When Are We Going To Return To Work At Jefferies?
Welcome to the month of May. It is clear that for the next month of our lives, the press and the chatter will be incessantly focused on the plans and strategies emerging about how businesses are going to “bring people back to work.” This is very good news, entirely necessary and fraught with potential risks and issues. We would like to share our perspective on what we are thinking in this regard.
We will not be bringing anyone “back” to work because, as best as we can tell, none of us has stopped working for Jefferies, our clients, our shareholders or each other. In fact, the absence of travel or even a daily commute, the lack of many distractions, and the wonders of mobility and technology have caused each of us to be more efficient than ever imagined. The fact that each day blends into the next and usual weekend plans to unwind are not consistent with this virus only means that each of us are running at a million miles an hour, without ever leaving our home office caves. We recognize this reality and are deeply appreciative of the dedication, tenacity, commitment and pride you have shown consistently these past two months.
Eleven weeks ago, if you had asked either of us whether it would be possible for Jefferies to operate efficiently and effectively with over 97% of our employee-partners around the globe working from home, neither of us would even have thought the question was a serious one. Well, this has become our reality and these past two months have taught us many things about ourselves and about each of you. First, our technology and support teams are world class, we may even claim leading edge. We all had a lot of respect for these teams pre-coronavirus, but now the truth is crystal clear. We are all enabled in a manner that allows us to do just about everything we need to do to get our jobs done. When we are all together again, every one of us needs to personally express our thanks to our entire tech team for putting us in the position to win for our clients. In fact, let’s also thank our entire non-tech support team throughout the firm for being with us every day to make our lives easier. The accounting, legal, risk, treasury, control and general support functions all are getting the job done under incredible pressure and despite meaningful dislocation. We are very fortunate at Jefferies to have all of you as partners on our team.
Nobody has to ask the trading side of our business to come back to work. Our volumes throughout the firm over these past two months have been incredibly high for two reasons. First, as mentioned, our technological capability to execute for our clients has been remarkable. The second reason is due to the quality of the people we have in all trading departments at Jefferies. Sales and trading professionals typically want to sit close together on a trading floor because it optimizes information flow, communication, sequencing of orders and trust. Amazingly, our sales, trading and research teams have proven that, with our culture as the glue, we don’t need to be physically proximate or tethered together to share information transparently, trust each other and provide best executions for our clients. Our clients have noticed and rewarded us with not only compliments, but increased business. There is little doubt that we are gaining additional market position and momentum through this period and that it will be with us and build further for years to come.
Our investment bankers’ great work over these past years has been one of the main reasons we entered this crisis from such a position of strength. Their competence, tenacity, creativity and broad relationships have transformed Jefferies. One only needs to go back to the start of this and the most recent quarterly results we published in March. Well, none of our investment bankers need to go “back” to work either, since you have actively been embracing the new reality facing our clients and have effectively pivoted to serving their new needs. One only needs to look at the rescue debt financings, quick equity offerings, negotiated debt extensions, newly strategic M&A ideas, and restructuring advisory work we are pursuing to see the results of their massive effort. Our investment bankers are now not only financial advisors, but friends, therapists and trusted confidants for our clients. Our large prior backlog will mostly eventually consummate and the new efforts we are making will take some time to translate to results, but the hard work is paying off and we can help our clients navigate their entirely new set of challenges and opportunities. Our Investment Banking team, in particular, might have needed a break from the non-stop travel, but we know the way things have gone these past few months has hardly been relaxing.
So here is the hopefully obvious, but not secret conclusion about when Jefferies will go “back” to work. We at Jefferies have proven that work and office are no longer inextricably linked. That said, there is little doubt that we are more effective together and, if truth be told, we actually miss each other a great deal and are all eager to return to some degree to our normal routines. Officially, our offices have never closed, as we have been deemed part of a strategically important business because of the central role of financing in the economy. That said, our offices will not be open and full again when the President, Governor, Mayor or the two of us say they are. There are many challenges and complexities that come with a return to our offices and circumstances will differ by location and based on ever-evolving circumstances. As we move towards the return phase of this challenging environment, we will be guided by the following principles:
a. We will take into account all relevant facts and information at our disposal and be flexible to alter course on a moment’s notice. Your safety will be the number one factor to consider
b. As such, we will make sure all aspects of safety are managed as best as humanly possible (masks, cleaning, support teams, etc.).
c. We will let each of you, our trusted partners who have distinguished yourselves so well during this time of great upheaval, make the final determination based on your own personal assessments. There will be no pressure from anyone at the firm for anyone to do anything they feel uncomfortable or unsafe about. We are confident that each of you will know what is best for your individual circumstances and will decide appropriately. You are the heart and soul of Jefferies, and you have proven that you can get the job done regardless of location. We know you want to get back as soon as you feel safe. We will let each of you decide. When we do have critical mass back in the offices, we will most likely have to prioritize who can return as safety requirements will dictate spacing requirements. The priority will be based on efficiency and logistical requirements and however we stagger this process, safety will be our number one priority.
d. We will continue to count on each of you to give your 100% all every single day, regardless of where you are located.
Thank you all. Welcome to another new month. Each day that passes, we are closer to being reunited physically. We will begin to see each of you on a schedule that makes sense for every one of us.
Looking forward to seeing you all in person when you decide the time is right,
Rich and Brian