Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Investment banking attracts a certain kind of people - ambitious, highly motivated, driven and of course extremely sharp individuals. What's interesting is as the years progress, they  begin to drop by the dozens - analysts classes become smaller, associate pool starts to shrink as  many of those same individuals decide they want to pursue something else. Apart from going to PE - which is largely similar to the environment they have previously left, I am curious to know how they adjust back to the real world.

For e.g. - in my current role, I have a lot to be thankful for and have no complaints- I have good hours, ample vacation time and non-working weekends. What I was unprepared for was the sheer amount of time, one has to spend navigating the treacherous waters of politics and wading the murky realms of subtle manipulations and human interaction.

When you are in investment banking - the cut-throat directness and ruthlessness leaves little room for subtlety. When your MD wants a " book" by tomorrow or a client needs a deliverable, you deliver it - there is no room for interpretation, he doesn't care whether you like it or not - there is no " stakeholder engagement" , no negotiations, no buy-ins needed. Even as an Associate or a VP - you may have a team of analysts under you but one doesn't really " manage" them apart from direct/review their work like a drill-sergeant. Your appraisal process is a formality and your bonus number gives you an indication of whether you go up or out. One doesn't really learn how to deal with people.
It seems even the politics at the senior level of an investment bank are more direct. The razor sharp intellect and the pointedness which makes for great bankers don't necessarily make for great politicians.  As a result, you see so many investment bankers make major media faux pas, and then multiple town-halls and apologies later, they are sometimes redeemed (remember Lloyd Blankfein's - " we are doing God's work").
Furthermore, confrontation in an I-bank is more of a lion-gazelle encounter, where authority is clearly established and eventually you as the gazelle (after a few protests) quietly submit. The threat is visible and palpable. However, what is more insidious is when you are softly grazing in the grasslands and suddenly get stung in your backside by a giant and dangerous honey-bee.

So, what is interesting to see is how extremely bright and smart people surrounded by rather average people get blind-sided. Now, logically - one would shine and stand out and put everyone to shame. Not True - the same diligence and professionalism that you earlier prided is no longer well-regarded, intellect is termed as arrogance, fast decision-making is considered reckless and brash. Mediocrity is beautifully camouflaged by meaningless words, lack of intellect is compensated by machiavellian scheming, inaction is explained as patient and thoughtful analysis, incompetence is claimed to be  measured effort and efficiency is over-rated.
Now, I see a lot of ex-bankers and consultants around and they seem to grapple with all of the above issues, some previously left and went back to the old way of life claiming " politics consumed them" ...however, what we need to learn is how to re-wire and un-learn certain skills and learn the art of "people management" ... a skill we lost or never learnt in the race to deliver pitchbooks and close deals .... 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

So when your interview gets published by the Guardian, clearly there is some interest - but what I couldn't predict or entirely comprehend was the sheer reach and global audience of the article, which of course did wonders for my blog readership. Over the last 3 days, my blog views have gone up by more than 400%, of course, when you initially measure it from a base of barely 20 readers, it does seem like a lot !! What was more interesting to see the page views came from all over the world - from Haiti to Taiwan, either those poor souls accidentally clicked on the link, quickly got bored and decided to leave or they actually dedicated some precious moments of their life to reading my words - for which I would like to thank them for. 

For all those who have expressed an interest in this blog, it is heartening. The scale of  global banking has ensured that not only is there a commonality between banking professionals across the world but also a common thread of experiences which ties us all together. 

I will continue to write about my experiences on the other side of the banking world and other sundry life events. However, it would be interesting to hear other M&A and other banking related experiences across the world. A lot of what I write is tongue-in-cheek - so it would be great to hear experiences in the same vein!

One thing that warrants to be said is that even though I left the world of investment banking happily enough -  I really did meet some interesting characters which led to this blog! Clearly - those muses for inspiration are no longer there - so here is to meeting some more of the same .... err... or maybe not ;) !