Morning Coffee: Hedge fund manager's bombastic cab ride. Tinker, Tailor, Banker, HR person, Spy

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As we come toward the end of what has not been a great year for most of the hedge fund industry, it’s heartening to know that some of the industry’s biggest hitters are keeping the dream alive.  BlueCrest’s Michael Platt took a ride in the cab of Instagram celebrity Manuel “Mr Ferrari” Anzalota and the resulting one minute video clip is a thing of wonder.  Previous slices of New York life posted by Mr Anzalota have included someone who claimed to be “sexually unsatisfied, financially unsatisfied, philosophically trying”, but the clip of Mr Platt and “my girlfriend Letizia”, suggests any problems remaining in his life are likely to be wholly philosophical.

Getting yourself filmed in a taxicab is not always a great idea for billionaires; Travis Kalanick didn’t come out well from some footage of him arguing with an Uber driver over the company’s future direction.  But “Mr Ferrari” doesn’t seem like he goes in for sharp edged social commentary in his videos – last week another billionaire, Michael Loeb of the eponymous investment group invited him up for a Halloween party.

Bloomberg has spoken to Platt about the video, and Platt says his tongue was firmly in his cheek and that it was intended as a "spoof." Bloomberg questions whether it was strictly true for Mr Platt to call himself “the highest-earning person in the world of finance … in the world”. But it misses a potentially more important point – describing him as a “hedge fund manager” is only technically true.  BlueCrest is a closed investment partnership and has been for four years.  It manages Platt’s personal fortune, that of his co-founder William Reeves, and presumably some “skin in the game” money for its partners and employees.

It's this that seems to bring Platt the most joy. If you watch the clip carefully (or indeed repeatedly), you’ll see that Platt pretty happy to begin with, and starts to noticeably smile when introducing Letizia.  The smile is bigger and a few teeth begin to show when he drops the “highest earning” line.  But the peak of the grin – a second row of dimples appears in his cheeks – coincides with the phrase “I’ve transformed my fund into a personal vehicle because we made such high returns”.

Anyone working in banking will recognise that sentiment.  That’s the smile of a man who knows that he has schmoozed his last client.  Whatever anyone thinks about that video – and personally, if you can’t appreciate that smile, there’s something wrong with you – Michael Platt doesn’t need to care because he doesn’t need to sell anything to anyone any more.  Unlike nearly everyone else in banking, even some of the very brightest stars, he’s his own man and doesn’t need to answer to anyone.  If you’re “philosophically trying”, that might not be the worst goal to go for.

Elsewhere, is Paradeplatz in Zurich one of these locations like Checkpoint Charlie in an old thriller, with multiple spies lurking round and bumping into one another?  According to a report in NZZ yesterday morning, it may well be. After the spying allegations surrounding Iqbal Khan, it seems that Credit Suisse may also have been trailing the head of HR (and longtime colleague of Tidjane Thiam, brought over from Prudential), Peter Goerke

It's not clear why Credit Suisse would spy on Peter Goerke, but NZZ has seen documents suggesting it paid CHF12k to four detectives over three days to do so.

What seems strange is that Goerke's spies weren't turned up in the external investigation into spying allegations that Credit Suisse commissioned from law firm Homburger.  This raises the uncomfortable possibility that there were (at least) two different operations, which either didn’t know about each other, or were able to cover their tracks sufficiently to fool the investigators.  And there’s no guarantee that’s the end of it – there is a live spying case in the USA relating to former compliance manager Colleen Graham and the Palantir joint venture, and the NZZ investigation has two more parts to run.  Mr Thiam might have been hoping for a more relaxed start to 2020 than he had in the first hours of 2019 but things look like they might just have got more stressful.

Meanwhile …

The things you have to do to get a mandate.  The stories of sitting around and being yelled at for Aramco were bad enough, but WeWork bankers had to pretend to enjoy it.  It’s not the main theme of the WSJ’s postmortem of the (other) failed IPO of the year, but financiers got sprayed with fire extinguishers by Adam Neumann, compared him to Mother Theresa and Bob Marley in slide decks and had to follow him around on surfing trips. (WSJ)

Not so long ago, it was owning a country pub that was the status symbol, then microbreweries were the in thing.  Now, you get bragging rights as an MD in London if you’ve converted a patch of Hampshire or Kent into a vineyard.  “Many of these ventures are self financed”, apparently, and although British champagne is described as “serious business”, only one of the new vineyards seems to have broken even.  (Bloomberg)

BTIG is growing in credit in London, hiring convertibles execution trader Geoff Snell from Unicredit and high-yield specialist Johnny Walker from Jeffries (TheTrade)

The troubles of former Barclays EURIBOR traders Carlo Palombo and Colin Bermingham never end – the Serious Fraud Office think they benefited from the scandal more than they do, so things have gone back to court for a battle over an asset seizure order. (Law360)

Reports that the supervisory board is searching for a successor to Frédéric Oudéa, although this probably just means that they’re updating the succession plan for the departure of Didier Valet, as Mr Oudéa was confirmed to a new term not long ago (Bloomberg Law)

Base metals trading restarts at Morgan Stanley, after the business was shut down four years ago. (New York Times)

Slightly strange story – Deutsche Bank prime brokerage has hired Ted Post, Tom Kocica, Brian Bendowski and Steve Cash away from Barclays.  Presumably BNP Paribas has in some way been consulted about this decision, as the plan is still to transfer the business (and the new hires) over the course of the next two years.  It looks like “going concern” has to mean “hiring concern”. (Bloomberg)

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Photo by Gabriel Crismariu on Unsplash

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