Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Volume 4 Issue 4: Intelligent Investing

Why Be An Investment Banker - Part 2

Back in the day when I was growing you, everybody who was somebody wanted to grow up to be an actuary. We were all told that being an actuary was like going to the promised land. The pay is amazing, and it is pretty much the most challenging job in the world. What better way than this to tell other people how smart you were.

Just say "I am an actuary", and pretty much every one who could understand what the word meant would go gaga over it. But that was back in the day. In our world today, at least before the 2008 financial crisis, being an investment banker was the new actuary.

When you think about an investment banker, you think about a suave gentleman/lady in a suit on weekdays, and sipping margaritas (or whatever) in Iceland on weekends.

Here's a chart showing why so many people want to become an investment banker, courtesy of

It's a little small to fit into the column but you can click on the chart to enlarge it.

Of course, life is not all good as an investment banker. Well, certainly it is not for everyone. As the iBanker article depicts it:
Some people know they want to work in finance from a young age. True, it’s rare but when you meet them in a bank you’ll recognize it. More often than not they’re very sharp. Everyone in the team will either love or hate them. There is no in between. At a junior level (i.e. analyst / associate) they are typically the guys who make far fewer mistakes in presentations and models, digest information and data the quickest and generally appear to feel most at home in the building. It is almost a given that they’ve breezed through their finance studies in university. Some of them probably could have joined a bank straight from school rather than attend university. 
When these worshippers of finance walk across the trading floor or past the Head of M&A’s office they’ll fight hard to keep a stupid smile from manifesting itself. They cannot help it…the trading floor is like a playground for them…the Head of M&A’s office like a throne. And if receive a nod of acknowledgement from the man inside that office they may rush to the bathroom, lock themselves in a stall and cry out of joy for the job they consider a blessing. They probably hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Spring!) in their heads when they walk around the bank on a busy Monday morning. Or perhaps Beethoven’s Ode to Joy – the part where the entire ensemble comes together in joyous harmony. 
For these special souls, the enjoyment they derive from reading the Financial Times on a Friday morning is tantamount to a sustained mini ejaculation.
Emphasis mine. However, sometimes, the price they pay is huge:
The people in this group are those who’ve planned the mission from day 1. They have given themselves two or three years to immerse themselves in that world, work like a horse, learn as much as possible about finance, hone their presentation and Excel skills, add some eyebrow-raising bullet points in the resume / cv and get out before it’s too late.   
Once the tour of duty comes to an end they tend to head back to university for graduate studies, launch a start-up, spend a year backpacking around Latin America flirting with locals and smoking some good shit, set about writing an ebook they’ll make available for download on a personal blog for $39.99, move into an Ashram in Uttar Pradesh and massage each other thinking it will lead to enlightenment and practice minimalism, etc.
Sadly, only some of the people who swear an oath to the tour of duty on that very first day fulfill their mission. Everybody reading knows what I’m talking about. To those in the business: how many times have you told yourself, ‘just one more year…just one more bonus’? To those who have friends in the business: how many times have you heard them insist they’ll soon leave their job? Most end up MIA (missing in action). Once behind enemy lines and captured people slowly forget the original plan, easily overshadowed by the perks of the job. That is precisely what happened to Carlos, a friend of a friend.
He was on a two year plan. So he said. Six years later – though you’d think it more like 15 years looking at his face and what’s left of his hair – he still insists departure is imminent. A few months ago I ran into him in a lounge in New York. Rihanna’s What’s My Name started to play and he began to dance. You could call it that…if you were looking through a kaleidoscope. In some parts of the world he’d get violently beaten with a dead monkey and have his head shaved with a butter knife for looking that bad. 
He used to dance with a modicum of style. But after sitting on a chair crunched over a computer 12+ hours per day modelling on Excel for six years a few screws go loose.
Economists very often say that interest rate is the "price" of money. Reading all this would make you think otherwise. Why are we after money so badly? What would we do to get money? Just recently, I watched an interesting movie called "In Time". It is very hard to spoil the movie for you, especially since the elements are not entirely unpredictable for an ardent movie buff, but the concept was pretty interesting nonetheless.

It is set in a future where time has become the currency and not money. Every single person has a nano-chip embedded in them which shows how much time they have to live. And that is the currency for any transaction they wish to make. Check out the trailer:

It kind of begs the question, why do they have to try so hard to live? Is it just pure instinct? Or is there a higher purpose? What would you do if you had all the time in the world? Or all the money in the world?

No comments:

Post a Comment