A Path in the Storm
We often write to you about the importance of separating out the noise, focusing on the right critical path priorities, building a culture based on empathy and inclusion, and achieving long-term versus short-term objectives. Today, we find ourselves in a world dominated by a full-fledged brutal war that is transparently playing out in real-time before our very eyes. But this is sadly one of many serious issues confronting us today. We also have to cope with our exhaustion and frustration from a more than two-year global pandemic and the harsh reality that, while we are learning to live with it, the virus is far from done with us, and there will surely be unwanted and unfortunate twists in the road ahead. Next, there is this issue of potentially persistent inflation and the accompanying anticipation of central bank actions, which may ultimately lead to a higher universal cost of capital. Finally, while we are at it, let’s throw in the supply chain issues and the uncertainty around China’s strategic direction, which could bring on a whole new set of macro concerns and implications.
The reality is that not one of these real issues can be categorized as "noise." None are easily explained, understood or quickly solved. Each in its own way causes uncertainty, volatility, heartache and, in certain circumstances, outcomes that none of us ever want to acknowledge or verbalize. With all this said, the critical issue that we at Jefferies are proactively confronting is: how to most directly, effectively and empathetically help our Jefferies team best continue forward with all the important responsibilities for which our clients and shareholders depend upon us. Additionally, how do we best help each other to be present and healthy enough to help our families, friends and loved ones manage through this challenging period? If we had concrete answers that would solve even one of the major issues facing the world today, we would happily share them. Instead, for this moment, we will share our thoughts on what we are trying to do to best help each other navigate this period, with the hope that perhaps even one of you finds something in our thought process that may be helpful:
Honesty. In a period of time when everyone is looking for answers and as leaders we are used to quickly and succinctly providing them, today this does not feel possible or credible. Acknowledging that there is a broad array of outcomes for many of these problems and knowing that the very worst-case scenarios remain incredibly and extremely remote, is probably the best we can do. The most seasoned of us have been through the gauntlet of truly uncertain and challenging times, but even we have not seen the confluence of craziness that exists in the world today. It is understandable for all of us to sometimes find ourselves in more than a funk throughout the day and sometimes into the night, and accepting that reinforces that we are human.
Doing Something Good. The worst part of living through any crisis is feeling helpless to ease the pain felt by the innocent. We pride ourselves on being a group of people who are “doers.” Unfortunately, the distance, complexity and magnitude of some of these problems can make us feel that there is absolutely no way to make things better. By now most of you know that everyone at Jefferies came together with our remarkable clients and shareholders and donated an incredible $14-plus million that went immediately to Ukrainian humanitarian aid. On the one hand, one can easily conclude that this vast amount will provide barely 15 minutes of help given the magnitude of what is occurring. It is easy to come to the conclusion, “Why bother?” On the other hand, we know for sure that because of all that we did there are five new bullet proof vans each transporting more than 25 children a day from bunkers under destroyed cities to safety in Poland. Once in Poland, collectively we are responsible for renting large warehouses and making sure they are stocked with desperately needed supplies for the refugees. We also know that some of these children and adult refugees made it to the border because we funded brave doctors to train local aid workers in real time emergency triage skills. We are not patting each other on our backs and know many have done far more. We also know the real heroes are the ones in the trenches executing the plans to use our money to save lives. However, individually and collectively, each one of us is a very small part of making things better and that makes the feeling of helplessness just a little less unbearable. Of course, there is much good to be done far closer to our respective homes and that is just as important and effective during these times. It doesn’t matter where you do good or how much, as long as you do something. The important point is that in times of upheaval, encouraging our teams and giving them the flexibility to give back in ways that are most personally meaningful to them is one of the best ways we know to maintain a modicum of sanity during a period of grave uncertainty.
Perspective. The world keeps turning. It really does. Today’s impossible problems become tomorrow’s ancient history and then of course new challenges emerge. That is what we call "life.” The older you get, the clearer this becomes. Doing everything in our power to convey this to our team, especially our younger partners, is critical to getting through this. We need to remember that it is not healthy or productive to be consumed by guilt about the pain in the world while many of us are doing fine. Because we are okay means we can help. Doing our part to compartmentalize a complex world is one way of making it through and frees us up to do our jobs, and also help those in need. Making sure that everyone remembers how important our day jobs are to the many teammates and clients who so mightily depend on them will empower each of us to not only get through each day but make the most of every one of them. Reinforcing to everyone that maintaining their mental and physical health during periods like these ensures they will have the proper body armor that will allow all of us to continue to do our important jobs and be there for our families. Maintaining a culture of respect and ensuring that everyone on the team is looking out for and supporting each other (especially those having the toughest time) will make every one of us stronger. If we are strong, our firm is strong. If our firm is strong, our clients are strong. If we are all strong, together we can help the world advance to a better place. This is what we must and will do together.
In closing, we want to thank each of you for your partnership, trust, loyalty and friendship. Our own strength draws from knowing we are so heavily connected with our 4,808 employee-partners and each of you, our invaluable clients and friends.
Always trying to maintain an honest perspective so we can all do good together,
Rich and Brian