking at the edge of their desks, but never horse shoes or rabbits' feet. - Magical thinking has always been covert, even if some investors have found success using astrology as their guide. At Barclays, however, it seems the superstition went to the very top, was quite conspicuous, and cost quite a lot of money. 

The Financial Times reports that outgoing Barclays chairman John McFarlane engaged a feng shui consultant upon arrival at the bank and that this consultant informed him that Barclays' fleet of Mercedes cars were the wrong color. - They were Barclays blue and they should in fact have been silver. The entire fleet was changed accordingly. 

For anyone not familiar with feng shui, it's a Chinese 'science' that purports to harmonize individuals with their environment by harnessing flows of invisible energy. In feng shui, blue brings calm, peace and relaxation. This was presumably not what McFarlane was looking for whilst being driven about the City of London and Canary Wharf. By comparison, silver is seen as focusing the mind and enabling completion and productivity. McFarlane fully bought into it, as did Barclays.

McFarlane (until now thought to be the sort of dour Scot who wouldn't have espoused such things) has, however, now been replaced by Nigel Higgins, a former Rothschild banker known for being a  'cerebral conservative'. The new man's cerebral conservativism doesn't extend to feng shui and Higgins is reportedly also doing away with other fripperies like McFarlane's personal toilet area and abnormally large corner office - which may have been inspired by feng shui or not.  

All in all, it seems a change of decor is underway at Barclays in London which - together with the disappearance of the nude naked minotaur painting in Tim Throsby's office may significantly alter the flow of 'chi' energy. Barclays' new focus on cost-cutting may prevent the executives' silver fleet from being changed back to blue, but if the bank is changing cars again and wants to retain the principles of feng shui without paying for a consultant, some quick Googling suggests executives' cars should really be a combination of red and purple: these are the colors of wealth and abundance. 

Separately, Garth Ritchie is facing new horrors at Deutsche. The Financial Times reports that the head of Deutsche's' investment bank is now the subject of a criminal investigation related to an allegedly illicit tax transaction dating back to 2007.

Deutsche denies that either the bank or Ritchie was involved in the transactions and Ritchie's personal culpability doesn't seem to have extended much beyond receiving an email highlighting the loophole's existence. A spokesman for the bank said Ritchie's involvement "was purely for reasons of interruption of the limitation period”, adding that adding him to the investigation was simply common practice at this stage of the proceedings.


How male bankers stay on top: the biggest and most lucrative clients are given to other men and female bankers' find their clients are taken away while they're on maternity leave. (Financial News) 

60% of women in banking think they're paid less than men for doing the same work. (Emolument) 

JPMorgan's global head of equity analytics discusses his new method of hedging. (Risk)

Tidjane Thiam has been defending Credit Suisse bankers against redundancy. “I said no, it is not in the interests of our investors. We need now to grow revenue.” (Financial News) 

Sergio Ermotti at UBS says conditions for banks are improving but "very fragile." (Reuters) 

High heels at work are "necessary and appropriate" says Japan's (male) labour minister. (Guardian) 

Uber helicopters from $200 and $225 per person from Manhattan to JFK. (New York Times) 

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