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Morning Coffee: The £600k banker pulling all-nighters to rescue the UK. The art of working two jobs at once

A couple of years ago, the headhunting firm Sapphire Partners were given the mandate to fill what we described as “the worst job in banking”.  Mark Carney’s term as Governor was coming to an end, and the Bank of England was looking around for someone prepared to be the scapegoat for all the UK’s economic problems, for an advertised basic salary of £480k ($528k).

Since Andrew Bailey was appointed, the pay’s got better – the last Annual Report shows £495k plus another £99k of pension contribution – but the nature and style of the work has more than lived up to our description.  According to the FT, Bailey had been up for more than 24 hours watching the markets by the time he made his speech yesterday in Washington, with the distinct prospect of another all-nighter after sterling markets reacted (badly). This morning's reversal of Bailey's avowal to stop the emergency bond-buying program (followed by its reiteration) suggests the night was indeed a long one.

Working like an IBD junior, taking risks like an senior trader, having to travel and schmooze like a coverage MD, all for the pay of a middle ranking Executive Director; this is not the description of an obviously attractive job.  Why do people do it?

One obvious answer might be that it’s the kind of high profile role that burnishes your resume for a few years, after which you can go off and earn the real money.  But on inspection, it doesn’t look like that’s true.  There are some cases where it happens – Mohamed El-Erian went from the IMF to PIMCO, for example – but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule.  Most of the former central bank governors who are in high-paying roles today are people like Mark Carney or Philipp Hildebrand who had already been in those kinds of job before they went into public service.

Public service, as a motivation, shouldn’t be underestimated; the Government of Singapore reckons it might be worth as much as a 40% discount off what would otherwise be the going rate.  But it’s in conditions like this that the biggest psychic benefit of these high-profile jobs comes to the fore.

And that benefit is that you matter.  Andrew Bailey’s speeches move a G7 currency and sovereign bond market, and how many hedge fund managers earning even a thousand times as much as he does can say that?  For most sell-side economists, life is a desperate struggle to get anyone to read a single word of your output, but when Tobias Adrian of the IMF makes a call on the likelihood of a bond market sell-off, the world listens.

Of course, the reason that people listen is that they want to make money.  Over the next few days, bond traders who paid really close attention to Bailey and Adrian’s comments, and who understood their meaning, might make enough trading gains to save an otherwise difficult year.  There’s a sort of symbiotic relationship between power and money; neither can exist for long without the other, but they are different things, and some people’s tastes very much favour one over the other.

Elsewhere, it seems that one underrated reason why so many bosses are so keen in getting staff back to the office is that it’s a way of ensuring that they are getting all the hours of work that they’ve paid for.  It seems that working from home is allowing techies to take on two “full-time” jobs in the expectation that they can deliver more or less adequate performance in both of them at once and double their salary.

These are by no means all entry-level or routine jobs, either.  There’s a guy who runs a Discord chat to advise “overworkers” who is a “senior management consultant focusing on strategy and deals” who is bringing in as much as $220,000 a month by simultaneously working on contracts in Big Tech, finance and auditing.

Apparently the trick is to just listen out for your name when you’re forced to attend two Zoom meetings at once, and get people to recap by blaming a bad internet connection.  Also, find an excuse for not having a LinkedIn profile.  But for many employees, the downside risk is limited.  Although it’s an instant firing offence in many firms (the compliance issues alone are frightening in banking), it’s a hot job market for skilled coders, and having proven you’re able to do the work of two people is not always a black mark on the resume.  The only problem, according to some overworkers, is that it’s getting too popular with mediocre or lazy people who aren’t prepared to put in 70 hour weeks, and they might spoil the game for everyone.

Meanwhile …

As buyout lending and M&A lending volumes fall along with the deal flow, banks like Citigroup are reduced to lending to corporate clients just because they want to borrow.  That’s no way to make a living. (Bloomberg)

Citadel’s new office building in “Wall Street South” is nearly completed, and a comprehensive slideshow of the Brickell Street financial district in Miami reveals that it has plenty of gyms, lunch spots and rooftop bars nearby for when the fund managers move in. (Business Insider)

Everyone who’s worked on a trading floor has got exactly one anecdote of a time that they saw something happen that was “just like something out of Industry”, and if you interview enough of them, you can get a collection of fairly interesting stories which give the impression that banks are like that all the time. (Guardian)

Private equity is increasingly using law firms as a source of manpower as well as investment banks – the latest senior M&A partner to make the move is David Holdsworth, from Kirkland & Ellis to TDR Capital. (Financial News)

Although their legal issues have proliferated, Credit Suisse is still prepared to fight to clear its name when it thinks it’s innocent – after nine years of litigation on allegations of conspiracy in the forex market, CS will go to trial soon, even though fifteen of the sixteen banks originally named in the suit have settled. (Bloomberg)

As bankers and advisors start looking round for ways to de-risk the acquisition finance for Twitter, it’s noticeable that so far, nobody seems to have approached the ratings agencies for an opinion on the debt.  That’s usually an early stage in setting up the financing – Moody’s say that they can offer a quick turnaround when asked. (Reuters)

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AUTHORDaniel Davies Insider Comment
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