Friday, 27 April 2012

" My brain and I have not met in weeks, its been a while, infact I am keeping it in a jar at home - saving it for special occasions"  words from my partner -in-crime, comrade-in-arms, my fellow compatriot in pain raging against the bank by the only we know how - Humor.
Now, the unique thing about the Investment banking industry is that nobody laughs here - if you smile or are happy, it must be 2 things - a) you are going to quit or b) it is bonus day and you hit jackpot. Apart from those 2 reasons - people dont smile and god forbid - if sound of laughter is heard over the floor, shocked glances are exchanged, eyes are rolled, disapproving looks come your way and it can only mean one thing - you are slacking and you have " CAPACITY ".  The dreaded word which basically means that your staffer can smell your free time by a mile and dump extra work on you which means that you are definitely not leaving before 2 am because " gasp, you laugh and look happy-this is just unnatural - we must change this situation At Once !!"

There are other very unique aspects about banking. But the most interesting part is the language that you use in order to impress upon others (normal people) that ofcourse, we are a far superior race with fancy jargon of our own. I did a mini survey amongst the mutually frustrated associates around and here are a few of my personal favorites -

  1. "Do you have capacity? " - This horrible question can be posed at any given time and day but very often comes at a Friday evening at 5pm when you have already checked out mentally and are dreaming of getting out of office. This question essentially means that you will be spending your Friday night & most of the weekend at work, cursing the holy trinity who set Monday morning meetings assuming some poor slave will obviously set aside his/her life to create yet another meaningless presentation which will most likely end up as fancy and glossy toilet paper for the client.
  2. " Only requires 20% associate time " -  This is a tricky one - this is the project every associate is lulled into taking because he/she thinks it will require minimal effort, can dump everything on the analyst and be cruising out of office at 8pm - bzzzzzzzzzzzz - WRONG Answer!! This is usually when the staffer has no clue about what the actual project is, how much time and effort is actually needed, is usually for a very painful MD and it most likely will translate into 120% associate time. 
  3. " You should take a first crack at this " - The most hated one - I do truly loathe this one, this usually comes from the level above you when they couldnt be bothered to use their brain for which they are apparently paid a truckload of money for. This is also commonly used by the sadists that love to see you scramble, make an ass out of yourself by attempting to create material you dont know anything about,for a client you dont care about and then give you a billion comments to prove to you that you know nothing. But I am convinced it helps boost their own self-esteem.  If you are an Associate who learnt this technique the hard way, you shall apply this with your analyst especially when you want to avoid weekend work - I too have used it successfully in the past. 
  4. " You can hold the master on this/ you should run point from here/why dont you hold the pen on this" - All very fancy ways of saying - You Bl#$dy Well Need To Do All the Work 
  5. " Do we have a horse yet" -  Now this one truly perplexed me when one of the MD's sent an email around to entire team asking this question on a deal I was staffed on . As the overzealous new Associate who had just joined the team, I was keen to reply " Well, i actually dont know how to ride  and cant really afford a horse, but can check around if you like ...". Luckily, I thought better of it and asked one of the more experienced associates what this means. Its translates into - wait for it ... " Do we know who the lead advisor is " - how is ANYONE supposed to infer that??! I did imagine what my MD would have thought had he actually gotten my earlier response- I dont think I would have lasted very long in the bank after that. 
  6. " Look, get some rest/dont kill yourself - but we need to have this by tomorrow morning at the latest" - Oh, this one is a real favourite when your MD is trying to be the humanitarian. After you have virtually killed yourself for days on some meaningless piece of analysis and he sort of feels sorry after seeing your disheveled  exhausted and completely fatigued sorry state but yet wants work done.  In my opinion, it is essentially to prevent a potential lawsuit incase I collapse or die on the premises. This way, he can cover his ass and say " well, I told her to go home u know ..." but secretly will think  " Such an inconvenience - she died on the job, who is going to remove the body now .... "
There are many others which definitely warrant a special mention - 
  1. Its not urgent but lets have it by Monday (obviously said to you on a Friday)
  2. We need this ASAP 
  3. We should reach for the low-hanging fruit (senior ppl LOVE this one)
  4. Just so you know .... 
  5. Are you comfortable with the numbers? 
  6. Lets make some money! 
P.S. I realised that I need to add a glossary of terms and explain the hierarchy of the holy trinity for the uninformed of the banking world,so very simply - 
MD - Managing Director (Big Kahuna)
ED - Executive Director/ Principal (Little less powerful than Big Kahuna)
VP - Vice President (Completely irrelevant and useless - potential seat of power but unsure of how to use it/inexperienced. They have to try very hard to assert any authority and are under constant threat of being usurped by very smart Associates)
Associate - Slave 
Analyst - Smallest fish in the pond/ the bottom of the bottom feeders/ women before the right to franchise was introduced - no rights, no power, no life - period. 

