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Morning Coffee: The brilliant Citigroup trader who burned out & retired aged 27. The bankers compelled to make calls

If you're looking for advice on how to trade the current market, there's an alternative to reading research. You can simply listen to the Gary's Economics Channel on YouTube, although it might leave you with a feeling that any outsized profits you make as a result are the ill-gotten gains of the capitalist machine. 

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Run by Gary Stevenson, a former Citigroup short term interest rate (STIRT) trader with a book to sell, Gary's Economics is a paen to the left behind and a call to them to do something about it. Stevenson says quantitative easing and the money that was printed during COVID have made assets unaffordable to most people and that a wealth tax is imperative. "I'm not talking about lawyers and doctors and heaven forbid even bankers," he says in one recent video. He's against, "class based tax systems where hardworking people from ordinary backgrounds work hard and pay a huge amount of tax," but where people like the Duke of Westminster inherit £9.9bn and pay no tax at all.  "We need to shift the tax system away from taxing working people to taxing wealth," is Stevenson's refrain.

Stevenson is now in his late 30s. Raised by a Mormon family on a low income in the East End, he was expelled from school but got eight A*s at GCSE and four As at A level. He studied at the London School of Economics and The Times reports that he got an internship on the STIRT Citi in London after winning a game the bank set-up to identity promising talent. “I decided I’d show ’em we’re not all stupid, us kids in tracksuits,” he says, in reference to the privileged students he was competing against.  

In his first year on the STIRT desk, Stevenson made a bonus of £13k aged 22. Aged 23, he made £395k ($496k). In his best year, he made $2.5m. He claims to have been the "best trader" at Citi and to have made money going against the grain. When everyone was betting on a recovery in 2011, Stevenson wasn't. 

His mental and physical health suffered. Thinking about the markets, he'd wake up at 2.30am, run on a treadmill, go back to sleep and then wake up again at 5.30am and cycle to the office. His weight fell to 8.5 stones. He had a breakdown and quit, aged 27. 

Alongside the YouTube channel and the book, Stevenson still invests. In line with his narrative that the rich have all the money and that assets coveted by the rich will rise in price, he's betting on gold, shares and property. Stevenson says he misses trading and the fact that the trading floor is a "genuine meritocracy" where if you're right, the markets will prove you correct.  “I don’t love the school of thought that banks are evil and we should get rid of them," he adds. "Not because I love banks but I think it’s probably the modern descendant of centuries of antisemitic, anti-usury thinking. There’s a load of dodgy shit in banking, there’s a lot of waste, corruption, bad behaviour, but they do facilitate trade.”

Separately, there comes a point when desperate banks decide that the route to higher revenues is compelling people to make calls and client visits. UBS did it under Andrea Orcel in 2018. HSBC did something similar a year earlier. Now Citi, which has a new cost-cutting head of its private bank in the form of Andy Sieg from BAML and which needs to up its return on equity from 2.6%, is doing something similar. 

The Financial Times reports that Sieg wants his private bankers to record how often they call clients and to create call reports for each conversation stating what they discussed. Each client, who must have net worth of $10m at last, should be called every 90 days, and Citi wants to know what's been said. Rival banks apparently have a less didactic approach to ensuring people work.

Meanwhile...

George Demain, a senior portfolio manager and systematic trader at Millennium has mysteriously left. He was previously head of systematic trading at Shell. (Bloomberg) 

Goldman analyst Mohammed Zina, who worked in a supermarket to meet ordinary people, was found guilty on nine counts of fraud. He'll be sentenced next Friday. Goldman said "Mohammed Zina betrayed the trust we placed in him and his misuse of client information was in direct contradiction of our values.” (Financial Times) 

Nazia Lawrence, a Barclays VP who joined the bank in 2015 and who works in execution services, is suing the bank for $290k and says she was passed over for promotion because of racial, religious and sex discrimination. (Reuters) 

Equity research is not dead. Exane hired five senior research analysts in London. (Private Banker International) 

Coinbase is profitable again after its revenues jumped 51%. (Bloomberg) 

The Cavour EBITDA Luxury Cashmere Vest costs £1,170, has two external pockets, three internal pockets, and a cigar pocket. (Alphaville)  

The difficult life of Gen-Z. “Of the 15 people I spoke to on Monday, only one of them had not been made redundant.” (Prospect)  

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available (Telegram: @SarahButcher)

Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Ja
    James Wharf
    16 February 2024

    Great story. Please cover more example of professionals like Gary who have a social incline, podcasts, etc.

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