Working in finance with cancer: advice for Barclays' CEO
CS Venkatakrishnan, 'Venkat,' CEO of Barclays, has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a curable form of cancer. Although based in London, he has chosen not to seek treatment through the UK's NHS and will instead be treated for three to four months at the Memorial Kettering Center in New York City. In a letter staff posted on Barclays' website today, Venkatakrishnan said he'll be working during the period but maybe at home and won't travel for meetings.
One in two people get cancer during their lifetime and Venkat is not the only senior person in banking to develop the condition.
When Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan, developed throat cancer in 2014, he worked throughout his treatment. "I've been advised to rest," he said on an investor call. "But that doesn't mean that I won't be working...I do plan to work and I do plan to read and I do plan to be accessible."
Similarly, when Goldman Sachs' then-CEO Lloyd Blankfein was diagnosed with an aggressive but curable type of lymphoma in 2015, he too sent a letter to colleagues stating that he would not be travelling but would be "working substantially" throughout his treatment.
However, while it can be tempting to redouble your efforts at work following a cancer diagnosis, the disease can also be an opportunity to take stock. Yaajan Govindia, an associate on Goldman Sachs' private equity team who was diagnosed with cancer aged 15, has spoken at length about how the disease creates an opportunity to take stock. "Cancer caught me that life is short and how at any moment we or someone we love could be taken away, so don’t take time for granted," said Govindia. "No matter how much money or fame you have, time is the one thing you cannot get back. So make you’re spending it with people and on things that truly matter to you."
One of the most recent and most touching public battles with cancer in the financial services sector was that of Brenda Trenowden, the former FIG banker and PWC partner who died earlier this year. Trenowden blogged at length about her condition as she deteriorated, but kept working for as long as she could. This time last year, as she waited for surgery for a new bowel and abdominal wall, Brenda wasn't signed off. "If I’m off-camera on calls it is because I’m struggling to find a comfortable position to take them," she wrote. "It is difficult for me to sit upright, stand or walk for any length of time. I’m hoping that it will calm down in time and that I will get used to this new normal as it’s currently quite limiting."
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