Banker Deaths Leave Industry Concerned as Coroners Probe

Bloomberg – by Ben Moshinsky

Coroners in London are preparing to investigate two apparent suicides as unexpected deaths by finance workers around the world have raised concerns about mental health and stress levels in the industry.

The inquest into the death of William Broeksmit, 58, a retired Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) risk executive found dead in his London home in January, will start tomorrow. The inquest for Gabriel Magee, a 39-year-old vice president in technology operations at JPMorgan Chase (JPM) & Co., who died after falling from the firm’s 33-story London headquarters, is scheduled for late May.  

The suicides were followed by others around the world, including at JPMorgan in Hong Kong, as well as Mike Dueker, the chief economist at Seattle-based Russell Investment Management Co. The financial world’s aggressive, hard-working culture may be hurting itself, professionals advising on mental health in the industry say.

At greatest risk are “those who have not cultivated friendships, networks, outside of their company,” said Stewart Black, professor of global leadership and strategy at IMD, a business school in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“A lot of executives keep their nose down, work hard, do great work and don’t really cultivate extra networks,” he said. “Those broader networks act as safety valves.”

Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

The offices of JPMorgan Chase & Co., center, stand among city skyscrapers in the Canary…Read More

Banks are starting to realize the scale of the problem, said Peter Rodgers, chairman of the City Mental Health Alliance, which counts Morgan Stanley (MS) and Bank of America Corp. among its members.

Cultural Change

When the group was set up last year banks, law firms and accountants including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), Linklaters LLP and KPMG LLP, “no one in the City was really talking” about mental health, Rodgers said. Now they have 18 firms on their list, including the Bank of England, the central bank.

The banking sector has “seen a number of initiatives” to improve staff well-being but they “need to be accepted by a cultural change at the very top,” said Rodgers, who is also deputy general counsel at KPMG.

Magee’s family didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. Ed Adler, a spokesman for the New York-based Broeksmit Family Foundation, also didn’t return a call seeking comment. Kathryn Haynes, spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank in London, and Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan, declined to comment.

Finance “does tend to have a long-hours culture,” said Emma Mamo, who leads workplace initiatives at Mind, a U.K. mental health charity. “People can’t keep doing long hours; you need perspective and downtime.”

‘Finest Minds’

Broeksmit died on Jan. 26 at his home in Chelsea, west London, according to a memo to employees obtained by Bloomberg News. Police said he was found hanging and they aren’t treating the death as suspicious.

“He was considered by many of his peers to be among the finest minds in the fields of risk and capital management,” Deutsche Bank’s co-CEOs Anshu Jain and Juergen Fitschen wrote in the memo. They said Broeksmit was “instrumental as a founder of our investment bank.”

Dueker was found dead at the side of a highway that leads to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington state, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. He was 50.

The reviews into the deaths of Broeksmit and Magee will be overseen by a coroner, whose role is to question witnesses and police to determine where, when, how and why sudden or unexplained deaths occur, including suicides.

Magee’s inquest will be held by Mary Hassell, the coroner who said practices at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s London office may have been a factor in the death of 21-year-old intern Moritz Erhardt from an epileptic seizure last year.

5 A.M. E-Mail

“It may be that Moritz had been working so hard that his fatigue was a trigger for the seizure that killed him,” Hassell said at the Nov. 23 inquest. “But that is only a possibility.”

Erhardt was found unconscious in a shower at Claredale House, a student residence in East London, on Aug. 15. His parents told the coroner that their son contacted them the day before his death in a 5 a.m. e-mail and that they were worried he was working too hard and sleeping too little.

Hassell questioned Juergen Schroeder, Erhardt’s development officer at Merrill Lynch, about whether working late was necessary in investment banking.

“There is a general expectation in our profession,” Schroeder said.

Weekends Off

Bank of America told staff on Jan. 10 its junior bankers should take some weekends off. Christian Meissner, head of global corporate and investment banking at the lender, said in a memo to employees that analysts and associates should “take a minimum of four weekend days off per month.”

JPMorgan, which has had at least two suicides so far this year, isn’t a member of the City Mental Health Alliance and hasn’t publicly announced measures to deal with the aftermath of the deaths.

“JPMorgan haven’t come forward to us and we haven’t approached them either,” Rodgers said. “There’s a period of mourning. The last thing they need is us sticking our heads in. I’m confident they will come forward.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Moshinsky in London at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.netLindsay Fortado, Peter Chapman

3 thoughts on “Banker Deaths Leave Industry Concerned as Coroners Probe

  1. Why no mention that all these bankers committing suicide were scheduled to testify in Forex, Libor and other bank crimes or were otherwise involved in the systems used in committing these crimes? Also of note; no mention of the one banker who committed suicide by shooting himself multiple times in the head and torso with a nail gun and how about the other creative suicide where the victim repeatedly fell backwards on a knife? Call them suicides if you must but the mentally ill are probably not the ones dying, they are the ones trying to cover up their crimes against the world economies by terminating those that can expose them for who they are; criminals and traitors.

  2. The closer you get to the psychopaths you either join them or I guess like these bankers if you can’t stomach it you throw yourself out the window. Our financial system set up by the Federal Reserve has ruined many lives. But we all know it was designed that way. This is the cattle system these psychopaths set up many years ago and they will keep running it as long as they can keep getting away with it. This is the way these people think. As long as we can get away with it we don’t care. And if they are doing something criminally wrong we will just have the politicians and the courts change the laws so it will be ok to screw over and destroy lives.

  3. Oooh.. poor bankers, I guess raping and pillaging the financial sector and stealing other people’s money can be stressful. For sure they work long hours and take few days off, they stand to lose too much money. Poor them, perhaps with the next bailout we can earmark more money to pay for psychiatrists and masseuses. I hope they all jump, down to the last bank president. I would rather see them hung in the public square, but jumping works for me too. The sooner the better! I know, I know, they were “assisted” suicides. Just saying…

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *