Morning Coffee: The Credit Suisse banker who was demoted into a far better job. How to get a job in Paris when you don’t speak French.
For a man who’s recently stepped down from the head of investment banking and capital markets at Credit Suisse, Jim Amine looks pretty happy in the publicity photos. This is partly just because he’s a naturally smiley guy – even his stock headshot has a grin. But it might also be because his new role at CS looks quite a lot better than the big title he’s just left.
Mr Amine is off to set up a “Private Credit Opportunities” unit within the asset management department at CS, with an initial “commitment of capital” (probably from wealthy clients rather than the bank’s own capital) of $7bn. In other words, he’s effectively walking into a role managing a medium-sized to large business in the hottest hedge fund niche of the moment, with a megabank sorting out all the compliance and infrastructure for him. Not only that, but he’s apparently “talking to senior bankers internally” to staff-up. And rather than being part of the wealth management org chart, he’ll be reporting to US CEO Eric Varvel, the former head of the same IBD functions that he’s just left.
So, Jim Amine gets a hand-picked team of his own, an understanding boss and a dream role that must surely pay extremely well (because if it doesn’t, there are no shortage of hedge funds looking to hire away in private credit). Meanwhile, his replacement - David Miller - gets a double dose of office politics, the opportunity to argue about cost-cutting targets with Tidjane Thiam, a bonus which might be contingent on delivering on ambitious market share aspirations, plus any regulatory problem anywhere in the world now has a decent chance of ending up on his desk. Remind us, who got promoted here?
One of the things that senior investment bankers always have to watch out for is “being dragged into management”. Like other substances that are available in financial centres, it’s a stimulant in small doses but if you get hooked on it, you can end up with an addiction that can ruin your career. The first tastes of management – promotion to MD, leadership roles on a sector team, even head of a profitable desk – are fun and lucrative. But they always come with a temptation to climb one rung higher on the org chart, and that is guaranteed to distract you from making money.
Some people are good at management and like it. It’s easy to convince yourself that you are the special one that can combine the demands of senior management with a continued role as a top revenue producer, by just sacrificing a little bit of sleep. But all too often, you find yourself having spent the last two weeks in back to back internal meetings, unable to remember the last time you spoke to a client. In general, it’s a trap to be avoided. If you find yourself in such a rabbit hole, then hope that someone will come along and offer you a way out as gold-plated as the one Jim Amine seems to have. And if they do, make sure you look happy about it.
Elsewhere, Bank of America has been hosting the French Prime Minister at an event to welcome their “néo-Parisiens” (and presumably -ennes). These are the employees moved over from London to staff up the operations there in preparation for post-Brexit market rules. There are over 400 of them, and according to Sanaz Zaimi, the country head, more than half of them do not speak French. Startling in itself, that statistic becomes even more extreme when you consider that a significant proportion of the staff who volunteered to move from the London to the Paris office might have done so precisely because they were French.
Although Zaimi claims that “we are working on it” while her Prime Minister is around, it wouldn’t be surprising if in five years’ time that proportion is largely unchanged. It is really easy to get by as a English monoglot in an environment full of French people. In fact, it’s quite difficult to stop getting by, as French investment bankers almost invariably speak perfect English and will never let you practice your mediocre French on them. If you work investment banking hours and have a typical expat social life, it’s possible to exist in an environment in Paris where you only speak French to buy groceries for months at a time, with only the occasional humiliating interruption when you have to do something in a local government office. Even if you do accidentally learn French, it might be a good idea to keep the fact a secret, as it makes it much easier to eavesdrop in elevators and staff canteens.
If at first you don’t succeed; Stephane Fima was fired by SocGen in 2016 after an insider trading case. His lawsuit claiming that the dismissal proceedings weren’t started within two months of the infringement (and was therefore entitled to compensation for his missed bonus) failed in 2017 and the appeal has now also failed. He’s currently consulting lawyers to see whether there’s a chance of third time lucky (Bloomberg)
Regulatory approval has come through for the Deutsche Bank / BNP Paribas prime brokerage transaction, so it is now unconditional. (TheTrade)
As the post-Matthieu Pigasse era begins, there’s a rainmaker-shaped hole at Lazard. One possibility to fill it might be former Obama administration official Peter Orszag. He thinks that the future might be data analytics, diversity and mid-market deals. (FT)
No word of trust falls or attempts to cross a room without touching the floor, but Europe’s most senior central bankers spent days with the whiteboards and evenings in the bar at Schlosshotel Kronberg, a castle in Germany where Christine Lagarde took them on a team-building exercise (Bloomberg)
The widely hated MiFID II rules preventing payment for research through brokerage commissions might be up for revision, particularly in small and medium sized companies. (FT)
If you want give your desk-mates a scare, leave this article open on your screen; “How To Be A Whistle Blower”. It’s about Sean Lomax, who can whistle “Flight of the Bumblebee”, impersonate a Hammon Organ and provide whistling sound effects for Cirque de Soleil. (Wired)
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