When I Grow Up
You know how kids, when they are 9 or 10 years old, can't wait until they're 16? Or how violinists in the third chair can't wait to be in the No. 1 spot? Henry L. Meyer 3rd, the chairman and chief executive of KeyCorp, had the opposite feeling this spring when his company was the smallest of the 19 financial institutions to undergo the government's much-publicized stress tests.
"I was 19," Meyer recalled this week at an SNL Financial banking industry conference in New York, "and I wanted to be 20."
Of course, the No. 19 designation sounded a little better after Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke indicated in a "60 Minutes" interview that the companies put through the stress tests were companies considered too important to fail, Meyer said.
But there is a fine line between feeling protected and feeling shackled. While offering all due respect to the regulators in the room, Meyer expressed a bit of frustration with the amount of time it is taking the government to value the warrants it received when it bailed out the industry last fall, and to decide on the criteria that should be used to determine whether bailout recipients have grown stable enough to repay the aid. "They're so political in Washington about who's making what decision," Meyer said. "I think that's what is slowing things down."
When it comes to industry employment, investment banks still rule, according to two studies released this week.
Vault.com Inc. on Wednesday issued its 2009 list of the most prestigious banking employers, based on observations from employees. Wall Street dominated the top 5: Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Blackstone Group, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s investment bank and Lazard Ltd.
Several foreign banks and boutiques placed well. Other notables among U.S. banking companies: Wells Fargo & Co. was No. 19, Bank of America Corp. No. 21, and JPMorgan Chase's commercial bank No. 28.
Interestingly, the results seemed to correlate with a survey by eFinancialCareers.com where 57% of Wall Street professionals said they expect a higher bonus this year than 2008, when the credit crisis took a bite out of profits.
John Benson, the CEO of eFinancialCareers.com, drew some comparisons, noting that JPMorgan Chase, B of A, Wells and Goldman all have indicated that they will allocate more funds for bonuses this year. Morgan Stanley, however, is expected to set aside less. He warned that the results might be different next year.
"You are seeing that restrictions on compensation haven't been fully implemented yet," he said. "That is going to change the landscape."
No Fairy Tale
Charlie Gasparino, the CNBC on-air editor, sat in on a televised Q&A Monday with Sallie Krawcheck, the president of global wealth and investment management at Bank of America Corp. and a possible candidate to replace CEO Ken Lewis. After comparing the executive to himself as "beauty and the beast," Gasparino then claimed that he and Krawcheck "go way back."
"Not that far back, Charlie," Krawcheck quickly responded, leaving Gasparino with an awkward look on his face.
Later that week, Gasparino knocked Krawcheck in a Forbes.com piece arguing she was not CEO material. Gasparino's rant may have been a bit late. Reports that morning said Brian Moynihan, B of A's consumer president, and Greg Curl, its chief risk officer, were the two internal candidates to make the final cut.
By Heather Landy and Paul Davis