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Morning Coffee: A new experience for everyone at Goldman Sachs. Lamenting the lost banking lunch hour

The 29th floor of Goldman Sachs' office in Manhattan has something special, something that only Goldman Sachs' women would know about: nestled in the washroom is a cushioned leather bench where women can relax away from men (albeit near the washrooms). Upon this bench has been sitting Maeve DuVally, an MD in Goldman's communications department, who until recently was known as Michael.

The New York Times ran a piece on Michael's transition to Maeve at the weekend. Once her intention was known, it says Goldman approached Michael's becoming Maeve systematically. An HR person was assigned to help. She had new photos taken, a new email address, new business cards. All mentions of Michael in internal articles written by Goldman Sachs in the past were changed to Maeve. Within Goldman, Michael DuVally was effectively eradicated.

It's a rare and unusual insight into Goldman's culture under David Solomon. For a firm that once liked to be very secret, Goldman is trying hard to be very transparent. Yes, one of Maeve's reports tried to withdraw a comment to the effect that Maeve has never been happier, but it's not clear whether this was out of concern for her feelings rather than a protocol that forbids assessments of colleagues' mood. Maeve herself, as one of the regulators of the flow of GS information to the outside world, is very open. "I drank too much in the past, and I was extremely self-critical,” she tells the NYT. As Michael, she worked at Goldman for 15 years, but she said she was unhappy for most of her life: “In retrospect, I can say now I didn’t like the fact that I was a male,” adding, "I did not like anything that was masculine about me. But I never, on a conscious level, thought that there was anything I could do about that.”

As Michael, Maeve started by sometimes wearing pink lipstick to work events. Six month's later, she came to the office in low-backed leather pumps, with blonde hair, a dark jacket and pearls.

Maeve's colleagues are adapting well to the new woman in their midst. "New experiences for all of us,” softly commented one senior executive in 'gray dress pants.' Goldman's commodities traders - a breed known across the market for masculine rumbustiousness - sent her flowers with a message saying, "We are full of genuine admiration and respect for your bravery and choice to be happy.”  

Maeve, meanwhile, now uses the special bench in the women's washroom to check her makeup. And Goldman Sachs has acquired another female MD. As Michael, she was on an unnamed 'working group' within the bank. "Great — now we have another woman on the committee,” said one colleague when he learned of her new identity. Now all that's needed is for some of the men running Goldman's businesses to transition too. 

Separately, the New York Times also ran a piece on the death of lunchbreak. Whereas nowadays most people in finance and elsewhere are doyens of the 'sad desk salad', forty years ago it was common to take a long lunch in the open when the weather was good. In the 1960s, Central Park was 'Manhattan’s largest outdoor dining spot' for office workers. The tide seems to have turned around 1988, when Shearson Lehman Hutton arranged catering for employees who ate lunch at their desks.


If you want to work for Goldman Sachs, you should probably watch the 1.5 hour film on Goldman's history which the firm is releasing on Amazon Prime this week. (Yahoo) 

Goldman Sachs wants to hire 25 people in Geneva. For the moment, it's hiring five, including two asset management specialists and two wealth managers. (Bloomberg) 

JPMorgan is expanding fertility benefits to LGBTQ employees. (CNBC)

Now Citi hired three Deutsche Bank executives to its technology group. They include Mark Keene, who worked at DB for 13 years and who is becoming Citi's global head of tech. Citi also hired three people from Goldman Sachs, including Elizabeth Milonopoulos, who's becoming co-head of internet banking. (Reuters) 

UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti says frantic cost-cutting is not the answer. “There’s an obsession on short-term cost savings in the industry today. Besides that, you don’t resolve strategic issues only by taking out costs. In today’s environment, it’s impossible to take out costs as quickly as the revenue deteriorates.” (Euromoney)

UBS has been doing some heavy grovelling about its pig in China mistake. There have been private apologies, phone calls, meetings, suspensions. All to no avail. (WSJ)

Former Barclays CEO John Varley has been acquitted of serious fraud but Roger Jenkins, Tom Kalaris and Richard Boath will face a retrial - possibly as soon as October. (IFRE) 

Beware being at a second tier university. “You’re going to end up working as a barista if you don’t have a plan.” (WSJ)

If you are a “$400,000 a year working Wall Street stiff”, you are not really wealthy. (New York Times)

If you smoke cigarettes you are less emotionally stable, extraverted, aggreeable and conscientious. (BPS Digest)

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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