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Morning Coffee – Top bankers are allowed to keep some of their pay secrets. Citi is measuring “one swipe per day”.

At some point in their career, many bankers will end up either working for a boutique, hedge fund or some other kind of partnership, or seriously considering doing so.  If you’re ever in that pleasant and potentially lucrative situation, the advice from people who have been there is usually unequivocal and often heartfelt.  “For heaven’s sake, get it in writing!”.  The big difference between a partnership and a big bank with shareholders is that in one case but not the other, any money that goes into your pocket is coming directly out of the top management’s.  This undeniable fact tends to lead to a lot of bad feeling between partners and non-partners, of which the current litigation between David Handler and Centerview is an extreme example.

For people who haven’t been following this case; basically, David Handler joined Centerview as a rainmaker in tech banking, way back in 2008.  He came in on what seemed like an insanely lucrative deal giving him a percentage of revenues, then in 2012 he agreed to swap that deal for an agreement that he would be one of the top equity partners.  Then he … didn’t sign the new deal, but nonetheless continued working there for years, until everything (to use a technical term) went to hell, and he resigned to launch a new boutique while suing his former partner/employers.

The really interesting thing about it, though, is that although it’s pretty obvious that the sums of money at stake are huge, nobody seems to want to say exactly how huge.  One of the original things that Handler was suing for was the right to inspect the books and see if he’d been paid enough.  And now the case is having hearings this week, but Centerview has asked (and the judge has agreed) that specific remuneration and financial figures aren’t to be referred to in open court or in visual exhibits.  Apparently, “Publicising this information would also provide other industry participants with otherwise unavailable insight into Centerview’s personnel decisions, organisational economics, and internal operations.”

When someone doesn’t want to talk about money, the amount is likely to be either embarrassingly huge, or embarrassingly little.  In all probability, in this case it’s the first – if the information comes out about how much the top partners are getting, the MDs and bankers just below that level will start grumbling for more.  But wouldn’t it be hilarious if it was the second?  It’s not wholly unknown for an investment bank to have a reputation and influence out of proportion to its true financial weight, and of course if that was true, Centerview would definitely want to keep it quiet, to stop everybody trying to poach from them.

Elsewhere, Citi has so far stood out a little from the pack in terms of being a bit more favourable to hybrid working than the other big banks; they only require office attendance for three days a week, and they’re reasonably easy about Mondays and Fridays.  At times, CEO Jane Fraser has even given an indication that they regard this as a unique selling point when it comes to attracting top talent.  However, it appears that some Citi bankers have been taking advantage of their employer’s good nature, and so from August onward, the bank’s London office is going to be tracking swipe cards to look for “employees with consistent office absences”.

Apparently the system is going to capture “one swipe, per person, per day”.  It doesn’t say whether it distinguishes between swipes in or swipes out, so junior bankers pulling an all nighter might be able to get two for the price of one.  Managers are apparently looking at “weekly entry data” rather than average rates, so you can’t come in every day for the first week and take the rest of the month off.  As always, there are exceptions for business travel, sick leave, medical adjustments and people who have agreed something different, so it will probably be a bureaucratic nightmare just like it is everywhere else.

Meanwhile …

If there is literally anyone left working in banking who hasn’t read “Liar’s Poker”, “The Most Important Thing” by Howard Marks or “Lords of Finance”, here’s the Business Insider list for the summer.  As always, it’s very daddish, with a scattering of sports biographies and airport non-fiction, although there’s a bit less military history this year.  Top marks to the contributors from Man Group who have decided to let their nerd flag fly; every single one of their recommendations is a numbers-heavy finance textbook. (Business Insider)

Robert Record, the Barclays banker who had accused the women in his office of getting together and “cooking up a charge sheet” against him, has lost his employment tribunal case over getting fired for sexual harassment. (Reuters)

More green shoots of recovery – Jarden, the ANZAC investment bank, has returned to profit for the first quarter of its fiscal year. (AFR)

Alberto Nagel of Mediobanca has been criticised for playing it a bit safe rather than pushing the investment banking side of the business, but apparently he’s planning a “big push” for his next term as CEO. (Bloomberg)

Crypto bros could do well to remember that there are worse people to have on your case than regulators – it’s not good news to see your name in the papers next to the words “federal indictment”, but it’s better than the words “dismembered in suitcase”. (NYPost)

A survey (admittedly one commissioned by a firm of acoustic engineers) suggests that one of the reason that bankers try to save up their swipes to work at home as much as possible is the sheer noise of their workmates. (LondonLovesBusiness)

The Nigel Farge career incinerator claims another CEO – Peter Flavel, the chief executive of NatWest subsidiary Coutts has also stepped down. (Financial News)

What happens when you decide to stop at one glass of wine per day?  The sky doesn’t fall in apparently – you might lose a bit of weight and sleep better, but don’t expect congratulations from your doctor. (WSJ)

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AUTHORDaniel Davies Insider Comment

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