The immense Day In The Life Of A Bitter Investment Banker email that the National Post covered yesterday has arrived for your reading pleasure. It's pretty fucking grim — makes us feel a little bit better about our liquor-bottle-strewn sweatshop.
Undergraduate recruiting: four months of Holden Caulfield
s personal hell. An itchy crotch from your uncle
s hand-me-down mohair suit, sweaty palms doused with baby powder, shots of vodka at eight in the morning. Phony hungry dismissive smiles. Struggling in vain to recall superfluous names. A pamphlet shoved into your hand. An Asian/Black/Hispanic man and woman huddled before a sleek Titanium PowerBook, now walking down a corridor smiling. About what? Perhaps the presentation; it
s really very good, you see. It
s got fonts sliding around. Pretty pictures. It
s gonna rock the financial world. Or maybe they
re just happy to be in each other
s multicultural company. Below the picture, the Asian/Black/Hispanic man or woman describes, in titillating detail, a Day in the Life of an Investment Banker.
9:00 , A meeting with my Managing Director and the CEO of a major aerospace firm! We
're advising on a comprehensive corporate restructuring! All this after only three months!
12:30 , Grab a vegetable wrap and fruit salad from the food court! Must stay healthy! Eating on the run because I
ve got to be at the airport in two hours! We
re jetting off to British Columbia to pitch several logging companies! I
ve never been to British Columbia!
Sixteen months later. It
s all crap. There
s no Asian/Black/Hispanic employed at your bank except the one who comes every Thursday to shine shoes. Excluding assistants, only 4% of the
professionals, are women. You knew about the sub-culture right from the get go, of course, had heard angst-ridden stories from those who graduated a year or two above you, weren
t oblivious to interviewers snickering when asked what you thought the hours of the job would be. Still, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you thought you could transcend these brutal norms, carve out a niche of happiness while rolling in the big bucks.
You go to these recruiting events now. You smile and shake sweaty palms. You distribute pamphlets of people who look so bland they couldn
t even model in J.C. Penny catalogues. At times you slip into a mindset you know is a product of environmental forces
surrounded by all these desperate A-type over-achievers in a dismal economy, you
re actually pleased to have your job. A warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment for a minute or two. Then stepping outside to have a smoke, immersed in a circle of pompous
ber-nerds adjusting their Blackberry holsters, you want to scream uncontrollably, bellow so it reverberates all the way down the street, to throw your head back and burst into flame.
Instead, you grunt, down your martini. A tap on your shoulder. One of the recruits. He
s smiling broadly. Man, you
re so lucky. This is exactly what I want to do. I really want this. I want it soooo bad. You can
t deal with him, not at the moment. You take a piece of paper from your pocket and thrust it in his hand before heading back inside. It
s your Day in the Life of an Investment Banker.
Alarm goes off. I
ve told myself I
m going to start working out in the mornings. All those late night Subway M&M cookies. A quick calculation , two hours and fifteen minutes of sleep. Not too shabby. Only five or six coffees required to get myself out of bed. That beeping noise; there must be a bunch of sound technicians tinkering away in a room trying to find the perfect frequency to completely crush your soul.
8:20 , Shit. That infernal Pavlovian pushing of the snooze button. Ten minutes until I
ve got to be at a pitch. Can
t remember what it
s about though stayed up until four in the morning cranking it out.
8:40 , The Star printed out the books. He
s one of the analysts who sits in my nook of the office. The guy you want to hate but can
t find a reason to do it. He
s simply too nice. Able to work ungodly lengths on no sleep and still has this beatific grin every morning. The Star is passionately in love with investment banking. You
ll be talking to him about this movie you managed to squeeze into your weekend and all of a sudden he
ll have this eerie smile, he
ll rock back and forth on his toes, blurt out, We
re so damn lucky. You roll your eyes. In deadpan serious, No, I mean, how perfect is this, Can you really see yourself doing anything else? Try sleeping, buddy.
Oh god. Glaring error on page 17 of the pitch book. Forgot to convert Canadian dollars into U.S.
classic analyst f*ck-up. I
ve also got to pee. Pee real bad. Client has his eyes half-closed; he
s not even paying attention. The Sycophant, my VP, sits across from me. Client says something. The Sycophant responds, Oh yes, that
s spot on, you really hammered that point across perfectly. Client says something else. The Sycophant says, That
s brilliant, a truly remarkable observation. Even Client cringes. Page 16 of the book. One page away from the Client
s eyes snapping open, suddenly acutely aware of things, a loud and brusque, What the hell is this
The Sycophant reduced to a weeping mess, groveling at his feet. At least it might distract me from my bladder.
m going to piss myself.
d gladly give up my full bonus for one adult diaper. Half my bonus for a plastic bottle.
