* GSElevator creator spent most of banking career in Hong
* Twitter parody inspired by experience in Asian capital
* Book to be published later this year
By Steve Garton
HONG KONG, March 3 (IFR) - John Lefevre dialled in early to
a conference call from his desk high up in Citibank Tower in
central Hong Kong. He recorded his name as "UBS", put the line
on mute, and then dialled in again from another line, this time
correctly identifying himself as a Citigroup employee.
It was an important call, a discussion on the right price
for a rare offering of US dollar bonds from China Development
Bank, the state-owned Chinese policy bank. A large group of
bankers, both from Citigroup and the other managers, were on the
line, along with CDB's top financial officials, the people who
would ultimately be paying the banks to arrange the deal.
In the middle of the call, just as a senior CDB executive
was outlining his case for a better price on the deal, Lefevre
switched back to the first line and hung up. The automated voice
cut in: "Now leaving the call: UBS."
The timing of the prank was perfect, leaving the UBS
representatives rushing to reassure an annoyed client that they
were still on the line, and the rest of the syndicate group
laughing quietly at their rivals' misfortune.
Lefevre, the man behind a Twitter parody set in a Goldman
Sachs elevator, is already well-known to many in Asia's capital
markets. The former debt syndicate banker worked at Citigroup in
Hong Kong for much of his investment banking career, and now has
plans for a book detailing the excesses of Wall Street's finest
in the region's emerging markets.
He did not have to look far for anecdotes. Lefevre built an
impressive reputation at Citigroup, earning the respect of his
colleagues and peers for his ballsy pricing calls and smooth
salesmanship, but it was his hot temper and after-hours exploits
that earned him the nickname of "Fever".
Lefevre declined to comment for this article, but IFR
understands early drafts of Straight to Hell, due to be
published by Simon & Schuster this October, have focused mainly
on his own experiences, both in and out of the office. One
former colleague who claims to have seen a proof describes the
stories as "electric".
A book promising to lift the lid on the extravagant and
irresponsible lifestyles of expatriate bankers in Asia's growing
capital markets will make for awkward reading at a time when the
investment banking industry is still struggling to improve its
It will also raise further questions over bankers' inflated
salaries and bonuses, and the corrupting influence of money on
smart and ambitious young professionals.
BOND MARKET ROOTS
Lefevre, 34, was born in the UK but spent his childhood near
Houston, Texas. He attended a private boarding school on the US
East Coast - Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut -
and joined Citigroup as an analyst after graduating from Babson
College, Massachusetts, in 2001. He worked in New York and
London, before moving to Hong Kong in 2004, where he worked on
the bank's Asia debt syndicate desk until leaving in 2008.
In early 2009, he signed up as one of the first employees of
Amias Berman, a fixed-income boutique set up by Jeremy Amias and
Charlie Berman, two ex-Salomon, ex-Citigroup veterans. The firm
positioned itself as an alternative to the bulge-bracket banks,
aiming to win a share of bond trading and advisory business at a
time when the traditional Wall Street firms were scaling back.
After changes to its business model, it was eventually sold to
commodity brokerage Marex Spectron, and subsequently to debt
broker Seaport Group in late 2013, long after its two founders
had returned to major global institutions.
Lefevre quit Amias Berman in late 2010 for a debt syndicate
job at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong, but never took up the
position. He has since relocated to Texas and started a family.
The @GSElevator Twitter feed sprang from a conversation
between Lefevre and some former colleagues in a Hong Kong bar.
It offers amusing, often expletive-laden, and sexist exchanges
that it claims were overheard inside the elevators at Goldman
Sachs, and has clearly struck a chord with the social media
community's perception of investment bankers.
@GSElevator has 645,000 followers. Citigroup's official
Twitter feed has 251,000, Goldman's 134,000.
In the early days, Lefevre's online alter ego stayed closer
to the Asian bond markets, as in this tweet from October 2011:
#1: I always tell my Chinese clients, 'Being morally
bankrupt won't affect your credit rating.'
Indonesian issuers were another favourite target:
#1: Being held accountable for selling Indonesian corporate
bonds is like getting busted for prescribing OxyContin in
Whether or not the conversations really happened, they often
painted a damningly realistic picture of the gulf between the
financial community and the common man. As in this tweet:
[Cheung Kong lobby (the building housing Goldman Sachs's
Hong Kong office)] #1: EDs don't drive Aston Martins to work,
mate. Show some humility. #2: My driver was sick.
The @GSElevator account has since expanded into longer
posts, such as offering summer interns advice on how to behave
during their time at Goldman Sachs, and how to dress like an
More recent tweets have been more generic, if equally
cutting, but they perhaps offer an insight into the stories in
Lefevre's forthcoming book.
#1: You can get away with just about anything if you're
buying the drinks.