Morning Coffee: The Deutsche Bank managing director who fell in love with a PA. Morgan Stanley trader's loss

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Morning Coffee: The Deutsche Bank managing director who fell in love with a PA. Morgan Stanley trader's loss

Harold, then

When Harold Leenen worked for Deutsche Bank, he had a reputation. Known for being "silent but deadly", he put himself outside the fray and remained watchful until the moment to act. It was intimidating and it worked: Leenan spent 17 years at Deutsche Bank and rose to become head of global transaction banking for the Middle East and Africa. He had a big house outside Frankfurt, and a conventional family life, married to a female banker.

However, when Leenen's marriage fell apart in his mid-40s, he did what many other senior men in banking do and fell in love with a personal assistant (PA). Sarah Simoni was PA to Deutsche's chief risk officer and was asked to look after the terrifying Harold when he was in London and her boss was in a meeting. They hit it off: "Somehow, we ended up drinking two bottles of wine, talking for hours and having a blast.” 

That was 2011. Harold and Sarah married in 2014, but theirs is not the standard story of banker-seduces assistant. Nowadays, Harold isn't a banker (although he would like to get back into the industry). Nor is he Harold: he's Alexandra. 

After meeting and marrying Sarah, Harold became a woman. He underwent gender affirmation surgery in November 2021 and has had hair transplants along with breast, nose and eye surgery. Six foot tall and with size eight feet, Alexandra is still immaculately dressed, but in Jimmy Choos and designer dresses instead of sombre, tailored suits. 

The Times ran Alexandra and Sarah's story on the weekend. They're still married, even though Sarah bemoans the disappearance of Alexandra's male genitals. "I loved him and it was part of him," she says of Harold's transition. "We were very open. All our friends knew and were totally accepting. There were no secrets.”

Alexandra says she had no choice but to stop being Harold. "Being transgender is not a choice. The only choices you have at your disposal are how you deal with it mentally and how you manage the process of your coming out. People, believe me when I say, I would much prefer to be a ‘normal bloke’," she wrote in a recent blog.  

Alexandra continued working in banking until 2019 and spent a year as group COO at a bank in Bahrain when she was still Harold. In her final year at Deutsche Bank, she would wear stockings and frilly knickers under her suit. 

For Alexandra, who came from a strict Catholic household of high-achieving brothers, Sarah - who came from a loving family and whose sister is a musician, helped him approach life differently. "Her life was all about friends and family," Alexandra observes. 

With her surgery complete, Alexandra is now in the UK and looking for a job. Some people are confused and have asked her if she's a relation of Harold's. A few former colleagues have indicated that they won't acknowledge her: “There are people I have known and worked with for years who cannot deal with me as I am now. They can’t accept it." Others are more open: "I deal with a lot of younger people in finance who have no problem and have been very supportive of me," Alexandra says.

Deutsche Bank may want to take note. The German bank urgently needs some new female staff. In its HR report, released last week, DB said it wants women to be 35% of its combined vice president, director and managing director populations by 2025. At the end of 2021, those proportions were 33%, 28% and 19% respectively. 

There is one senior woman who can help Deutsche reach that target. She's worked there for decades already; she's highly competent, and she's available now...

Separately, Hamza El Hassani, an equity derivatives trader at Morgan Stanley in New York has reportedly left the bank after making losses of less than $50m. Bloomberg suggests the losses relate to dividend trades and are associated with market turmoil relating to the war in Ukraine. SocGen lost €200m on dividend trades in the early days of the pandemic.  

Meanwhile... 

Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing's pay was up 20% to €8.8m last year.  (Financial Times) 

Goldman Sachs has been selling Russian debt to US hedge funds. (NBC News) 

BlackRock has taken about $17bn in losses on its Russian securities holdings because of the attack on Ukraine. (Financial Times) 

Gazprom Bank, which exceeds to service the financial needs of Gazprom, is largely untouched by sanctions. Payments for Europe's $70bn a year of gas imports need to keep going. (WSJ) 

The UK Financial Conduct Authority wants banks to provide detailed information on the companies and other structures used by wealthy Russians to hold their assets and move money across the world. Banks that don't comply will be viewed as failing to have the “open and transparent relationship" the regulator requires. (Financial Times) 

When Goldman Sachs reopened its office after Omicron in February, only 50% of staff turned up. (Fortune) 

Goldman Sachs' CEO is doubling down on in-office work. "Goldman Sachs is a highly, highly skilled, highly valued, group of people—that you’ve got to always be thinking about the things you do that make it a super-attractive place for people to want to work. But for us, that doesn’t mean that people can work from wherever they want to on whatever schedule they want to." (Fortune)

Bluecrest is offering its portfolio managers up to 30% of the profits they generate. (Bloomberg) 

JPMorgan is relocating some of its Hong Kong bankers to the Chinese mainland. Hong Kong’s “fly in, fly out model is currently broken”, said an executive close to JPMorgan. “Having bankers in Hong Kong to cover mainland China clients doesn’t make sense.” (Financial Times)

Dan Keegan, the former head of global equities at Citi, is leaving to start a fintech investment fund. (WSJ) 

Alex Kriete, co-head of digital assets at Citi, is leaving after less than a year to start his own crypto company. (Blockworks)

If you allow employees to adorn their cubicles with their own things and then you move them, they will become very annoyed. “I wanted to hit you.” (Financial Times) 

James Folger, the ex-Rothschild banker who set up his own houseplant business now has a turnover of £1m a year. "I developed increasingly severe anxiety, and used holiday time to travel into the wilderness to escape from the city." (Mirror) 

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

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