Thanks to All of You, Our Cups at Jefferies Are Three Quarters Full!
Today marks the beginning of Jefferies’ fourth quarter of 2020, and what a year it has been so far. We started the year with a record first quarter in what seemed like a healthy environment. Then, for almost all of the last six months, in the face of a frightening global pandemic, you have all done an outstanding job of staying focused, maintaining intensity, going beyond the call of duty to serve our clients, trying to remain healthy and doing your best to help friends and others in need. The fact that over 95% of you have now been doing this from your homes versus our offices for the past almost six months makes your accomplishments all the more remarkable. And because of all your dedication and performance, including during this busy summer, we will not only survive 2020, but truly advance Jefferies’ position in terms of how our clients and the world at large view our firm. As such, we thought we would share a few thoughts, comments and reminders as we begin our final fiscal leg of 2020:
We Will Continue to Prioritize Your Personal Safety. After too many setbacks and too much confusion, we are hopeful the world has learned how to best deal with this terrible disease called COVID-19. We must maintain a reasonable social distance whenever possible, wear masks when we cannot socially distance and constantly maintain meticulous hygiene. At Jefferies, we have said from the start that nobody will be pressured in any manner to return to our conventional offices until you yourself feel comfortable. With our collective hard work and productivity, we have given ourselves the luxury to maintain this important philosophy. That said, we know there are people keen to be back in their traditional offices for both business and personal reasons. We probably all feel that too much WFH is simply too much, as we all miss each other and at the end of the day, we all know we are more effective in person than on Zoom. There is also something to be said for not completely abandoning all the people who depend on us to keep cities thriving from an economic perspective. With these and other considerations, we will continue to allow those people who want to work in our corporate offices to do so, as long as we can continue to do this in a safe and orderly way. We don’t anticipate that being too difficult since we don’t expect too many people will choose to do so in the short term. Again, no person at Jefferies should feel an ounce of pressure to return to our offices. Each of you will make your own decision based on your individual facts and circumstances, whether it be co-morbidity issues for yourself or a family member, child-care obligations, or just because you don’t feel comfortable being outside your home or circle just yet. We expect a very gradual return only from those who are asking us to allow it and we expect this to naturally evolve over time as conditions get better or worse. Jefferies remains flexible and realistic, and our number one priority remains the safety of all of you, our business partners.
It Can’t All Be Moment-to-Moment. For many of us, the last almost six months has been about working in a one-person Jefferies home office, with what feels like non-stop calls and videos for more hours a day than many of us would like to admit. The Groundhog Day quality of it all makes workdays blur into each other and usually includes some parts of the weekends, such that every day feels like a long Tuesday. We have strongly encouraged each of you to take a block of time off to fully disconnect, even if there is nowhere for you to travel. We will continue to encourage each of you to “pace yourself” for the balance of the year and we implicitly trust that nobody will take unfair advantage of the mandate to take time away. If in doubt, disconnect. In addition to some time off, we are now going to ask each of you to spend some time in quiet reflection of your individual professional goals and aspirations that you want to accomplish in the next six months. In a world as volatile and complex as ours, that seems a reasonable amount of time for which you can plan and strategize. This is not mandatory, but our strong suggestion is for each of you to write down a small handful of specific professional goals for these next six months. This should be on only one page. We then encourage each of you to share this page and your goals with your immediate leader at Jefferies. While it is voluntary for you to write down a handful of goals, it is mandatory for every leader who receives a one pager from a direct report to sit down (at least via Zoom) promptly and have a constructive conversation about the goals, agenda and aspirations with the person who wrote them. This will allow for some structure, feedback and alignment with the person charged with helping your career development. If everyone spends fifteen minutes to half an hour discussing and clarifying goals and objectives, we will all reap the benefits.
But We Still Must Maintain Intensity. Our fourth quarter will include a U.S. Presidential Election and a change in weather corresponding with the start of the regular flu season. COVID-19 will still be with us. These facts could easily create enough volatility and uncertainty that might make these past six months feel calm. Nobody knows what will happen, but every one of us should know what we need to do. First, we need to protect each other by staying safe. Second, we need to make sure Jefferies is secure. This means that while maintaining our great momentum thanks to our robust liquidity and our outstanding human capital, our eyes must remain keenly focused on managing all possible risks. With our team and our firm healthy, we can continue in our fourth and final quarter of 2020 to focus on the reason we exist: serving our clients and helping them achieve their objectives. We should be fully engaged with creativity, a sense of urgency, knowledge, experience and capital to deliver insights and best execution to every one of our clients. If we all do our job well for these next three months and have a little luck, Jefferies’ performance for 2020 in the face of incredibly harsh conditions will be one of the greatest accomplishments in our firm’s history. We are not taking this for granted and certainly don’t want to jinx ourselves, but with zero arrogance and complete focus and intensity, we believe the opportunity is right in front of us to finish 2020 in a manner that should make every one of you, our partners, incredibly proud and happy.
We All Need To Thank Our Lucky Stars. We are two optimists at Jefferies and over the decades each of you has given us good reason to be so. Our cup is not just half full, in fact it is more than three quarters full, if not heading over the top. All of us at Jefferies need to realize this and truly appreciate it. We are functioning incredibly well as a virtual firm. Collectively, we rapidly navigated our firm to a position from which we are shining as we perform for our clients and other constituencies that depend upon us. As we look around the world and see all the wonderful organizations, both big and small, that have been monumentally negatively impacted by COVID-19, one cannot help but be overcome with gratitude at our good fortune. There are so many people in the world today who are living in terrible fear and experiencing serious pain. Most of these people are the ones who can least afford it because of the devastating manner this disease is disproportionately affecting society. Yes, COVID-19 has negatively affected every one of us and this is unfortunate for every member of the Jefferies family, but on a relative basis we have little to complain about. We are in a position to look forward and plan optimistically for the future. In fact, we recently asked each of you to fill out a survey about how you would like to see Jefferies innovate and adapt as a workplace in the future. In typical Jefferies fashion, 95% of you replied and we will soon be sharing the results and our conclusions with each of you. These plans will evolve as circumstances and opinions evolve and each of you can expect that it will be highly collaborative and based on the feedback each of you are providing. We are also working hard on the other initiatives that are so important to all of us, such as diversity and inclusion, career training, mentoring and the continual goal of improving Jefferies’ culture. We are still hiring new partners who broaden and deepen our capabilities, and it is clear we are in the enviable position to be playing offense in a defensive world. There will be no arrogance at Jefferies as we all fully recognize how fragile everything is and how quickly things can change for anybody, including us. That is why it is so important for all of us not only to be grateful and appreciative of all we have, but to also spend our time, energy and money giving back and helping those who are not as fortunate as we are today. We all know that this is a vital component of what makes Jefferies so special and why we care so much about the firm we have all built.
Welcome to our fourth quarter. We hope we have given each of you something to think about. The two of us will be with you every step of the way through this final quarter and much beyond, and nobody should hesitate to reach out whenever and wherever we can help. There is so much to do and we believe every one of the 4,000 of us are up to the challenge. Let’s do this together and put 2020 in the history books, and then we will get an even larger goblet for 2021.
Rich and Brian