October 2020

Jefferies 12-Point Plan For Getting To The Other Side

Dear Clients and Employee-Partners,

Neither of us are medical experts, nor do we have any uniquely remarkable insight into the exact timing or path for when the world will get to the other side of Covid-19.  That said, we speak with a lot of very informed people, pay attention to all of the relevant information and misinformation, and are constantly forming and re-forming our own guestimates based on the facts as we see them, our own common sense, experience and gut feel.  Using this non-fully scientific approach, we have decided to lead and prepare Jefferies in every way possible for the probability that it may not be until at least the third quarter of 2021 when we will have a true and fuller return to a world resembling the one we all took for granted before we ever learned the word Covid-19.  We fully recognize that we may be pleasantly surprised by a quicker solution via therapeutics, vaccines, supply chain solutions, mass production capabilities, geographic distribution and fill and finish innovations.  In our minds, if we prepare ourselves for a realistic, but less than optimal scenario that stretches this out for yet another year, we can easily pivot to the wonderful case of a quicker resolution.  Nobody would be happier to be proven wrong than the two of us, but the upside always seems to take care of itself, so we prefer to always deal with the realistic downside scenario and be cognizant of the conservative case.

With this in mind, we would like to share with you, our employee-partners at Jefferies and our valued clients, our current 12-point plan for leading and succeeding through the next six months.  We recognize that we do not have a monopoly on good ideas regarding something we have never experienced and we also recognize that every business (and team of people) is different and one size never fits all.  That said, hopefully our thoughts can serve as the beginning of a work-in-process template that all of us can share, debate, modify and improve as we work to bring our respective organizations through this challenging period.  We are in this together and we have confidence that if we all support one another through these challenging times, we will also all emerge stronger and thrive as better individuals, partners and businesses.

Today, we are sharing Jefferies’ 12-point plan for getting to the other side:

Point 1: For Now, It Is All About The Five Months That Start In Two Weeks:  We found our way to coping with Covid-19 when the weather is nice, as we just came through such a period.  We socially distance, wear masks when we cannot and practice exceptional hygiene.  We stay outdoors as much as possible when we meet with people and do everything possible to avoid crowded situations.  When we make it to March 15th, 2021, we should know what to do until the third quarter of 2021 because we have already proven we can do it.  Because things are always more manageable in discrete periods, we know that in about two weeks the clock will start and we will all have five months of really hard work ahead of us, since for much of the developed world, the weather will turn, flu season will begin and the possibility of the next big wave may begin.  By the way, this period is compounded by a major U.S. election, which may or may not have a swift outcome or significant changes in policy, typical year-end volatility, and all the dynamics existing in a world with significant social unrest.  This is quite a combination of challenge and uncertainty so the first part of our plan to deal with the transition to the other side is for all of us to recognize and accept the importance and reality of this next 5 month period.

Point 2: Prioritizing Health:  At the end of the day, nothing else really matters.  Every company and individual has to make their own workplace decisions as each circumstance is unique.  For physical health, we are going to continue to focus during this entire period on letting every individual at Jefferies make their own choice of whether to return to the office or not.  Some people will need to return for their sanity, and some must not because personal circumstances are too risky.  We are fortunate that we have been able to operate virtually without letting any of our clients down, so we have the luxury to continue to allow individual choice.  Mental health is as tough a problem as physical health in a pandemic.  During this potentially difficult late fall and winter period, we will make sure that we have great professionals readily available to meet the needs of everyone who feels at risk -- zero stigma -- full support.  We will ask each of our partners to be on the lookout for those who may need some extra help and support, as united and physically and emotionally healthy, we are at our collective best. 

Point 3: Stress Long-Term Perspective:  Day-to-day life can be extremely discombobulating.  Volatility is high and the news can be increasingly upsetting (at best).  Results vary hourly and people can feel uncomfortable with their responsibilities, role or ability to consistently deliver.  This is a good time to remind everyone and emphasize that despite the short-term pain, all that really matters is being able to survive this unfortunate period, so that eventually we can all get back to focusing on the long-term.  Each business has milestones over time that help put troubling times into perspective.  For the two of us, it is the charts below.  When you look at them closely, you can see periods of extreme challenges and disappointment.  The pain in each of these periods was real and is still vividly remembered.  It’s only when you step back and allow yourself to reflect on what your entire team is really working towards and accomplishing, the disappointment turns to pride and that will bring the strength to keep us all pushing forward during the next five months of uncertainty.

