In the early days of the pandemic, Bank of America found an innovative way to measure the success of the bank's work-from-home experience: a spreadsheet, distributed daily to team leaders, that pitted people's productivity against working from home to those who still showed up at the office.
Created for Thomas K. Montag, the bank's second manager, the spreadsheet, as described by two of the people who are aware of it and according to images reviewed by Hfrance.fr, lists the employees in the markets in descending order of profitability each day, those who work in the office on one side and those who work from home on the other. Evidence on the work environment that worked better was mixed, these people said, but the message that the spreadsheet sent was not: Mr Montag Bank of America COO kept the score.
Mr. Montag oversees approximately 17,000 people in the
Mr. Montag, 64, is the second most powerful person at Bank of America after Brian Moynihan, the CEO and, with $ 19 million in compensation l 'last year, the second highest paid. As the world faced last spring's pandemic, Mr Montag first pressured market workers to continue to show up at the office despite stay-at-home orders that drove them away. many other bank employees, current and recently departed Bank of America employees said. Some of Mr.Montag feared that they would lose their job or their bonuses if they did not go to the office.
In a February interview from the bank's Midtown Manhattan tower, Mr. Montag expressed concern about the market turmoil in the early days of pandemic and went to the office every day. "I was kind of the front for us," he explained.
The wartime reference is an indication that Mr. Montag is a remnant of a Wall Street that has all but disappeared. In the twelve years that Mr. Montag has been an executive at Bank of America, his resolute approach has been increasingly out of step with the contemporary world of finance.
Today 's leaders try to present themselves as searchingand vulnerable , emphasizing their human side and expressing the idea that they can do good while reaping profits. Competition for talent with private equity firms and Silicon Valley has forced banks to rethink their demands for young workers, albeit exhausting hours - which recently drove young bankers at Goldman Sachs to confront their managers - persists. Forced adaptation to homework has raised thorny questions about whether the financial world, historically one where long hours and performative masochism have been celebrated, will emerge from the pandemic with a more compassionate approach.
Colleagues qualify Mr. Montag of insightful and charismatic- qualities he deployed to help transform Bank of America into a central lending and trading company after its merger in 2008 with Merrill Lynch. But some say his management style is demanding and erratic. This is a world where some people are groomed for major leadership roles, while others are dumped for seemingly minor infractions. He enjoys big displays of dedication and plays favorites, polarizing employees.
"Tom demanded excellence " said Robert Grillo, managing director of
When the pandemic began, Goldman Sachs quickly fired traders chez them, equipping them with the tools they needed. Citigroup sought out offices in the suburbs to accommodate the employees who lived there and wanted to avoid traveling for fear of infections. Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman caught the coronavirus and stayed out of the office.
Mr. Montag has been slower to embrace remote work, and the results have been attrition and lower morale. Since the beginning of this year, at least 11 senior market employees, including several traders and some department heads, have left the
This account of Mr. Montag 's tenure at Bank of America, and the culture he fostered, is based on interviews with over two dozen current and former employees who spoke out on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs or alienating associates. Unlike some competitors, who implemented mandatory return to office plans for June or July, Bank of America has not yet clarified when it will ask working employees still at a distance from returning to the office, saying only that it will be sometime after Labor Day. The bank, with more than 200,000 people, continues to generate profits; its first quarter earnings report reflected strong gains in the
The general mood of employees these days is to quit, according to people who work there. Perhaps the bigger question now is whether Mr. Montag's professional future will be affected by his handling of the pandemic - and what the answer to that question says about whether Bank of America, or Wall Street itself, is ready for change.
The culture that made Montag
Born and Raised in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Montag began his career at Goldman Sachs in 1985, when a brotherhood of powerful men ruled Wall Street, taking insane market risks and pushing through young military-style hazing processes. memorably described in "Liar 's Poker" by Michael Lewis.
A former attacking tackle for the L 's football teamYcee, whose first job was knocking borrowers' doors at night to ask them to repay loans, Mr. Montag worked in a trading desk at Goldman that specialized in complex products called swaps. His attention to detail set him apart, colleagues of the day said, as did his recruiting and mentoring young people, some of whom help run the business today.
