Morning Coffee: Boomer banker tells juniors not to waste so much time. Deutsche Bank has a banker tax plan
Rich Handler of Jefferies has a quite engaging way with writing folksy, Warren Buffett style letters to his staff on general issues of markets, banking and corporate culture. The latest one arose from an online Q&A session with second and third year analysts, and it’s in the classic “Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Your Age” genre.
Handler has 20 things he wishes he'd known as an analyst, and they include some genuinely useful and not necessarily entirely intuitive advice like “cultivate the junior people at your clients, as they will not be junior all their life” or “don’t let yourself get locked into a single product, group or geography”, and make an effort to find out what other people in the bank do.
So far, so good, except the problem giving advice to junior bankers is that there’s a fundamental conflict between different timescales. On the one hand, a far-sighted CEO wants the analyst program to turn out well-rounded professionals who are capable of taking a broad perspective and thinking into the future, not just Powerpoint monkeys who can’t see beyond the next meeting deck. On the other hand, those slide decks need to be produced, and the immediate marginal benefits of personal development might not loom as large from day to day as the fact that the client’s logo is in the wrong font.
Similarly, when Handler says, “I wish I asserted myself more to try to make sure I was in client meetings” because “It may be more work but it could also be the difference maker so why not try,” he's offering some sound advice, but it's not totally compatible with his suggestion that analysts also find "some degree of balance" so that they don't burn out. Nor is it entirely helpful for Handler to suggest that analysts might be able to do more than simply process assignments if they wasted less time - a bit of Netflix/Instagram downtime looking at Handler's own account never went awry, and you might be a more relaxed and less burned out person because of it.
Mostly, though, Handler wants the industry to be full of the good guys. His most wishful and rose-tinted piece of advice comes in third and is all about being the sort of pleasant person not archetypally associated with banking, let alone the trading floor. “The sharp elbowed, game-playing, hyper-competitive people who may have burst out of the gate early are generally the ones who washed out," says Handler. "The ones who helped others in a selfless manner and made everyone around them better were the ones who won the career marathon.” Remember this in the run up to Jefferies' bonus day.
Separately, if you’re happier working at home and you’re saving money by not commuting or buying lunch, shouldn’t you be taxed on that kind of benefit? What do you mean, “NO”? In the latest issue of “Konzept”, the futuristic Deutsche Bank magazine of techno ideas, macro strategist Luke Templeman makes the case for such a tax, with the proceeds to be redistributed to workers who can’t stay at home, and to smoothing the transition for businesses that become unviable as a result of changed commuting patterns.
Although one might question whether the estimated tax take of $48bn is really proportional to the project of retraining “workers in a Manhattan restaurant” so they can switch to the sunrise industry of “workers in a suburban restaurant”, Mr Templeman makes a case for the overall principle that’s surprisingly difficult to argue against. All things taken into consideration – and backed up by survey evidence (also commissioned by the Deutsche team) – people feel they’re more productive working from home and would like to continue to do it to at least some extent even after the pandemic is over. As the Konzept article says, “governments have always backsolved taxes to suit the social environment”.
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