This post is probably going to be Part 1 of a continuing series on the subject of why being an I-Banker sucks ass. So let me start describing the day I quit after 3.5 years of I-banking, followed by the day I started.
I walked out of the 17th floor, rode the elevator down to the lobby. My plan was to walk out of the building to a pub and watch my favorite hockey team in the playoffs with some friends. My friends were not bankers (FYI: I-bankers refer to themselves as “bankers;” you’re friendly neighbourhood bank teller is looked on as a lower form of species by bankers and are not to be confused with bankers, bankers like I used to be).
I suppose the time that elapsed from the moment the glass doors shut behind me to me walking into the pub was no more than 15 minutes. When I walked out of my life of 3.5 years, I had a blank expression and a blank mind, not unlike a serial killer who has just finished a particularly grueling corpse dismemberment ritual. By the time I arrived at the pub, I was already drunk with a thousand emotions before even a drop of alcohol had been imbued into my bloodstream. The sensation could only be described as the text book definition of Euphoria.
It was spring 2009 and I left banking after over three years of pain.
In the winter of 2005, I moved to the East Coast of the continent to start as an analyst for a top-tier bank you’ve probably heard of, but not the Top-Tier Bank you’ve probably heard of. I’ll adopt the name of Finance Investment Bank, or FIB for short, for my employer. I was a bright-eyed, naive, innocent lamb that landed in the dead of winter in a concrete jungle covered in snow. After I landed at just before midnight, I was to make my way to the hotel FIB was to put me up in for a month, until I found my own place. I had less than $20 in my pocket and $250 on my Visa, which I thought would last me two weeks until my first pay cheque. The concierge was an extremely polite, courteous twit who used too many “please’s” and “kindly, sir’s” in his sentences giving bad news. No doubt, the Devil uses him to greet the latest arrivals to Hell.
Concierge: “Welcome Mr. Zuuko, sir. I see you’ve booked our extended stay suite for the next month. Can you please provide me with your credit card. That will be $1,447.52. Thank you, sir.”
Zuuko: “umm… I was under the impression FIB covered it. Or do you mean you need a credit card on file and you’ll charge me at the end?”
Concierge: “No, sir. That’s not how extended stay suites work here. You must pay up front. Likely, FIB is going to reimburse you. If you would kindly please provide your credit card, I would be most obliged.”
Zuuko (thinking): “FUCK. I’m gonna kill someone if they make me do the dishes to cover the bill.”
Not an auspicious start.
My first exposure to a deal came in my first 3 days. It was with a VP named Joe (not his real name but rest assured his real name is just as common). He was a 7th year VP in an industry where VPs last 3-4 years. That’s not a compliment, since he should have been promoted about 3 years ago. There are reasons for this, as you will see.
An investment bank’s primary function is to raise capital for their clients so that these clients can deploy that money for any number of reasons: operations, acquisitions, growth, etc. This is the definition of finance. FIB had raised $25 million for a client by selling new shares in the company, or an equity issuance in the industry parlance. They had successfully raised this amount and now the small matter of transferring this money into the client’s bank account remained. Enter Zuuko, stage left.
The transfer of this money involves a ritual of closing procedures too byzantine to go into in full. But on closing day in this particular, it involved all of the lawyers (for the bank, for the client, etc.) getting together and signing documents confirming certain representations and warranties, the amount being transferred to the penny, etc. Once the lawyers completed this, the friendly banker on hand is supposed to provide the wiring instructions to the faceless voice on the other end of the telephone during the conference call. All this had to finish before 8:30am because of the afore-mentioned reps and warrants, otherwise the whole process is fucked and may need to be started all over again. It cost the client roughly three-quarters of a million dollars to raise this money and suffice it to say Zuuko’s ass would have been well and truly fucked if the client had to spend all that money all over again.
At this point you may ask yourself, “Hang on. Didn’t you say this was your third day? Why would they entrust a job of this magnitude to a doe-eyed brat, fresh out of undergrad? Are they stupid?” To which I respond, “By ‘they’ you mean Joe. And yes he is.” You see, it’s normally a person of some authority who usually handles the money. Joe decided to pass off the job to me, with the threat that if I wasn’t at the lawyer’s office by 7:45am the next day with the wiring instructions, he’d eat my balls for breakfast. That’s a quote.
“Why did he do that?” you may ask, “Doesn’t he realize what’s on the line?” No, and if he did, he wouldn’t care. Because the small matter of closing a deal shouldn’t interfere with him waking up when he pleases or his morning work-out. Especially not since he has his minions of young analysts he can fuck with; especially since he’d earned his stripes to do that from his bosses, who no doubt abused him in a similar fashion. The whole dynamic has a whiff of Spartan pederasty.
I, of course, show up at the lawyers’ offices ten minutes in advance. “I’m here for the closing meeting for XYZ client,” I announce to the receptionist, “Which room is the meeting in?” The receptionist informs me that that the lawyer that covers client XYZ just left the office ten minutes ago to attend some other meeting, half way across town. As it turned out, Joe had given me the address of FIB’s law firm, and not our client’s law firm where the meeting was to take place.
Given my financial net worth, I didn’t have enough cash to afford the cab ride over because I had the temerity to eat breakfast that day. The carbs would come in handy and, thankfully, I was 21 and in decent shape. I made it 20 minutes before 8:30am, sweating like a hog and just as they needed the wiring instructions.
I think, “I’d like to eat his balls for breakfast. FUCK, I’m gonna kill someone if I think about eating Joe’s balls for breakfast again.”
On a side note, the strangest thing Joe ever said to me was on a morning several months later when I had worked 18 hours straight the previous night. I had maybe 2 pitches due later that day, while being staffed on a live deal (what these terms mean may be a topic of another post; just imagine I had a thousand separate things to do and 3 hours to do them in). I was intensely staring at my computer screen. Had aliens landed that day and their first look at humanity was my torso, they would assume that the inhabitants of this particular dust particle floating in space were sentient cyborgs; half-carbon based life form, half-machine. I was in the zone and plugged in to Excel and Powerpoint.
Joe, who had been standing behind me for God knows how long, suddenly says, “Sooo… I’m getting my tubes tied today.” It was a matter-of-fact statement.
Zuuko (startled): “What?”
Joe: “Yep… I’m getting a vasectomy in a couple hours.”
Zuuko: “Umm… Congratulations?” while I’m thinking, “Why the fuck is he telling me this? Why would any man tell another man this fact? I hope he’s not looking for a hug. FUCK. I’m gonna kill someone if I have to give Joe a hug.”
A few days later, he bet me I couldn’t do 50 push-ups.
Joe and FIB mutually agreed that he would pursue other interests in a year’s time. I’m pretty sure the decision was based on him fucking around with deals and analysts like your humble narrator, and not his vasectomy. You never know though… stranger things have happened at banks. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lack of a working pair of testicles is grounds for dismissal at an ibank.