Opinion | Why Must Wall Street Return to the Office?

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To the Editor:

Re “You Can’t Learn the Art of Closing the Deal on Zoom,” by William D. Cohan (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 18):

Mr. Cohan’s cherished deal-making rooms are simply old boys’ clubs: centers of power dominated by white men and their personal networks.

While personal networks still matter in most areas of business, the internet has diffused some of this power. You no longer need entrance to a physical country club or Harvard Club meeting room if you can connect with decision makers online, on virtual networks like LinkedIn.

None of this is new to the Covid era. For the last decade at least, companies have been negotiating partnership agreements and sales deals remotely, because their clients are all over the United States and all over the world. For many years now, start-ups have been raising capital from venture capital firms on the other side of the country and the other side of the world, with countless presentations made and deals concluded over Zoom.

As civilization and society move toward a better and more equitable future, do we really want to return to “the yelling” and “the alpha male mind games” of Mr. Cohan’s Wall Street era? The fact that “you can’t suck up on a Zoom call” doesn’t seem like a terrible loss to the future of work either.

Rahul D’Silva
St. Petersburg, Fla.
The writer worked at a global investment firm in New York and with start-ups and global tech brands including Amazon, Apple and Twitter.

To the Editor:

I spent over three decades as a mergers and acquisitions partner at Skadden, Arps, and am an adjunct lecturer at Columbia Law School teaching “Negotiating M.&A. Transactions.”

William D. Cohan’s article about deal-making via Zoom is 100 percent correct. You cannot whisper into your client’s ear: “Your counterpart is wrong! Let’s pause and talk in the hallway.”

I’ve tried texting alternatives to chief executives in real time while negotiating on Zoom. Clever idea? Yes, but unworkable in reality.

Misunderstandings, both with your client and the other party, occur, since you would never convey sensitive information to your client on a Zoom call for all to see and hear. It can harm the positive vibes and trust necessary to sign and close a complex deal.

Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan and David Solomon of Goldman Sachs are right to insist that employees show up in the office and should be thanked for doing so.

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