Thursday, 26 July 2012

So they fired one of my favourite bosses last week.  He was widely known as one of the nicest people in the bank, whose style of working was so relaxed that there would be a queque of people ready to work with him. Largely pain-free and never the one to create additional work, it was mostly a stress-free experience to work for him.

So clearly, the process of being and staying as MD is quite self-selecting - the nicer you are, the less likely you are to survive. What about the plethora of political a$%holes posing as " senior management" OR the paranoid and pyschotic micro-managers who if they could would track with you a GPS and plant a camera in your ass for good measure - When are they ever asked to leave?

The bank's excuse is if you are not bringing in money, we are not doing charity. Fair enough - when these MD's are being paid the equivalent of a small fortune, you better be milking some gullible fool who is commonly called as a " client".

However, how about giving equal weightage in performance evaluation to leadership, team management and mentoring skills? Surely, to be a senior executive, people skills are as relevant, where employee engagement and motivation should be as important as retaining your clients.

In an environment where we work as hard as we do, it is almost shocking but I have not had even one conversation with any of my line managers about my " career path" or " goal -setting" or " developmental plan".  Whatever limited conversations you do have are fleeting, cursory and a mere formality. Consequently, when you see the few role models that you could try and emulate get fired, your motivation to stick around is severely reduced.

As one MD rightly hung a poster on his wall saying " I work for money, if you want loyalty - get a dog." 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Now this post is to understand & evaluate why there are such few women in the world of M&A - this is a question which has perplexed me for the longest time I have been here.

The adverse sex-ratio in a bank such as mine is not new or uncommon. However, with all the talk on breaking glass ceilings and ensuring women rise to the top, there is very little done to retain female talent. While recruiting in business school, there is definitely a big push to recruit more female Associates, that being said - that does not mean a less qualified woman would be hired over a man. It merely means that between two equally qualified candidates - being a woman could give you a slight advantage in a banking interview.

However, once you join it is a level playing field - sometimes a bit too level.  There are certain traits that I observed about the women who make it to senior management in an investment bank - a) they are extremely aggressive and dominating b) there is an obvious effort to subdue their femininity and c) they tend to be harsher and less empathetic than their male counterparts.

This I think stems from an inherent need to succeed in an testosterone - fueled environment, where any weakness or any display of feminine traits are seen as you being less capable or not up to the challenge. In order to succeed as a banker particularly in M&A - the sacrifices and hours that a person needs to put in to climb the proverbial ladder to success is I think physically and emotionally taxing particularly for a woman. After a point of time- she starts to think marriage, kids and of slowing down - which is a complete anti-thesis to being a cut-throat banker.
Not to say it can't be done - there are a few examples of women who made it to MD level albeit with an army of nannies and having multitude of stay-at-home husbands.

The question that begs to be asked if whether - can we ever have a Marissa Mayer type woman lead an Investment Bank, who embraces her femininity and carries her pregnancy as a talisman while steering a Fortune 500 company? For all talk about banks being equal opportunity employers - probably not!! 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

An interesting incident at work is the inspiration for two posts in the same day. So, there was a fire scare in office today with the lady over the PA system going berserk claiming " There is a fire in the building, please note, there is a fire in the building ". The range of reactions from the zombies at work was between mild curiosity & indifference to utter disregard while they continued to dial away on conference calls, toil away on excel sheets and change chart colors on power point slides.

After 5 minutes of the unrelenting fire alarm - I look over at the only other sane person in the bank (my dear partner in crime), we decide that our lives are too precious to be wasted on asphyxiation and we decided to walk out of the building. On the way, being good samaritans, we also urged other co-workers/drones to perhaps heed to the incessant instructions. Some of the interesting responses that we got were - Cant you see I am in the middle of something or even better - You guys go ahead, I need to send something out.  Those last words were accompanied with a patronizing eyeball roll and " God, these guys are paranoid". 

So once we got out of office and made our way to the bar on exactly the other side of our famed building, we positioned ourselves with beers to patiently await the scenes of utter disaster since this was clearly the most exciting thing to happen to us all year. 
Imagining complete destruction and actually thinking - perhaps some people did need some good ol smoke up their arses, we played out dramatic scenes of bankers jumping out of the building, making jokes about fire marshals not willing to save us since we were not " innocent civilians" , wat we would do if someone was choking - the common consensus was that it depend on who was choking .... 

Alas, it just happened to be a false alarm - eventually, we all trooped back to office albeit a bit disappointed but clearly relieved to have a pretext for a drink at 4 pm on an idle Wednesday afternoon .... Such is  the high-rolling lives of bankers .....

" Oh, it was my birthday last week and I totally forgot " that beautiful phrase was uttered by a VP at work. While the rest of us stared at him in shocked silence, he said it with a small frown on his face as if contemplating the sheer futility and inconveniences of occasions such as birthdays, weddings and funerals. But the sad part of that statement was not that he forgot his own birthday but the fact that NOBODY else remembered it either !!! Not your own parents, your partner, close friends - no one remembered or bothered to call to even remind you - now that is truly depressing. It is an incredible feat to have an existence so isolated from people that not one person on this planet wanted to celebrate the day you were put on this earth !

So today's discussion was on introducing awards for the " Most Screwed Up Banker" - they would be named after recently deposed CEO's or out of favor Chairmans such as " The Bob Diamond award" or " Jamie Dimon Badge of Honor". Criteria for nomination would be ranging from - least amount of integrity,highest level of dishonesty, exemplary levels of social awkwardness, intellectual limitations, lowest levels of EQ, complete lack of leadership skills etc etc. I would nominate the above featured banker as a front runner but by all means, he will not be alone - he will be in esteemed company since there are many who would comfortably qualify for these awards. It will be a competitive process and a truly nail-biting race to the finish.

However, thats not to say that everyone in the bank is devoid of social skills - there are some duly charismatic, socially adept and highly intelligent bankers out there. There are also some junior bankers as well who want to essay the roles of leaders and take it upon themselves to practise their new found leadership skills on you. Some of them will utter real gems of wisdom in their attempts to motivate you out of your stupor - they almost see themselves as Messiah's guiding you to the holy land when they say things like

1. You are my flock and it is my job to take care you
2. I am your protector - so never fear to approach me. If you dont talk to me - I cant help you
3. If I could instill your values in every person in this firm, the world would be a better place
4. I can place my hand on my heart and assure you that you are one of the most valuable resources that we have
5. Life has a real design for you - but dont fight it, put your head down and work through these tough times

Now all of the above have been said when these people have screwed you over in some way or the other and they obviously confuse you for having the mind-space of a goldfish or a potted plant.

It is incredibly amusing to see how the people who work in instititions such as mine have enveloped themselves so completely in this bubble. I guess when you spend so much time at work - it is but natural(?) to allow yourself to be so completely consumed. Some ofcourse are more susceptible than others.

For the last 2 weeks I have been leaving at 7 pm and sometimes (gasp!!) even 5 pm in the evening (function of not being staffed) - I discovered there is a whole world out there - surprise surprise! It is wonderous to see the life through the eyes of  "regular " people. It truly is a novel experience ......