In 2008, Mr. Montag joined the brokerage firm Merrill Lynch to lead its Image Anne Finucane, vice president of Bank of America, said the transition after the company's merger with Merrill Lynch was difficult at first, but Mr. Montag "made it work". Credit ... Alex Flynn / Bloomberg
"The beginnings were certainly difficult, but he managed to make it work" ,recalled Anne Finucane, vice president of Bank of America.
These achievements stemmed from Mr. Montag's culture with major clients and his talent for spotting unfolding professional opportunities. But those talents were tied to a style and a set of expectations that some employees thought were unreasonable. On Friday afternoons over the years, after markets closed, Mr Montag occasionally looked for floor managers at their desks, current and former employees said, leaving Post-it notes scribbled with the words : "Where are you?" if theywere not there.
When Karen Fang, a senior bond saleswoman, attended a meeting in Rome in 2013 right after her wedding, Mr. Montag gave her a trophy Lucite for his dedication, participants said. (Ms. Fang said she always planned a honeymoon for a later time.) In 2014, he established what he called the "can't be disturbed" list, an annual list of 'employees whose premiums would be cut. because they did not perform administrative tasks such as participating in performance reviews of colleagues.
While the expectations on hours and some tasks were clear enough, some of the others were not. In meetings to discuss employee compensation, Mr. Montag would occasionally cut small amounts, like $ 25,000 or $ 50,000, on bonuses close tomillion dollars, the meeting participants recall, for reasons that were not clear to them. But other employees received last-minute bonus increases, said the people, earning the nickname "FOT," or Tom's Friend. Today in business
Megan Tobias Neely, assistant professor of organization at Copenhagen Business School, said that in her research on financial firms, she often encounters cultures based on a unique and dominant personality. People who conform to the behaviors championed by the leader "are rewarded with all kinds of opportunities and advancement," she said.
"But not everyone can " she continued, "because not everyone will fit in.have or will not feel comfortable in this type of environment.
For those who aligned, Mr. Montag was an encouraging and inspiring boss, current and former employees said. "Tom really cares about people in an old-fashioned way that is not typical of today's corporate world," said Gene Reilly, a hedge fund manager who worked for him as Global Head of Quantitative Trading at Bank of America in the early 2010s. hospital, Tom makes the phone call and helps her when he can.
Mr. Montag has denied playing favorites.
"There is obviously no Tom's Friends List " he said in February. "There are certainly people I find good, who represent the company well and whoworked very well together. ” He added: "and so I promote them, or help them, or work well with them.
Promotion women, sponsor women
Several years ago, Mr. Montag started a sabbatical program for bank employees for 10 years or more which has been particularly popular with women. He has also promoted women to leadership positions, including Wei Wang, who oversees the bank's operations in China, and Orly Avidan, a seasoned merchant and client liaison officer he appointed head of equity sales at the end of last year. "I think it 's incredibly helpful to have a champion like Tom, " Ms. Avidan said.
But over the past five years, as the culture at large has become more susceptible to misogyny and sexual harassment, Bankof America had its own account with some of these issues. During some of these years, the
Such accusations are not uncommon on Wall Street. But 15 credible complaints a year is high, said people with first-hand knowledge of these matters at two competing banks during the same period; the number of such complaints in the markets and corporate banking services of their banks, according to these people, was well below 10.
A door- Bank of America spokeswoman Jessica Oppenheim called 15 confidential settlementsper year for alleged misconduct of "manifestly inaccurate". She would not go into further detail, adding, "There is no reason to say that Bank of America has more of these problems than its competitors or other large companies." She said the bank pays women fairly and its female employees report higher levels of job satisfaction than men.
But current and former employees have said that the culture Mr. Montag created also allows women to be objectified. In addition, the success of the employees of his
A case study in the complicated matrix of performance and personal gaze that informed Mr. Montag 's decisions w as Sana put itz Zaimi, current and former employees.
Ms. Zaimi was hired by Mr. Montag of Goldman to help lead sales of global bonds and certain stock products in 2009. In 2016, she became the sole head of bond sales and in 2019 she was appointed managing director of the bank's new European brokerage firm. arms in Paris. Within the bank, Ms. Zaimi was widely considered to be bright and knowledgeable in her area of expertise, which involved structuring complex products for clients. But it could also be unfiltered and harsh on employees, past and current colleagues have said.
