Let’s be honest here, the greatest joy in banking is a huge bonus. But money alone won’t bring happiness. Honours and titles also matter. One of the greatest honours which can be bestowed upon an ibanker is a standing ovation.
Standing ovations usually happen for one of two reasons: a massive deal is closed and the bank makes an extraordinary amount of revenues; someone collapses or faints from exhaustion and / or excessive stress during a deal. The latter is what we call a near-banker-death experience.
Two paths to glory
An example of the first scenario was when we extracted over USD50m in fees on one deal alone from a massive Middle East client. The head of Investment Banking practically moonwalked over to our desk and shook everyone’s hands. He then asked everyone around to stand up and clap. This sort of event is the more common of the two.
The second scenario is what leaves the strongest impression on all bankers as it touched on human limits. I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed it. I was less than one month into the job.
The victim was Thomas, an Associate from Denmark. He joined the bank the same time I did. The poor guy was unfortunate from the very first day on the job because the head of his team was responsible for several geographies and given they were short-staffed Thomas was assigned as the extra help for multiple geographies. In short, he was screwed at hello. Thomas sat one row away from me.
On one of those very busy days when he was juggling a handful of billion dollar projects while getting yelled at by everyone, in person and over the phone, having to read and reply to a couple of hundred e-mails and warding off incessant requests for his help, he suddenly collapsed.
Boom. He hit the ground with a thud. Right there in front of us.
Sadly, apart from those immediately around him – they turned at once – it was business as usual. People were too engrossed in PowerPoint or Excel to pay attention.
Medics arrived soon after and Thomas was taken away. The head of the team said a few words and we were then told to get back to work and pretend it never happened.
Return of the mack
The next morning Thomas returned to work. As soon as he entered the floor the head of the team got up and started clapping, followed by his underlings and theirs in turn. Next thing you know we were all up clapping for a guy who essentially compromised the most important thing in life, health, for a meaningless deal. Actually, for senior bankers’ bonuses, to be exact.
As the clapping continued and we watched Thomas blush, my line manager whispered in my ear: “Lucky bastard, he just doubled his bonus.”