20 February 2018

Morning Coffee: Ex-Credit Suisse trader reiterates harsh reality of fintech fantasies. Generous Deutsche Bank bonuses tipped things over the edge

If you leave an investment bank to work for a fintech firm, you may not want to leave for Revolut, the fintech firm that started as a payments company but now offers all kinds of “app-based” finance services. The company, which is run by former Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse trader Nikolay Storonsky, has an established reputation for working people very hard, and the tone is set at the top.

“As you make the world better you will need to break walls,” says Storonsky. “And to break walls you really need to try hard, and unfortunately trying hard means in many cases you need to spend time on it.”  He himself typically works from 8am to 10pm, plus weekends. It’s not just him: Storonsky said previously that his employees, “work at least 12, 13 hours a day. All the key people, all the core team. A lot of people also work on weekends.”

It’s not just the hours, though. The FT’s article also unearths a whiff of authoritarianism which is perhaps inevitable in a company set up by one man which is struggling against the odds to make money. “Our first developer was the wrong hire, our first designer was the wrong hire, our first compliance officer was the wrong hire,” says Storonsky, who has been accused by former employees of micromanagement, which he denies, and of having no respect for employees’ work life balance, which he seems admit fairly wholeheartedly.

For all this effort, the FT notes that Revolut probably isn’t even profitable. In 2016, the most recent year for which accounts are available, it made a loss of £6.9m. This, then, is the worst thing about working for a fintech start-up: you pour your life into it and the P&L that comes out is miserable, at least for several years. “You are competing with bigger players, with better funded start-ups; you’re competing for customers, you don’t have resources,” says Storonsky, adding that long hours give Revolut the edge. Some reach the conclusion that it’s not worth it. “You can sacrifice your life,” says one former executive. “But you can’t do it forever.”

Separately, did Deutsche’s “normal bonuses” tip the German into redundancies. Bloomberg thinks they did. Deutsche’s trading declines coupled with bonuses that chief executive John Cryan described as, on the “generous” side, tipped Deutsche into the red, says Bloomberg. Maybe Deutsche’s bankers and traders  should have been happy with zeroes again after all?

Meanwhile:

A person familiar with Deutsche’s cuts stressed that lay-offs were not focused on any particular division, and did not relate to the bank’s current trading, which is improving. (Financial Times)

Morgan Stanley CFO Johnathan Pruzan: “We can take sort of bouts of volatility, but sustained volatility is generally bad. So what we saw last week, our businesses did really well. And what the longer-term implications are, we’ll have to see.” (Financial Times) 

Despite Brexit, the cross-border exposures of banks located in the U.K. – including loans and securities, increased by $155 billion from June 2016 to September 2017. (Bloomberg) 

Bernie Sindah, Citi’s head of global electronic solutions, is retiring from the bank after 38 years. (Reuters) 

It’s a bad time to be a millennial, especially in the UK. (Bloomberg) 

T-shirt entrepreneur goes to bed at 1am, wakes up at 6am to get ahead. (Entrepreneur) 

Flatulent passenger forces plane to make unscheduled stop. (The Register)