I’ve always appreciated the rationale behind sending a grey haired banker to meet with a grey haired client. If they’re both in their 50s or 60s then they’re on the same wavelength, so to speak.
And the reality is that some people prefer to sit with an individual their own age, rather than a younger man or woman who hasn’t been around as long. Who perhaps has yet to learn some of life’s big lessons. That’s perfectly fine.
But sending a senior banker just for the sake of having an old geezer in a room with a client doesn’t make sense. I’d seen it go wrong before. Like the time I was working at Paris Berkeley Capital and the Chairman of one of the Arab Gulf’s largest banks announced he was in town.
It was a morning like any other in London’s Canary Wharf district. The weather was grey and overcast. Everyone inside the bank was stressed.
I received an e-mail from Abdul Aziz, the Chairman. He addressed me and copied in my line manager, who was out of town on holiday.
In his message, Abdul Aziz wrote, “I’m in London and would like to invite the two of you to dinner.”
Cool. I’m looking forward to it.
Within minutes, my phone rang. Who is this? I didn’t recognise the number. I quickly looked up the country code. Indonesia? Oh, it’s from Bali. My line manager was on holiday there with his family. I googled the time there. It was midnight. Don’t you have anything better to do, like make love to your wife? I picked up the phone.
“Don’t reply to Abdul Aziz’s mail,” he said without bothering to say hello. “I’m going to take care of it. I’ll ring you back in 5 minutes,” he said.
Take care of what?. Dinner seemed a straightforward affair to me.
A few minutes later my phone rang again. I answered.
“I’m going to ask Tom to meet with Abdul Aziz,” said my line manager.
“Tom?” I asked. “From New York?”
“But he doesn’t cover the Middle East. He works in the New York office,” I said.
“That’s fine. He’s in town for a couple of days and I’ve been told that Tom should go to dinner.”
A Managing Director in our New York office, Tom had probably travelled out of the US a handful of times and certainly never anywhere near the Middle East. Though a skilled banker, he had the cultural IQ of a beer can. What he did have a lot of, on the other hand, were grey hairs.
And little did Tom know it was the holy month of Ramadan and that Abdul Aziz was fasting. And that dinner that evening was to be more than just a business discussion. I’d say a special occasion.
I didn’t mention a thing. Screw them.
That evening, banker and client met in an Argentine restaurant in Central London. [READ MORE…]