Morning Coffee: Deutsche Bank's new office is set up for spying on staff, but it's ok. Sam Bankman Fried’s curious dietary incongruities
It's been a while since anyone has paid much attention to Deutsche Bank's newish New York office. The photographs of executives in hard hats have stopped coming, things have returned to normal after the lockdowns, and - Thanksgiving excepted - DB people are hard at work and enjoying their balcony with a view over Central Park.
Metropolis Magazine has not forgotten, though. Metropolis Magazine has this week got a full spread on the interior of the Deutsche Bank NYC office with its green walls, spiral staircases and daytime leisure lounge come nighttime pool hall. It's a "prescient" place, it gushes. When you're at Deutsche's New York office, “work isn’t only about the desk.” The green walls lend vitality. The spiral staircases give a twist.
There are other futuristic elements too. The new office has its own 'Bluetooth-enabled internal GPS system, which can be used by employees to simplify wayfinding as they move across floors.' There are sensors beneath desks to check when they're used. Traders will be one day able to travel from seat to seat by virtue of having their trading desks in the cloud; they'll get to meet and to mentor new people.
It all sounds very 2025 and is probably a prelude to what's coming in London, where Deutsche Bank is opening a new Moorgate office sometime soon. However, anyone familiar with the office technology debate may notice a few familiar and contentious tropes. Desk scanners, for example, have long been a source of complaint from employees who think they're used to spy upon the amount of time they sit at their desks. Barclays tried to introduce them in London a few years ago and was forced to remove them when people objected. JPMorgan was subject to numerous employee spying allegations (mostly from Business Insider) earlier this year by virtue of something called “Workforce Activity Data Utility” which monitors its use of offices, among other things.
It's not clear whether there have been complaints at DB, but in the wrong hands, the 'Bluetooth-enabled internal GPS system' could presumably be put to use tracking how much time employees spend in the washroom or how often they visit the coffee station and the speed with which they walk across the floor.
This won't be happening. Much as JPMorgan's new system is simply about collecting data on "physical facilities, equipment and systems and support efforts in relation to business efficiency" according to the bank, Metropolis Magazine says Deutsche Bank's sensors are just about space management. That's good, because they're the kind of thing that's spreading across the industry and will be coming soon to a desk near you.
Separately, the tension between Sam Bankman-Fried's public persona of a simple guy in shorts with a beanbag for a bed and his private persona of a megalomaniac with multiple deluxe properties in the Bahamas and a semi-harem-sounding assortment of female mathematicians is reflected in the dietary details imparted in the latest article on his lifestyle, this time in the Washington Post.
When a Dubai video blogger visited SBF in his sterile 'penthouse of incredible opulence' with a grand piano and gleaming balcony, he noted that the FTX CEO liked to hang about next to a fridge filled with vegan egg whites, says the Post. But SBF also threw private parties serving 'feast of lobster' and seemingly liked ingesting uppers and downers in the style of a '50s housewife. In 2019, for example, he tweeted that success was borne of, “stimulants when you wake up, sleeping pills … when you sleep,” plus naps on the office beanbag to stay in “work mode.” There are suggestions that the in-office coach/therapist helped procure girlfriends to ease things along, although the therapist tells us this wasn't true.
While SBF was treating life like a video game and food like the mushrooms on Mario Brothers, investors were totally taken in. "He stood out in the right way, like, ‘Oh, I’m so disheveled. I’m coding all day. I don’t even have time to put on pants,’” one crypto VC tells the Post. Had they paid more attention to his curious diet, they might have realized something was astray.
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