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Morning Coffee: HSBC people reduced to actually calling clients, colleagues. The super hedge fund job that takes less than a minute to apply for

Notoriously, millennials hate talking on the phone; they’d much rather text, WhatsApp or SnapChat.  Unfortunately, banks have been hit by so many regulatory fines that they’re no longer in a mood to indulge this taste, and HSBC has now taken it to the logical conclusion – work phones will from now on have the SMS facility turned off.

HSBC's people have apparently already had WhatsApp uninstalled, and presumably Signal, Telegram, Threema and other secret messaging apps are right out.  What are they going to do – leave voicemails, like a Boomer or Lloyd Blankfein?

Presumably, the answer to this is a combination of “yes” and “use email, Bloomberg Chat if you’re senior enough to have it, or whatever other centrally managed solution will allow us to maintain regulatory records”.  Some employees are apparently still going to be allowed to use text messages where the activity is archived, presumably in markets where SMS is really vital.

But what about the poor clients?  It’s been noted a few times since the messaging scandals broke up that the definition of “work related communications” is really broad and doesn’t make much sense.  HSBC bankers now have no way to tell a client that they’re running ten minutes late and ask what coffee they’d like which doesn’t involve that client picking up the phone, interrupting whatever else they were doing and listening to a message for thirty seconds.  Bank of America has a similar policy; soon it’s more likely than not that it will be ubiquitous across the industry.

This is going to get really annoying for the clients.  Many investors have already redirected their landlines and set their voicemails to auto-delete as far back as the 00s, because the volume of sell-side messages had got so far out of control that it was becoming impossible to get anything done.  The email inbox is hardly in any better state, and that’s becoming the only text-based communication method that’s still allowed.

Sooner rather than later, the industry has to both agree on a single standard messaging app which preserves communications and persuade the regulators that they need to sign off on a “safe harbour” to let everyone use it.  Otherwise, what’s very likely to happen is that bankers will gravitate back to using their personal phones (and taking the career risks of doing so) and compliance officers and regulators will get into the habit of turning a blind eye except in really egregious cases. 

Meanwhile, as has always been the case, any really murky communications will take place face to face, in the coffee shop or on the golf course.  Banking is a people business in which private information is inevitably going to exist and to be used as a valuable commodity.  Making it more difficult for bankers to communicate is inevitably going to make it more difficult to do banking.

Elsewhere, anyone who has been looking for a job in the last few years may have noticed that doing so is an absolute nightmare.  Not only is it unpleasant to have to update your resume, chase up your connections and prepare for interviews, the actual administrative process of applying for jobs now involves signing up to multiple accounts on “candidate tracker” portals, typing in data again and again, uploading documents and proving your identity in multiple places. 

A fintech programmer called Shihkar Sachdev decided to collect data on how bad things were, and so he filled out 250 applications right up to the point of pressing “Submit”.  He had originally intended to collect 500 data points, but this was simply too painful – the average time taken was 2 hours and 42 minutes.

But there was one big exception.  If you’re applying for a job at Renaissance Technologies, the application form takes only seventeen seconds to fill in, and the only information they ask for is your name and a resume.  Presumably their reasoning is that for their really highly-paid quant jobs, if you were the kind of mathematical genius they were looking for, they would already have heard of you. 

Meanwhile …

Eight years is a very long time in equity capital markets, but the end of the court case relating to a disastrous rights issue for an Australian bank in 2015 has allowed a fascinating reconstruction of all the things that happened, showing how ECM, Trading and Risk Management bankers have subtly different priorities, and the sheer amount of work that the process creates for juniors.  (AFR)

After cutting consultancy jobs earlier in the year, KPMG has begun to give the bad news about 2023 market conditions to its deal advisory teams – 7% of the 1,700 strong workforce are being cut (or possibly moved to divisions which aren’t so horribly quiet), and nobody’s getting a pay rise this year. (FT)

Short-selling is notoriously an investment style in which it’s difficult to make money.  However, it turns out that writing a Substack about short selling can be profitable too.  Edwin Dorsey started “The Bear Cave” as a student, and now he’s making $500,000 of revenue from his 53,000 subscribers, at the age of 25. (Business Insider)

Stefan Hoops appears to have an extraordinary knack for restoring confidence and telling people that everything’s going to be all right, which made him a useful man to have around at Deutsche Bank.  Now he’s trying to do the same thing at DWS after the greenwashing scandal.  As you might expect from the surname, he’s a massive basketball fan. (Financial News)

Demonstrating the value of never giving up, George Baldock describes his unusual path from having been sent to a “pupil referral unit” as he was unable to cope with mainstream education, to being accepted as an undergraduate at Cambridge University. (BBC)

An important court case in New York, which might turn on Bloomberg chat messages.  Neil Phillips of Glen Point Capital is on trial, but more generally the trial will establish the illegality or otherwise of “barrier chasing”, allegedly a common practice in forex markets.  (Bloomberg)

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AUTHORDaniel Davies Insider Comment

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