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Morning Coffee: Citi’s most disgruntled banker leaves for private credit. The bank where 40% of employees are burned out

Tyler Dickson, until recently the head of investment banking at Citi, has left. He will be leading “client relations” for the credit and insurance unit of Blackstone, reporting to Gilles Delaert.

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At one level, this is probably one of the most predictable job moves in recent banking history.  There have been widespread reports of dissatisfaction among Citi insiders ever since various big hires were made externally. Those hires included Vis Raghavan, who recently arrived from JPMorgan to be head of banking.

In any reorganization, it’s always very unlikely that the top internal candidate for a job is going to stick around after being passed over.  It’s possible to debate whether Dickson deserved a chance or not, whether the perceived underperformance of Citi’s franchise was real or just bad luck.  But the decision was clearly made, and once Jane Fraser had made it, it’s probably best for all parties to recognize reality.  

Dickson's new seat might even be better than his last. These days, Blackstone has a market cap 15% bigger than Citigroup.  And if you compare the quarterly results on a like-for-like basis, the “distributable earnings” of the Credit and Insurance Group at Blackstone that Dickson is joining, are a steady $300m, plus or minus, while the whole Banking segment of Citi has been swinging between $500m profit and $300m loss. 

So although Dickson’s job at Blackstone is a newly created role, which doesn’t look like it has any direct managerial responsibility, it can by no means be seen as a consolation prize. It was a big enough deal to merit a press release from the new employer, and the business line he’s moving to is at least as economically significant as a bulge bracket investment bank.

Vis Raghavan will probably see Dickson’s departure as a necessary step, but he’d be well advised not to celebrate it too early or publicly. Many of Citi’s other top bankers are likely to be in a similar position to Tyler Dickson. For them too, the idea of moving into “client relations” – which is to say, building relationships and doing deals – might seem a lot more attractive than being Head of a business unit at a bank, with all the compliance, personnel and operational responsibilities that come with it. Getting through a management shakeup while holding the franchise together is one of the most difficult tasks in banking; 

Elsewhere, the latest workplace survey at the European Central Bank makes absolutely alarming reading.  On a standardized inventory of questions called the “Oldenberg Burnout Inventory”, 39.8% of the employees recorded responses consistent with imminent burnout. 72% of them reported experiencing psychosomatic symptoms including exhaustion and mood disorders, and 9% (up from 6% last year) admitted that they had thought in the previous two weeks that they would be better off dead.

This is something that should worry everyone in the industry, not just the top management of the ECB.  Bank supervisors have the power to destroy people’s careers and significantly affect the viability of businesses.  It’s not good for anyone if these functions are being carried out by people who are in a permanent state of distress.  Quite apart from anything, this level of workplace stress tends to result in high turnover, and makes it impossible to build up the kind of organisational memory and institutional knowledge that you’d hope to find at one of the most important financial institutions for a continental economy.  Things have apparently got at least a bit better at the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority since the nadir of morale a few years ago, and we hope the ECB also turns the corner soon.

Meanwhile …

An interesting development for the APAC market – Deutsche Bank has hired Victor Jiang, the former head of Southeast Asia investment banking and co-head of TMT at China International Capital Corp.  The story in the Greater China region over the last twelve months has very much been one of retrenchment by the big international names leaving market share to domestic players, so it’s potentially significant to see some traffic in the other direction. (Bloomberg)

UBS also appears to be making a significant sectoral bet, as Javier Oficialdegui announces no fewer than eight MD-level hires to the TMT team, with bankers coming from Barclays, Moelis, Guggenheim, Lazard and Cowen.  The “best of the second-best” strategy is still in place, as the press release reiterates UBS’s ambition to be “the pre-eminent non-US player”. (Financial News)

Pagegroup, the UK recruitment firm, has had a profit warning, saying that the conversion of interviews to appointments has weakened drastically.  The stock market seems to think that this reads through to a lot of European peers. (Bloomberg)

“Banker to Baker”?  YouTube cake influencer Amanda Axelrod is a quarter-finalist in the “Favorite Chef” national cookery competition.  Previously, she worked for eight years in the Jacksonville office of Deutsche Bank, ending up as an associate in their Credit Risk Workout & Recovery Management team. (Jacksonville Times-Union)

Does anyone really say “let’s double-click on that?”.  Apparently, some sell-side analysts have started doing so on earnings calls, and are being appropriately mocked for doing so. (WSJ)

Jim Leaviss gives some more details about his new life as an art historian.  Having written a lot about the bond market history of Weimar Germany, he will now be considering the same period as “about the Bauhaus movement, Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin (think Cabaret), Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and the paintings of Otto Dix.” (Bond Vigilantes)

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AUTHORDaniel Davies Insider Comment

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