The London Paper – 13 Aug 2007
The vaguely amusing, and very dead, comedian George Burns may have been talking about acting when he said ‘if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made’ but he could just as well have been referring to investment banking. My business necessarily involves assuring clients you’re their best mate whilst selling them assets that generally have the long-term prospects of a wildebeest on a David Attenborough nature programme. I believe it is this inherent falseness in my profession that explains why the social-networking website Facebook, or Fakebook as some amusing wags have dubbed it, has become so popular amongst bankers. It is the perfect device for deceitful career-advancement and networking.
The Freemason-like career benefits of this ever-growing phenomenon have not gone unnoticed by my ambitious peers. Hence, as a poll revealed last week, 20% of Goldman Sachs employees are now members of the ‘Goldman’s only’ network (which I’m sure must be an absolute scream). These smart cookies understand that a client or colleague who mistakenly thinks you’re a buddy is going to find it tough not to buy shares off you or endorse your promotion.
What’s even more disturbing is that some City types are clearly wasting their time on Facebook trying to prove to themselves and others that they have loads of pals. The fact that the average stockbroker is about as popular as a turd in a swimming pool and incredibly competitive helps explain this sad development. One of my colleagues actually admitted to desperately tracking down old school acquaintances, long lost family members and people he’d briefly met on holiday in order try to increase his number of ‘chums’. Another colleague confessed that his constant ‘poking’ of colleagues and clients on Facebook is simply a ruse to remind them of his existence when he’s feeling ‘lonely and unloved’. I’ve even heard of an American broker getting into a vicious public slanging match on the trading floor after some sensible chap had rejected her when she had invited him to be a friend! Anyone who finds themselves doing these kind of things needs to ask themselves some deep searching questions … like “where’s the car and that long tube of hose?”
Whatever the reason, such is the ever-increasing popularity of this website at banks that nearly all of them have now put up firewalls to ensure employees cannot access it. I can’t help but feel that they’ve done us all a favour. They are saving clients and colleagues from being conned by false friendliness into furthering ambitious tossers’ careers whilst saving other bankers from making tits of themselves competing over how popular they are.
Call me old fashioned but if your career is remotely successful and you’ve already got a few pals the only correct use for this dreadful website is to meet up with acquaintances you’ve always fancied for some extra-curricular activities. That, of course, is the only reason why ‘City boy’ is a fully paid-up member of (Sit On My) Facebook and if any of you give me any lip I’ll really punish you by refusing to be your friend … or even worse becoming your friend.