Morning Coffee: 32 year-old HSBC VP makes risky, principled, move. Senior banker's frank words on the lifestyle
There are different levels of denigrating the organization you work for. Level one is complaining to friends and family. Level two is complaining to colleagues at your own level. Level three is complaining to more senior colleagues and strangers on the internet. Level four is complaining to the media. Level twenty is complaining to the media and putting your name on the complaint, while still working for the bank you're complaining about.
It's not clear whether the latter was what Ian Clarke, a vice president in transaction banking at HSBC in New York, had in mind, but it's what's transpired. Clarke, who is half Black, half White and LGBTQ, has worked for HSBC for 15 years and has seemed pretty happy there - his LinkedIn account is a cornucopia of the bank's diversity initiatives, and Clarke - who started out in London - describes himself as 'the banks senior-most transaction banking lead' for some Fortune 500 clients in the Americas.
Despite all this thriving, Clarke has produced a report on HSBC which is slightly reminiscent of the report produced by the 13 (anonymous) analysts at Goldman Sachs. While the GS analysts were complaining about working hours, Clarke's report has a different topic: discrimination - and more particularly - racism.
He seems to have been very diligent. Bloomberg reports that Clarke invited more than 100 mostly BIPOC (Black, indigenous and other people of color) HSBC colleagues to talk to him about their experiences at work and that the 48-page report is a distillation of their responses. One was told, “I just don’t like you. I’m not allowed to tell you why.” Another was told they were doing a great job but were, "just not the right fit for the team -- it’s just a vibe.” Some had been the recipient of complaints about how hard it was to be a white man in banking nowadays.
HSBC is investigating the report and says it's taking the concerns seriously. However, it's not clear what Clarke - who says he's only ever been rated a strong or top performer and that no one else at the bank has his "combination of legal, regulatory compliance, CRM, sales & marketing expertise" - is intending to do next. “My findings troubled me greatly, and changed the way I viewed myself and my employer,” Clarke writes in the report. He notes, too, that BIPOC colleagues who've left the bank have gained more senior roles at JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley. If anyone wants an exceptional transaction banking professional who's willing to take a moral stand, it seems his resume may be circulating soon.
Separately, Peter Orszag, the veteran banker who runs Lazard's financial advisory practice (which includes M&A and restructuring), has spoken some true words for any junior bankers hoping their jobs might morph into something a little less demanding. - Investment banking will always be hard work, said Orszag. The only difference at the moment seems to be that bankers have the upper hand when it comes to pay: “There’s a lot of competition for bankers right now," observed Orszag, noting that pay is being pushed higher as a result, and that Lazard is among those hiring.
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