Way too close.
Starbucks. Buy the Star a consolatory cappuccino for printing out the books.
The Star really saved your ass this morning, eh
This from the Defeated One, the other analyst who sits in my neck of the woods. He
s the Star
s antithesis. He would be the Star
s arch-nemesis if the Star gave any opportunity to hate him. But no, the Star
s just too nice. The Defeated One despises Investment Banking though he
s never going to leave. It
s not that he
s sado-masochistic. It
s the high maintenance girlfriend. It
s the presents that must be lavished on the high maintenance girlfriend after he
s cancelled their dinner plans for the fourth time that week. Also a particularly nasty coke habit.
Sycophant calls me into his office. Wants some follow-up research for the Client. Also 60 bound booklets of trivial information anybody with a web browser could download for themselves.
Utterly Incompetent Assistant has printed only one side of double-sided document. No matter; document is for wrong company anyway. Utterly Incompetent Assistant should have been fired long ago but incredibly she
s managed to survive the corporate reshufflings following the tech bubble burst and post 9/11 financial armageddon. We
re fairly certain she
s sleeping with the Philandering Managing Director, a bulky ex-linebacker Alpha male type who
s previous four assistants resigned abruptly over the past six months. Interrupt her horoscope reading to point out the mistake. Utterly Incompetent Assistant pays no attention. Utterly Incompetent Assistant guffaws into phone, probably to widespread network of Utterly Incompetent Assistants guffawing into their respective phones throughout the downtown core. Utterly Incompetent Assistant knows she
s here to stay, utterly secure in her incompetence.
Finished binding 60 booklets.
The Defeated One
s skimming through the Daily M&A Activity Update. It
s from the IT guy; he amalgamates all the porn blocked by the servers and sends it out to the junior employees. The Defeated One has just enough time to close a picture of two midgets doing disproportionate acrobatics with a pylon before Utterly Incompetent Assistant comes by asking if she can help with the binding. There
s two very obvious towers of pitch books beside me.
Sycophant wants two sections of the books reversed.
Utterly Incompetent Assistant gone to read the latest Shopaholic novel on her two hour lunch break. Unbind the 60 pitchbooks
Rebind the 60 pitchbooks.
Lunch with the Defeated One. We have this new policy of going outside for two, at most three minutes, to enjoy the spring weather before bringing the same congealed General Tao chicken up to our desks. A young couple clean and preppy enough to be in one of those Gap commercials, the annoying one where everybody
s snapping their fingers, stroll by grinning away like Cheshire cats. It
Tuesday, the Defeated One grimaces. He
s boring a pencil into his wrist. We
re not even alive, the Defeated One mutters. I
ve heard this rant before; indeed, have heard a daily variant of this rant since we started working together: I could be dead and nobody would give a damn, one of those old pricks who passes off in his trailer and the rotting corpse isn
t found for months afterward. Or: I am nothing more than an accumulation of spreadsheets. Really, my neurons are nothing more than linked cells. Shit, I feel a circular reference coming on. It
s one of those jokes that only an investment banker could appreciate but still it
s not very funny. Chuckle as a reflex. He
s managed to draw blood with the pencil. Aren
t you worried about lead poisoning
If I should be so lucky. Besides, it
s not lead, it
s graphite. What about graphite poisoning
s go back inside. The Defeated One stares at the receding backs of the Gap-commercial-clean couple, nods solemnly, and follows me to the elevators.
Sycophant wants a precedent transactions multiple analysis: hours of accumulating obscure data that may or may not exist, tabulating a column, inserting some cockeyed formulas and coming up with the number seven. It
s always seven. Across continents, industries, other investment banks
s always seven. There
s an obvious question begging to be asked. It
s the sort of maddening question that jostles around in your cranium with the vigour of children high on caffeine. I
ve learned its best not to ask yourself this sort of a question. Also why you
ve just received a phone call from the Sycophant to bind 30 more books while the Utterly Incompetent Assistant has her legs up in the back seat of the Philandering Managing Director
s Lexus. And how the Star can defy the body
s need for REM rejuvenation and maintain that perpetual Buddha-like disposition.
Finish binding additional 30 booklets.
Still hunting for that elusive seven.
