The London Paper – 8 Jan 2007
How financially successful one is in the City is usually dependant on three things: how greedy you are, whether you have the morals of a hyena and your job interview strategy. How hard you work and your intelligence play a role, but not one that should be over-stated. With this in mind I generally make sure I, and lots of my peers, go for at least one job interview around this time year since this is when my boss is deciding my bonus. This is so that I can subtly mention it to my boss and so convince him that I’m an extremely sought after chap who will obviously bugger off in the absence of a massive bonus come February.
Hence, I trundled off for a job interview at a large US investment bank last week. Irritatingly, this interview involved 7 separate half hour meetings. This was because the potential package (e.g. the 1st year guaranteed bonus plus salary) was pretty offensive to any right-thinking individual and the bank involved understandably wanted everyone from the head of equities to some junior salesman to meet me to make sure I’m the right kind of chap. For this particular bank that meant a workaholic android who’s had a charisma bypass operation.
The first joker who interviewed me looked like he was on day release and had all the exuberance of Al Gore on Mogadon. As always he asked me why I wanted to move job and, as always, I gave the only answer these jokers want to hear: ‘To make more cash’. The City is probably the only place where this is the correct (and only) answer to this question since everyone knows that if I make money that’s because I’m making the bank money. Hence, our fortunes our entwined in some dreadful Faustian pact. Woe betides some buffoon talking about something like ‘intellectual pursuit’ as they simply condemn themselves to being royally shafted come bonus time.
After a series of predictable questions about valuation techniques, client contacts and my favourite bull and bear stocks I decided to try an old trick and turn the interview around. I asked him why a highly-regarded broker like me should deign to move to his ‘moody little outfit’ (i.e. one of the largest investment banks in the world).
With hindsight, I attribute my failure to progress further, not on my radical approach, but rather due to my potential team mates’ fear that my tremendous ability would make their own paltry skills look relatively poor. How else could they be daft enough to reject someone like me … a great team player, extremely loyal, very modest etc?
In general, we brokers show no loyalty to our banks and move every few years because we all know that at the remotest sniff of a downturn our banks will drop us quicker than an English wicketkeeper. Despite ‘investing’ supposedly being a long-term pursuit why bother thinking long-term when you’ll be at a new bank with a new boss every few years? Anyway, that’s my excuse for being such a short-term free-wheeling gambler and I’m sticking to it.