In annual meetings with Mr. Moynihan, chief executive of the bank, to discuss stars, Mr. Montag regularly introduced Ms. Zaimi for additional roles, a declared a person with direct knowledge of thepast unions. However, Ms. Zaimi's poor comments from employees and peers about her management style made it a feature film for them, the person added. Image Sanaz Zaimi at a summit in 2016. She was hired by Mr. Montag in 2009, and her rise in Bank of America was rapid. Credit ... Fortune Conferences
Ms. Zaimi see med to be aware of her situation. She would occasionally tell her colleagues that although she frequently scored in the bottom quartile of the company's annual 360-degree employee reviews - which incorporated feedback from subordinates, peers and superiorsurs - Mr Montag had told her it didn't matter, according to two people she commented to. She also noted that if Mr Montag ever left the bank, he would leave the same day, the people added. Ms. Zaimi declined to comment.
Ms. Zaimi, now 51, is still at the bank. Some other women are not. And the reasons for their departure, they told their colleagues, were rooted in the difficulty they had in trying to be successful in Mr Montag's idiosyncratic and sometimes male-dominated culture.
In 2017, a young woman on one of the bond trading desks complained after Male colleagues grabbed an iron plastic curl from her bag and joked that it was a dildo, according to a complaint described to The Times and to three people familiar with the episode. Wife, who had occasional and informal interactions on the floor with Mr Montag but was subordinate to him on several levels, got a settlement, the people said. She declined to comment. Ms Oppenheim, the bank's spokesperson, said Bank of America does not tolerate discrimination and that any allegations about it are fully investigated and disciplined where appropriate.
In 2016, a head of bond trading named Megan Messina - who was part of the
" Under the veneer of a world-class financial institution, B of A treats his wife who runs gold directly as second-class citizens ", atdeclared his complaint. Ms Messina, she added, “is no exception. Each year, throughout the period of responsibility in this case, Messina earned much less than men in a similar situation only because she is a woman.
Ms. The Messina trial was settled later that year. The terms have not been
When the pandemic began, Mr. Montag initially urged the workers to continue entering the office. He started riding his bike to work every day in jeans and sneakers, instead of showing off in his usual coat and tie. Once there, he thanked those who were in attendance and occasionally emailed others who worked remotely to "come to my office," current and former employees said - which somes recipients interpreted it as a thinly veiled request to return.
"Our backup system was in Stamford " he said in the February interview, referring to the Connecticut city where the bank directed some workers. "It was not in your room. Image As the pandemic began, Mr. Montag urged employees to continue entering the office. Credit ... John Taggart for Hfrance.fr figcaption>
Officially the bank told the front desk workers that from the end of March they can work from home . But in small grOops and one-on-one conversations, a different message was conveyed by contractors, current and recently departed employees - including a senior human resources representative, said.
Last spring, as the pandemic raged in New York City, Alexandria Taylor, who heads human resources for
Ms. Taylor does not report to Mr. Montag. But the relationship between them has been a source of consternation for years, said current and former employees.iens, because it meant that one of the best-placed people to correct Mr. Montag's cultivation issues was also unusually close to him in a way that caught the eye.
The two frequently collaborated on employee affairs, and Ms. Taylor eventually moved her desk to a location right in front of Mr. Montag's desk. At one point, executives even embarked on a low-carb, high-fat keto diet, according to two people who discussed it with Ms. Taylor at the time. They were so comfortable around each other that at one point last November she openly scratched or rubbed Mr. Montag's back on the trading floor, according to three people. who witnessed the interaction. M s. Taylor said in a statement that "these items are incorrect.
During the pandemic, the Productivity Spreadsheete, titled "Tom / Dashboard ", according to one image of this allowed Mr. Montag to track the individual profits and losses of employees working from home versus those still in the office, according to this and d 'other pictures and two people familiar with spreadsheets. In the office, said one of those employees, Mr. Montag would sometimes come by each desk and say: "I knew you would be here.
Last summer, after reporting on their work-from-home policies, the bank took a more accommodating stance, current and former employees said. By the fall, the spreadsheet was gone. , said two of those people.
"I believe, in the long run, that it's better to know people and see them and be around 'them some, "Montag said in February. "The physical presence is good.
Ondoes not know how long Mr Montag himself will be present. In February, he said that given his age, at some point "they're going to kick me out of here." And in a note to some employees last July, he appeared optimistic about his career. "I came to New York to earn a few dollars, go back to Oregon and buy a house," he wrote. "Everything else was gravy.