The London Paper – 24 Sept 2007
So there we all were in the pub last week having a full-blown argument about who had the biggest carbon footprint. Gary the trader was trying to claim that it was he who produced the most CO2 but he only won this competition by including a garden heater he’d bought his mum. Bob the salesman, who came second, was furious especially as he thought he would be well in front after including the emissions from the private jet he’d taken to Paris to watch the England-USA rugby game last weekend. All of a sudden it dawned on me that what we were doing was terribly wrong. I mean even I’d surreptitiously included a Maserati I’d only test driven last week. If you’re going to participate in these kind of competitions you’ve really got to play fair.
When I am asked what common feature most encapsulates we stockbrokers, people generally assume that I’ll say something obvious like an inconsiderate ruthlessness that Genghis Khan would deem excessive. Whilst this is, of course, completely correct, the common feature that truly unites stockbrokers is a competitiveness that would even shock Lance ‘pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever’ Armstrong. We are all unbelievably bullish about anything and everything be it a game of squash, our intellectual ability or the size of our bank balance or sexual equipment – with this last element, of course, underlying all the others. Betting and stock-picking, which is all that ever happens in the City, are simply the perfect blend of intellectual one-upmanship and financial reward.
I agree with the view that ‘every external boast is the manifestation of an internal doubt’. Anyone who is truly comfortable in their own skin would not feel the need to constantly remind every poor sucker within earshot how much smarter or richer they are. I can’t really picture the notoriously chilled Dalai Lama sitting at his pad in Dharamsala telling every joker who turns up to see him how superfly he is. He leaves that sort of horseshit to insecure buffoons like Simon Cowell or Kanye West.
The fact that insecurity (as well as greed) is the main force that drives the City helps explain why the vast majority of the Square Mile’s front-office employees are young wanna-be alpha males. They have all the testosterone and self-doubt necessary to participate in a never-ending cock-fight with their peers. Fortunately for our employers this competitive intellectual masturbation comes naturally to graduate trainees who’ve just spent the last decade of their lives trying to one-up their ‘chums’ at school and university (where such behaviour is encouraged). It is only this desperate will to win, motivated by deep feelings of inadequacy, which explains why City workers are willing to get up at 5.30am every day and work 70+ hour weeks when life is short and clearly not a dress rehearsal.
You may not believe my view that the City is fuelled by insecure competitiveness but if you don’t then at least please acknowledge my conviction that I am significantly more intelligent, wealthy and handsome than you will ever be and understand that I am willing to fight to my last desperately insecure breath to prove it.