This post is actually not suitable for the week end but I published it anyway. It is about who caused the global economy crisis. It was the megalomaniac (investment) bankers. Perhaps I am generalizing a bit but the truth is after you read what I share here, you would get insights about one of the triggers of the malaise. I have been reading this interesting banking blog at The Guardian from the start, september 2011.
Its writer is one of my favorite Dutch journalists Joris Luyendijk. Joris is originally an anthropologist. He wrote some interesting books. For several years he also worked as a correspondence in The Middle-East. In 2011 he was hired by The Guardian to begin a banking blog. His approach at first was to interview people working in the City of London (the financial headquarter) varying from top bankers, HR officer to trainees. After a while he also started to interview spouses and (ex)girlfriends. The result is amazing. It is a small world filled with people with massive ego. And it is also a rotten, white, heterosexual, old boys’ network.
Here are some interesting and unbelievable quotes from the blog. Joris collected the best ten quotes.
Investment bankers have happily absorbed the “Masters of the Universe” epithet. But this interview with a banker in charge of an algorithm gone haywire, demonstrates that they may not even be masters of their own bank:
“Those were scary days. You think: we are in a new paradigm. Nothing works any more the way it used to. My department’s potential losses were hundreds of millions of pounds and several billions across the whole of the bank. We began to realise: this could sink the bank. In fact, we were bankrupt three or four times; our bank owed more than it owned. We were lucky to have a parent company with very deep pockets. I was struggling to keep it afloat. If the market had crashed further we would have gone down … This was a bomb and I was basically the only one who could defuse it.”
For a bit of context, the blog has also interviewed a number of bankers’ partners, family members and exes. Howls of outrage reverberated across cyberspace when a banker’s wife said this:
“You want me to estimate a starting teacher’s salary? I don’t know. Let me think, £45,000? Wow, it’s really only £22,000? I had no idea. That really is too low, I could not live on that. Well, obviously this is something that has to change. I mean, these teachers have had to invest in their own education and are now educating the next generation, right? I am rather shocked by this, are you sure?”
This financial lawyer has a wonderfully sharp eye for dress codes. We met in a restaurant and I asked him to describe what he saw:
“I’d say, mostly lawyers. There are several big law firms around here, and lawyers need to have lunch. I see no trophy wives or trophy girlfriends, no extravagantly dressed women. I see men who keep their jackets on, which is what we tend to do as lawyers – many would not want to be the first to take it off and most lawyers I know leave it on anyhow, keeping the uniform intact makes you look solid. I see inconspicuous ties, also a lawyer thing. This restaurant serves very good quality food but it is not flashy, I believe only this week the Sunday Times called the interior ‘boring’. Boring is good, for lawyers. We sell reliability, solidity and caution. We want our presentation to mirror that. And we often charge hefty fees, so we don’t flash our wealth because then clients are going to think: wait, am I not paying too much?”
After two years The Banking Blog stopped last October. I share this here as a background information for you. Reading the interviews written in Monologue style, I have gotten an impression that those bankers lost their feeling with the reality. Their lack of compassion towards others is hard to believe. All they want to do is to aim higher and make more and more income at all costs.
When you have time and if you are interested in reading the blog, take your time to read the comments. There are some intriguing discussions going on there, the pros and cons from both the current bankers or ex bankers.
Last Thursday Dutch statistics office released a statement that recession in the country is officially over. Dutch economy growth scored 0,1 % the third quarter of the year. I was tired of hearing the news about rising unemployment, unpaid debts, bailouts and red balances. After a long, worrying 5 years, there is something to look forward to. And now let’s hope those bankers would stay with their feet and mind on the ground.