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CommentP&M Notebook

Putting Plan B into action

Crumpled paper Plan A and clean sheet paper Plan B on white back

🎵 We'll meet again / Don't know where, don't know when 🎵

As rumours that the UK government would be rolling out its Plan B pandemic response rippled across capital markets over the past week, bankers expressed a mixture of disappointment and resignation, but also hope that the new restrictions would be lifted quickly in January.

Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Wednesday what had already been widely reported — that face masks would be required in most public indoor spaces in the UK, vaccine passports would be needed in some cases, and people should work from home if possible. The new rules come into force on Monday.

The fact that the measures were trailed in the press before the official announcement at least gave management teams a head start on drafting the obligatory memos.

“At the moment it's a fairly moot point,” said one head of European DCM in London on Thursday. “Given where we are in the year, coming into the middle of December, next week would have been a quiet week anyway.”

Indeed, bankers report that offices had already been emptier in the week running up to the Plan B announcement owing to a mixture of holidays and Omicron fears.

“It’s not a bad thing to be happening now,” said a debt syndicate banker. “Half the team is out on holidays already and the other half are working a bit from office and a bit from home.”

But as bankers look ahead to the new year, they are hoping that restrictions will be relaxed in time to allow them to handle a daunting pipeline of deals from the office.

“For us, we’re just trying to get a handle on what's going to happen in January and how that's going to start, because January for us is a very busy time in the market,” said the DCM head. “If we're going to have to go back to some sort of split working and all those sorts of things, then it would be good to know about it sooner rather than later.”

Playing it safe

The Omicron variant has also put paid to many plans to revive the traditional Christmas party, with cancellations across the City.

Some staff at Deutsche Bank were understood to have come up with an interesting compromise — instead of a party, they were planning a series of smaller dinners of four or five people. No two people from the same team would attend the same dinner, to avoid an entire desk being taken out by the virus.

But in view of the new government guidelines, the bank is now "discouraging" work social gatherings in the UK, according to a person familiar with the firm's response.

Promotion season

In the meantime, it’s not just the bond market that’s quiet — the hiring market appears to have slowed down, too. There are still some announcements being made — US boutique William Blair has added another investment banker, Jim Conniff, in Chicago — but not many.

However, there will be some people celebrating promotions along with the holidays and the new year, as Credit Suisse’s Josh Presley and Crédit Agricole’s Tanguy Claquin have both been elevated to more senior positions.

Meanwhile, a reshuffle of responsibilities at TwentyFour Asset Management has produced a new CEO – Ben Hayward, a founding partner of the firm who previously oversaw its ABS strategy. He is stepping into the shoes of Mark Holman, who will intensify his focus on the portfolio management of the firm’s multi-sector bond funds.

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