By David French and Jessica DiNapoli
NEW YORK (Reuters) – No calls, no emails and no meetings.
That’s the order this week from Aquiline Capital Partners to its staff. The private equity firm is putting all employees on vacation, people familiar with the matter said.
It’s an unusual move intended to recognize employees and avoid burnout from the physical and mental pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic and the frenetic pace of dealmaking.
Aquiline has more than $6 billion in assets and over 60 employees in its New York headquarters and London office.
The firm has canceled all internal meetings for the week and told employees to refrain from calls, emails and chatroom messages, the sources said. If a company owned by Aquiline has an emergency, an employee will step in, one added.
Aquiline, founded in 2005 by Chairman and Chief Executive Jeff Greenberg, also plans to give all staff a second week off at the end of August, the sources added.
The move is a rare step in the high-stakes financial services industry which is confronting the mental health impact of intense work and pandemic stress.
Aquiline’s business of buying, operating and selling companies is typically not as frenzied as other corners of Wall Street, such as trading desks. But its decision stands out among private equity firms known for demanding long hours and hard work from their employees in exchange for rich paychecks.
Everyone switching off at the same time means people will be able to relax fully, knowing that developments at the office will not interrupt their vacation, the first source added.
The sources asked not to be identified because the policy has not been communicated externally. Aquiline, which invests in financial services companies, declined to comment.
The pandemic has prompted heightened awareness of Wall Street’s work-centered culture and its effects on physical and mental health. Workers have been speaking out, and employers have been experimenting with ways to reward staff as well as address stress and its effects.
“It’s definitely unusual,” Doug Haynes, president of Council Advisors, a consulting firm that works with top executives, said of Aquiline’s move.
He noted that remote work has made it harder for employers to spot when staff are showing signs of exhaustion, so more firms are thinking about policies to improve mental health.
These pandemic-related pressures come as dealmaking is booming for firms like Aquiline. Private equity-backed mergers and acquisitions reached an all-time high in the first half of 2021, according to data provider Refinitiv.
Among Aquiline’s deals so far in 2021 was an agreement to buy Aon’s U.S. retirement business.
(Reporting by David French and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)