Every now and then a bank comes up with the sort of edict that sounds like it could be a bit of a nightmare for those expected to carry it out. UBS's 2018 requirement that its managing directors attend between 250 and 300 client meetings a year fell into this category. Now Jefferies has come up with something that might also be painful for its perpetrators.
In a letter to staff published today, Jefferies' CEO Richard Handler and president Brian Friedman urge Jefferies' client-facing staff to open-up their client relationships for the bank as a whole to benefit from.
"We ask every individual at Jefferies with client responsibility to take inventory of your client relationships and determine who and how we are going to elevate each and every client’s understanding of our firm," say the two men floridly. And then: "Please ask one or more of your direct leaders and us to accompany you to each client...", so as to ensure that clients,"understand our capabilities and desire to open our entire firm."
In other words, if you're a banker at Jefferies you're going to need to take your boss, and maybe also your boss' boss, to visit your clients in 2020. No one should, "seek to limit access to a relationship," say Handler and Friedman. "There is strength in broadening relationships and weakness in protecting them."
If you're a banker at somewhere like Citi or Bank of America, where cross-selling is the norm and it's all about the platform rather than the bank, this probably won't seem much of a big deal. But the smaller the bank, typically, the greater the emphasis on individual contribution. Jefferies was traditionally a smaller eat-what-you-kill sort of shop, and if all sorts of new people are implicated in the killing, it might seem like there will be less to go around.
Today's letter from Handler and Friedman can be read as an attempt to move away from this old-fashioned way of thinking. Jefferies has come of age, say the two men. It's no longer an equities-focused boutique but a, "world class firm that is one of a small handful of global leaders in Investment Banking, Capital Markets, Research and Alternative Asset Management." As such, relationships that might historically have been owned by its individual bankers must now be owned by the bank itself.
That's a noble aim, but it might not go down very well with the 100 or so "individual contributor hustler types” that one headhunter told us have joined the U.S. M&A team in the past year. Visiting clients in a throng might not be what they signed up for.
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