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Morning Coffee: The most work from home friendly bank had a change of heart. How Goldman Sachs bankers communicate when they want to be secret

Eighteen months ago, if you were looking for a bank partial to letting people work from home, BNP Paribas would have looked like that place. In April 2022, Bloomberg described the French bank as having the "most comprehensive" work-from-home deal of all the major banks.  One day a week in the office was posited; employees' costs of remote work were covered; there was talk of a "flexible rhythm" that would keep beating until 2024.

It's only late 2023 and the beat has stopped.  As other banks decide they'd like to see people in the office, Reuters reports that BNP Paribas is changing its tune. A memo has gone out to staff in London saying that people who don't meet the bank's targets for being in the office at least half the week may have action taken against them. Like JPMorgan and others, BNP will be monitoring entry swipes to determine who's infringing its edict. 

The hardening of approach is being driven by considerations both practical ("more accurately track space needs on a team-by-team basis") and aspirational ("facilitate better working relationships and collaboration with colleagues").

Despite being a lifestyle-friendly French bank, BNP has a zero tolerance approach to disobedience: even when people struggle to come into the office because of adverse weather or industrial action on the British transport system, Reuters say BNP will take note of their absence and then expect them to compensate by being in the office for additional days the rest of the week.   

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Separately, if you work for Goldman Sachs and want to have a secret conversation about something potentially nefarious, it seems there are two go-to systems: the messaging app Signal and chat on the X-Box.

Matt Levine notes that Anthony Viggiano, a 26-year-old-associate in Goldman's asset and wealth management division, used both channels to communicate trading tips to his childhood friend Christopher Salamone in an alleged insider trading scam that netted the two men $300k. A third participant also sent some disappearing messages on Instagram.

The fact that all three men are now named in an SEC indictment suggests that the techniques are more fallible than they thought.

Meanwhile...

Jefferies' advisory revenue fell 30% in the third quarter, but the bank is saying things like: “We are increasingly optimistic that we have come off the bottom of the cycle and that momentum in investment banking will continue.” (Bloomberg) 

Ken Griffin says learnings from LCTM helped him get through the financial crisis. “They had the most thoughtful structure to how they financed their business and how they managed the various forms of risk in their business, to literally be down 90% and still be in control...I actually interviewed a number of senior people at LTCM to understand how they pulled off that miracle… They were in control until almost the bitter end.” (Bloomberg) 

Amanda Young, sustainability chief at Aberdn, says ESG 'talent is being stifled' by regulation. "We’re on our knees at the moment. I’m exhausted, I’m fed up, and I feel like I’ve become a compliance function...I'm not a regulator and I'm not a compliance person. I am a psychology graduate who feels passionate about making a difference in financial markets." (Financial News) 

Crispin Odey called a private investigator and joked that Harvey Weinstein had attractive to far more attractive girls who were making money from their accusations. “If you lose an arm, you only get ten grand — you know, if someone touches you on the bottom you might be able to get a hundred grand.” (Bloomberg) 

If you want to be happy in life, you need to feel like you matter. It's more than feeling that you belong in a group - people need to notice when you enter a room. You need to feel valued, heard, appreciated and cared for as well as capable, important and trusted. (New York Times) 

Having a personal chef is a great thing. (Business Insider) 

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Photo by Flow Clark on Unsplash

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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