food

A hot meal...what's that?

Blessed are they who enjoy the luxury of savouring the taste of hot food after seeing steam rise from their plate. Verily, they belong to a class of people for whom time is no master. One may even say that they are quite privileged. Slave or no slave, much do they differ from the rare breed of women and men we know – personally, for those of us who are so lucky – as investment bankers.

Everyone of us is slave to at least one master in life. And a master no real banker takes lightly is time. It does not forgive, forget or fail.

From the moment an individual seals over his or her commitment to the bank via contract, joins a team and embarks on a journey into the corporate world’s greatest money making establishment, time will define his world. Soon after it may come to change everything about him or her.

Having a young army of energetic souls willing to sacrifice all of their waking hours to the service and pursuit of money certainly adds to an investment bank’s arsenal. However, the organization is able to deliver jaw-dropping results by also simultaneously pushing the limits of human productivity. Before joining an investment bank we see a boy who may be comfortable running around his neighbourhood for a half hour if he paces himself and breathes correctly. A few years into the job we encounter a man whose ambitions only Everest will satisfy. His ability to now achieve much more in a fraction of the time partly due to his growing respect for time.

Rise at 6 in the morning. Shower and dress rapidly. Rush to work. Don’t be late to your morning meeting. Finish the client presentation. Dial in to all the important calls. Meet clients. Send your loved one an I-miss-you SMS. As the list of priorities, tasks and objectives continually rises, so does the need to break down time into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Yet just as it takes time to tame a wild beast, it also takes time to appreciate the gravity of time itself, though of course time is a beast none can tame. [READ MORE…]

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I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my line manager right after being given a corporate credit card.  It was a sunny afternoon and he invited me for lunch at a nearby gourmet pizzeria. As soon as we arrived at the restaurant and took our seats he ordered a bottle of rosé wine, sat back and smiled.  Much obliged.

What he went on to impart revealed to me yet another important commandment in the sacred art of investment banking. Working in the sector was not only about the salary and the bonus you earned but also about developing your taste in all things refined he would say every so often. It was part of the ‘game’ he would assert. And food and drink constituted an integral part of the charade because quite simply a lot of important deals and key decisions were made over a meal or drink. Given the high stakes at hand it was not unusual for such meetings to take place in Michelin starred restaurants.

He looks straight into my eyes and very earnestly says, “if you want to be successful in this business then you must become an expert in haute cuisine, and unless your father owns an oil field in Texas then your corporate card is the way you get there.”

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