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Morning Coffee: 40-year-old ex-JPMorgan MD found thriving among "toxic bros." Bankers with nothing to do for 20 years

Rivian, the California-based electric van, pick-up and truck manufacturer, has had a tempestuous few months. A few weeks after its IPO last November, it had a market valuation of $153bn. Earlier in March, it had a market valuation of just $36bn. 76% of its value evaporated amidst a failure to meet revenue targets, plummeting technology stocks and concerns about its supply chain. 

In the circumstances, you might think Rivian's CFO would be a bit ragged and beaten down. Not at all. Claire McDonough appears to be thriving. Rivian insiders say she's a "killer" who's not afraid to speak up internally. This is good, because Rivian stands accused of being a nest of bros, and 40-year-old McDonough hasn't actually been a CFO before: she was a JPMorgan managing director before she joined Rivian in January last year. 

“My very first work experience was in a kitchen of 52 French men,” McDonough told Bloomberg yesterday. “Being a woman in a male-dominated industry, I learned from the very start how to navigate those waters.”

Rivian's waters may be particularly choppy. Laura Schwab, the company's former vice president of sales and marketing wrote last year that she was fired by the company after speaking out against a "toxic bro culture that marginalizes women," and that the company's founder, R.J. Scaringe, had surrounded himself with a group of men who'd worked together before and who'd hired one another and created a “boys’ club”. 

McDonough, who has two small children, has been at pains to refute Schwab's claims about working for Rivian. Bloomberg says she's been busy on Rivian's internal message boards, pointing out that she wouldn't have been hired were Rivian not focused on diversity, particularly given that she didn't have any actual industry experience. 

In fact, McDonough seems to have got her Rivian job through the female grapevine, having been recommended by another former JPMorgan banker Jill Woodworth, CFO at another troubled tech company (Peloton), who thought she might be good for the role. Despite having no experience of running a company, McDonough knows a lot about fund-raising and has described herself as "intimately focused" on capital allocation, which is fortunate because Rivian has nearly $15bn to spend in the next two years. 

She's also best of friends with Scaringe, whom she describes as her  “partner in crime.” Scaringe in turn lauds McDonough as "a lot of fun to work with" and a "high intellect." Meanwhile, McDonough is forming a little team of her own: she's hired a new chief accounting officer and a new vice president of finance. Both are men, although McDonough says there's a need for the car industry to "recruit more women into the fold..."

Separately, after last year's tiring time, some bankers in particular are in for a very long rest. Business Insider has spoken to one Russian banker who says last year was "sensational" and that Russian banker bonuses were the best they'd been since 2008. However, he acknowledges that there may not be another Russian IPO for decades. "We are now in a new world. Nobody knows what the f*ck is happening, and we don't even know when the equity market is going to open here," he reflected.


Ex-Bank of America banker Mike Dunne was named head of power and renewables investment banking at Credit Suisse in December, but he's changed his mind and is going to work at utility company NextEra Energy Inc instead. (Bloomberg)

Credit Suisse is likely to have to pay $500m to Bidzina Ivanishvili, a former prime minister of Georgia, who says he lost $800m on trades forged by a Credit Suisse banker in Switzerland. The bank has warned that it might need to set aside extra money when it announces its results in April. (WSJ) 

Larry Fink wants BlackRock staff back in the office, although not necessarily full time. "Working together, collaborating and developing our people in person is essential for BlackRock’s future...There are certain conversations that can’t be replicated on a video call . . . We lose the space, the creativity, and the emotional connectivity that come from being together in person.” (Financial Times) 

BlackRock wants a gigantic new office in New York as it relocates from Park Avenue. (Bloomberg) 

Carey Lathrop, global co-head of markets, will leave Citi to do his own thing and Andy Morton who was his co-head will be solely in charge. (Reuters) 

CIBC's chief information officer says competition for technology staff is wild. "It’s probably the most competitive environment I’ve ever experienced in my 30 years in IT. We used to compete against the banks and maybe some big tech -- now it’s like we’re competing with everyone.” CIBC wants to hire 700-900 technologists this year. It's also retraining existing staff in things like quantum computing and cloud technology, but some are being offered salaries twice as high to move. (Bloomberg) 

A reminder that hedge funds are all about diversity hiring too now. (Business Insider) 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Ra
    25 March 2022

    Error : Rivian is not California based. It's based out of Michigan.

  • An
    25 March 2022

    It remains to be seen whether there is a 'toxic bro' culture or not at Rivian. Schwab said publicly that there was and has sued them. McDonough, who is not a 'brother, says there is not. Will be interesting to see how the lawsuit goes.

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