Jefferies Revenue and Earnings Since 1990

Point 4: Future of Work at Jefferies:  Coronavirus will eventually be a crisis that ends.  The question will remain: what will the future of work look like and how can we best design the operating environment of Jefferies to incorporate the needs and desires of our clients and our team going forward?   We have already started this process by sending out a fulsome survey to our 4,000 people asking many of the most relevant questions regarding how they want to and should work in the future.  We are holding focus groups and leadership discussions around this topic.  This will be an ongoing work in process and there is no doubt thoughts will evolve as time passes and we learn more.  That said, it is clear that there will be some version of a hybrid model going forward creating a combination of a series of active central offices and meeting places, balanced with the opportunity to work from home.  This will have implications for the size and layout of our offices, technology decisions, ability for people to live in a greater radius of their primary Jefferies location, and the removal of any excuse that people raising families or caring for ailing loved ones can’t be effective when they have to spend more time at home.  We don’t know for sure where this exercise will lead, but we are very optimistic that if we listen to our people and effectively balance their needs with serving our clients, the end result will be extremely positive for everyone.

Point 5: Continued Culture Building:  This is a really tough thing to do remotely, but accepting the importance of this issue should be the beginning of trying to deal with this critical issue in the right ways.  We don’t have all the answers yet on this one, but we know it is of vital importance.  For us, it will be a continuation and perhaps an acceleration of what we have done these past six months, and arguably the last 20+ years.  We will err on the side of over-communication.  This can come from the leadership of the firm in terms of personal notes and perspectives, but sometimes these thoughts are even more effective from others throughout Jefferies.  Everyone has an important message to share in times of crisis and we will encourage our people to do so.  Zooms can be exhausting and overwhelming, but with the right balance we believe communication in groups that are focused on things besides one’s “day-to-day job” are necessary and helpful.   The groups can range in size from two people to twenty to thousands.  It depends on the topic, objectives and current mood.  Firmwide interviews with outside leaders with entirely different experiences create new perspectives for our team at Jefferies.  They also show how different people and organizations are adapting to the current reality.  It is also a great way to see that we are not alone in dealing with today’s challenges and opportunities. 

Point 6: Focus on New Employees and Juniors:  Joining a business during a pandemic as a senior executive when you cannot even meet your new co-workers is insanely difficult.  Coming fresh out of school and starting your first real job mostly via Zoom is even worse.  We have a net increase of 100 people at Jefferies since the year began.  For the next six months, we will focus heavily on all our new partners and will arrange buddies, mentors, informational programming and targeted indoctrination assistance to properly welcome these important new contributors to Jefferies, their new second home.

Point 7: Real Feedback and Reviews:  One of the best pieces of feedback from our recent employee survey is the overwhelming desire (this year more than ever) for thorough, specific and highly constructive performance reviews throughout Jefferies.  Since everyone is rightfully absorbed with their own individual challenges in 2020, it is easy to see why people need and deserve the very best job evaluation and career advice, so they cannot only persevere through this critical period of the crisis, but so they can actually continue to thrive and grow as we begin to come out of this in 2021.  We are going to ask our entire firm to rise up in this upcoming year-end period, with the goal of delivering exceptional feedback that is even more thoughtful and complete than our historical best efforts.  It would be wonderful if yet another positive from this crisis could be to continue this improved review process into the post-Covid-19 future, as this too is critical for long-term success.

Point 8:  Improve Our Firm:  We are fortunate that six distinct diversity and inclusion groups have blossomed at Jefferies.  One of the few positives of this period is the increased focus on creating a truly equal, welcoming and empowering environment throughout society.  We expect these groups to really step up their efforts, programming and visibility during this period of time when people are more available to participate because of decreased mobility.  We encourage our entire firm to participate and lead in these endeavors, as inclusion is not the responsibility of just those leading these efforts, but rather of everyone at Jefferies.  This will not only help us improve our culture further, but it will get right to the heart of making us the best firm we can be.

