Deutsche Bank’s co-head of corporate banking and securities Colin Fan has told traders and salesman that he has “lost patience” with their behaviour in a “clean up your act” video message.
The message was distributed internally to traders and sales staff. As a result it was quickly circulating around the City and beyond.
In the recording, a sober looking Mr Fan says: “Some of you are falling way short of our established standards. Being boastful, indiscreet and vulgar is not ok. It will have serious consequences for your career and I have lost patience on this issue.”
He went on: “Communications that run even a small risk of being seen as unprofessional stops right now. I need you to exercise good sense and sound judgement. Think carefully about what you say and how you say it, if not it will have serious consequences for you personally.”
Deutsche Bank is Germany’s most prestigious financial institution and has a major presence in the City of London. But it is beset with regulatory difficulties and is known to have been caught up in the Financial Conduct Authority’s Libor and foreign exchange trading investigations.
The Libor scandal has shone a deeply unflattering light on the behaviour of traders at numerous banks, with regulators publishing lurid emails and electronic chats sent between traders at Barclays, UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland and Holland’s Rabobank so far, in addition to brokers such as Icap and RP Martin.
Some have become infamous. They include the external trader who promised a Barclays trader a “bottle of Bollinger” for their help with Libor, an interest rate used to price a huge range of financial products. “Dude. I owe you big time!” they said, alongside the promise of a bottle of bubbly.
In others traders gave themselves childish nicknames while peppering their chats with profanities and using boastful terms such as “humungous” to describes deals they were involved in.
If Deutsche is on the hit list, it can expect similar treatment. The bank has already paid a €725m penalty to the EU which found traders had colluded to fix rates linked to Libor. It was the biggest single fine in a total of €1.7bn charged to six banks.
With more fines expected to follow, the finance house has been desperately trying to clean up its image.
A spokesman said that Mr Fan’s missive is part of that. “A new culture is taking hold, step by step, here at Deutsche Bank. The substance and tone of this video is intentionally direct and part of an ongoing programme. We expect every employee to understand and comply with our standards,” they said.
Banks such as Deutsche, JP Morgan and others have increasingly sought to curtail access to venues such as chat rooms in a bid to at least curtail their traders behaviours.
Despite the skills which see banks handing star traders salaries that take them into the rockstar league, many appear not to have noticed that e-mails and even chats over trading terminals can be easily made available to watchdogs. In addition to the casual discussion of unethical, and potentially illegal activities, bosses at some City institutions have become concerned about the level of casual misogyny found across all or predominantly male trading floors.
“They’ll think nothing of trading lewd comments about the appearance of any woman unfortunate enough to find themselves in their vicinity,” said one industry source.
But another banking source warned that such efforts as Mr Fan’s could have limited success: “Banks have to make money. That’s what they are there to do. The question people have to ask is whether they want to be the person to sack the top rainmaker because of a few off-colour remarks?”