Log on to a site storing novels that are too old for copyright restrictions to apply. They
re all in plain text without graphics so the screen is perfectly inconspicuous. Read the first chapter of Siddhartha. Follow your destiny, Siddhartha learns, go scavenge around a forest in India for Enlightenment! I
m going to do it. I really am. Not the India part, that
s too far away, but I
m going to shut down my computer, put the new Air CD in my pocket, give a half-salute to the Star and the Defeated One, push the elevator button for the last time, that little screen teaching me a word I
m never going to use, step out into the cool breeze and smile up at the sky. I see the Sycophant
s reflection in my monitor and close the browser. What
s the number
Uhm, six. It
s supposed to seven. Yes, I guess so. Why isn
t it seven
t know. Keep on at it until its seven. Sure thing. Note to self: no more reading Siddhartha at the office.
Utterly Incompetent Assistant returns from parking garage, face flushed, checks her e-mail, guffaws into phone, heads home.
Sycophant drops by on his way out. Client meeting next Friday but wants complete turn of a pitch for first thing tomorrow morning (tomorrow morning = when he finally gets around to looking at it at some point next week). A quick calculation; there
s no way I
m getting out of here before four in the morning.
Dinner. Subway again. Start with the shredded lettuce, then gorge myself on six M&M cookies.
Argue with the Defeated One over the music selection. His taste was somehow stunted after junior high. He
s still listening to Phish and the Tragically Hip and all those other bands that everybody else makes fun of in a bittersweet nostalgic way because though they
ve officially entered the realm of the has-been, it was still the music that rocked our formative adolescent years, the soundtrack to that first mushroom trip in the bar that served liquor to well developed fourteen year olds. I put on Broken Social Scene. He
s boring a pencil into his wrist. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Defeated One writhes on the floor, pulling at his receding hairline.
Coffee from the acne-scarred Vietnamese lady who runs the most Depressing Donut Store in Downtown, the only place that
s open at this hour. Its chock-full of old men literally weeping into their cups of tepid coffee when they
re not coughing up phlegm or gnawing away on chocolate glazed crullers.
s a little concealed niche between the back of my desk and the window. God, could I squeeze back there
Probably not after all those Subway cookies. Note to self: lose weight, then bring in blanket and pillow.
The Defeated One returns from the washroom sniffling.
The Defeated One starts cawing.
The Defeated One says, I
ll bet you boys don
t think I
d jerk off in front of you, eh, would do something as crazy as that, huh
The Star and I don
t look up from our Excel macros. Huh
Slumping in his chair, the pencil again at his wrist, You guys are so frickin
E-mail from your buddy
s Blackberry. He works at the investment bank in the next building over. Hey dude, got off work early, having a couple beers with this smoking new associate, what do you say
Though the situation has been reversed many times, though you
re well aware he
s getting his ass clobbered just as bad as you, you write back: Capacity. That word
s thrown around in the industry like candy at Bar-Mitzvahs. He writes back: Climbing the corporate ladder, that
Rest my head against my desk.
Wake up. The Defeated One
s gone. The Star
s mirthfully plunking away at his keyboard, occasionally stopping to kick his legs in glee. I wipe the drool from my desk, get back to my spreadsheet.
m plotting deviant ways to kill that Office Assistant paper clip, the one that suddenly materializes with an annoying ping whenever you least expect him. Figure I
ll unwind him first, delight in his high pitched squealing: No mister! I
m going to stick Mr. Gates on you! That
s asking for trouble, yesirreee! He
s going to be one straight line of paper clip agony, ready for insertion in the moist orifice of the Star
The Star yelps, It balances, It balances, his eyes glazed over in sheer bliss. He rocks back and forth in his swivel chair and then does three full rotations, giggling like a Japanese school girl in a Tarantino movie.
Finished. Leave the Star to his swivel chair rotations.
The only people out are the homeless. The Asian lady who sits in the bus shelter with her shopping bags full of garbage. The young girl that looks a heroine addict with a ratty copy of Atlas Shrugged beside her filthy blanket. Can
t think straight. Everything is foggy, like a heavy mist has set around my brain. That girl; if she could get through that god-awful 100 page rant at the end of Atlas Shrugged, even worse, if she believes in it, truly believes that everybody should become capitalistic bastards, shouldn
t help each other out, should stop being human, shouldn
t care if you
ve got a cold and all you want to do is go home and get some sleep, not work until four in the frickin
morning, then surely she
s equipped to find seven
ve stared too long and she throws a piece of donut at me. What did I do today
Bind 60 booklets
You know there
s something important, buried in the contrast between you and the Asian lady with the garbage-filled shopping bags, no, it
s not buried, it
s obvious, it
s right there in front of you, the way she looks at you (you give her five dollars) but then you
ve lost it, you know it
s a bad thing, to have lost it, but all you want more than anything else is to fall asleep, to escape, to dream about being young, when life wasn
t like this.