Point 9:  Prioritize Clients:  We are a firm that lives and breathes for our clients, perhaps like no other (we hope so!).  Relationships are cemented or destroyed in times of stress.  Thus far, we believe we have done an admirable job being there for our clients and they have rewarded us with more business opportunities than ever before.  We cannot afford any letdown in getting the job done for our clients and we must prove ourselves every single day.  During this next period, we are going to try to harness the broader power of Jefferies to deliver even more for the benefit of our clients.  The more firmwide relationships and understanding of our capabilities we can bring to each of our clients, the more we can be of assistance.  If each of our clients feels comfortable and informed enough to enlist our entire firm to help them, we will take our relationships to the next level.  Our firm has also grown a great deal over the past several years and our insights, capabilities, global presence and talent need to be properly introduced in a relevant manner to all our clients.  We need to first know all the needs and focus areas of each individual client as we don’t want to smother anyone or waste people’s time.  We also need to work to cross-pollinate our people so they get to know others in different segments and divisions of Jefferies.  We believe we have considerable opportunities to help our clients fully leverage all of the investments in talent we have made at our firm to help them navigate this period of the crisis and beyond.

Point 10:  Celebrate Wins:  Nothing is better than celebrating victories and jobs well done, especially in times of adversity.  We at Jefferies have many things to be thankful for and celebrate, and they are in sizes both small and large.  We have many people who are quiet heroes at our firm and we have been enjoying “outing” them for all of us to celebrate.  There are distinct deals that we close for our clients, amazing new hires and unique personal accomplishments (many have nothing to do with work) that all deserve a moment in the sun.  We will continue to search these out and share them internally with everyone.  Sharing the wins and the good moments makes the unavoidable negative issues that accompany tough times all the more bearable.  It also helps to keep everything rightfully in perspective.

Point 11:  No Full Employment Act:  We were very clear from the start of this crisis that there were no plans at Jefferies for mass layoffs or furloughs.  That said, we also transparently explained to our team that nobody who was doing a poor job would be protected because of the pandemic.  This will continue to be our policy.  We will expect our people to put in a very honest day of work, have a positive attitude, help our clients and co-workers, continue to innovate, build new relationships and help us advance the ball every day.  Fortunately, we are blessed with having very few people who perform poorly, hide because they think they now can or have an attitude that is detrimental to morale.  Those who do will be asked to leave, just as in prior periods.  It is a privilege for all of us to call Jefferies our home and we must protect and enhance it together.

Point 12:  Giving Back:  We at Jefferies are extremely fortunate in too many ways to count.  This crisis has been extra painful because it disproportionately harms those who can least afford it.  On top of the health threat, there is a heavy overlay of social unrest that just makes a tough environment even more painful.  We have done some work thus far as individuals and as a firm to give back to those in need and this will continue to be a focus for us as we navigate the rest of the way through this period and into the future.  We firmly believe that the more you give, the more you get, and this is a time when the needs of too many are far too evident and we at Jefferies will continue to do our part. 

Thank you for allowing us to share our thoughts on best navigating these next very challenging months.  Please know that all of us at Jefferies are in this fight with each of you as our partners.  While it is easy to dwell on all of the difficulty and hardship, at our core, we are extremely optimistic about the future.  Please feel free to share any feedback, improvements or additional ideas that you believe will help your (and other) businesses navigate this period.  We are fully committed to helping each of you in every way we can.  Thank you for your partnership and the trust that you so willingly share with us at Jefferies.  It means more to all of our people and the two of us than perhaps we can ever fully express.

Looking forward to getting through to springtime with each of you,

Rich and Brian


CEO, Jefferies Financial Group

[email protected]
@handlerrich Twitter | Instagram
Pronouns: he, him
President, Jefferies Financial Group

[email protected]


  1. The financial measures presented herein include adjusted non-GAAP financial measures for 2011-15, which exclude the impact of the results of operations of Bache, a business substantially exited in 2015. See the Jefferies Financial Group Additional 2020 GAAP Disclosures at http://ir.jefferies.com/2020GAAPDisclosure for a reconciliation to GAAP measures. Excludes predecessor first quarter ending 2/28/13. Adjusted Net Revenues and Net Earnings to Common Shareholders for the excluded quarter total $752 million and $88 million, respectively. Net Earnings (Loss) in 1990-2012 are attributable to Common Shareholders. Net Earnings in LTM Q1’14-2020 are attributable to Jefferies Group LLC.
  2. Post-tax loss of $541 million includes expenses of $427 million related to the modification of employee stock awards and restructuring activities. Offset by $434 million equity raise.