Next post - Key protagonists of any bank 

Hasta pronto 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

So for introductions - I'm a recent MBA graduate working for a bulge bracket investment bank in the City. The reason why I write this blog is two fold - the first is that I think my family and close friends are tired of me complaining about my job so I think its time I vented it elsewhere and the second is - today I read an article about an analyst in an investment bank who quit his job, followed his passion and became a musician and is actually happy !! Now I don't really have any apparent talent but I can string together a few sentences in English - so I thought - well, let me try my hand at writing.

Now for those who actually enjoy their investment banking jobs - then this blog is clearly not for you. You are definitely going to get offended and will put up comments like - I'm generalizing, patronizing and condescending so save yourself the heartburn and go on to the " IBD for Fun" webpage or something. For all those - who feel that they actually sit in the bank and ask themselves everyday, sometimes exasperated and many times very depressed " what am I doing here " - then stick around.

For those who are uninitiated into the world of investment banking - now, I'm not an expert having been around only almost a year, but I think that's more than enough time to see things for what they are. I promise to not be another Greg Smith (a.k.a the person who made muppet and Goldman Sachs common parlance) and take 12 years to realize the heinousness of the bank and banking industry. As a junior banker - you spend more time in office than at home (the day they provide beds at work - I can promise you that 80% of the bankers would move out of homes, can you imagine what that does to our take home pay - no longer do I have to spend 50% of my salary in rent - woohoo!!), your weekends and holidays are forfeit, where knowledge of whether you get to go out for dinner or get your Saturday night free is like predicting the lottery and most often you are wrong (you hope you get it free until your wretched MD/ED/ VP ask you to take a " first crack at the presentation/model/document") and where more than 70% of your time is spent bitching and complaining about your lunatic bosses, socially inept colleagues, sleep deprivation and generally bad food and lifestyle.

But the one thing you do learn and that is a very important lesson, when and if you do get free time - how to make the most of that time. You tend to cram in 20 things all in that time to make yourself feel as alive as you possibly can and experience as much joy (shortlived as that may be). I don't think I have met a single " happy " banker, I think they are a myth - like unicorns and the Yeti, perhaps they are out there - somebody must have met them - but not me.

But how can you be? When you are at work 15 - 20 hours a day battling with excel and powerpoint - its not really what you would call a meaningful existence. Add to that the holy trinity of MD/ED/VP - who have been put on this earth with the sole purpose of ruining your personal life - then your daily emotions fluctuate between consternation (e.g. We have a " sit-down" on Friday evening at 7 pm to discuss a deliverable due on Wednesday) to frustration (e.g. This is the 100th version of the presentation in our attempt to reach world records of excellence because the previous 99 versions werent " good enough ") to finally murderous rage (e.g. - when your MD comes and tells you - " Guys, we need to re-build this excel model from scratch - the assumptions you used were wrong and yes, you ll have to spend the weekend on this".)

However, a lot of what is written is tongue and cheek - there are normal people in the bank (very few - but they do exist) and those are people you are likely to bond with. So like in all firms - boss bashing is a favourite activity, however in banks the humor tends to take a turn towards the perverse where the most outlandish ways of expressing dissatisfaction solicit the most laughs from the generally humor deprived exhausted souls.

For e.g. - the thought of taking a dump at your staffer's desk is talked about with great relish and the kind of food one must ingest to produce the right quality and quantity is a focal point of discussion.
Another is sexual proclivities and the amount of action your MD/ED/VP gets - it is obviously very limited since they take great pleasure in screwing the junior bankers at work instead metaphorically ofcourse.

Commonly swapped stories are " how painful is your MD" / " how intense is that VP" " how many useless mark-ups and iterations does your ED provide ". It is common to start a project and ask your analyst about the MD in question i.e. how painful he is and type of comments he provides. Responses ranging from " very light (huge sigh of relief with visible outtake of breath) to " OMG - he is f#$ing insane (sinking feeling in stomach) will determine your stress levels and frustration for the next few weeks and months.

So, this was just the primer written on the few nights that I actually came back at a reasonable hour (read as 11pm). Hopefully, I am able to keep this up.

Till next time,