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9 Feb 2009
Post105:Post104 continued: More ranting about the city
I said I would continue when I had the time and energy. Well, I have a little time and being honest, I never have the energy so let's see how this goes!
So continuing my rant, there was a funny bit in cityboy when he moves from Banque Inoutil to Scheisse Bank purely for the money, at the end of the book he qualifies himself by saying he has no aspirations to return to the city particularly in view of some of the admissions he makes about his drug habit and less than flattering references he makes about his former employers/colleagues. To be clear he changes names but even I reckon I can work out some of the banks he's talking about and I was only in the city for two miserable years.
Scheisse Bank becomes Mega Scheiss and is located in Canary Wharf, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to have a punt at who they are. His move to Mega Scheiss via the headhunting route is identical to the process I once followed. I soon learnt that the aim of everyone at our middle of the road British institution was to get poached by one of the big paying US bulge-bracket banks (one day I should really find out what that means). I received a shady headhunter phonecall one day from some ultra well spoken, ultra professional, ultra smug young girl who informed me that she had been retained by one of the 'top 3' US investment banks to go and get their team a 'ranked analyst' (by some miracle the HSBC telecoms team had done well in one of those 'popularity contest' surveys but I was far from a 'ranked analyst', I was little more than the 'team graduate', 'the grunt' who had quickly learnt peoples coffee orders, the best times and places to nip out for a cheeky fag (when I still smoked) and how to use excel bloody quickly. I had to stop myself howling with laughter at this girl, after the usual pleasantries like 'how'd you get this number?' and 'no, I can't talk now' we had convened a meeting in the local 'Corney and Barrow' that afternoon. She had told me to look out for her 'lilac Pashmina'. I needn't have asked what she looked like, she should have said 'imagine an equine blonde from the Chelsea branch of Foxtons.' After all, that is all headhunters for city folk were and probably still are, estate agents for people, they're all self-interested filthy liars. It transpired that she was acting for the big kahuna, Goldman Sachs and she proceeded to do lots of name dropping of analysts I had vaguely heard of, and that such and such was looking to 'build a young team' and they had an eye watering budget to do it. If she couldn't tell I was out of my depth she did a great job of feighning ignorance and within a week I had an interview at the mighty Goldmine Stacks with the head of their telecoms team. From the second you walk through the outer bit of their fleet street HQ you feel as if you're entering the domain of pure evil, the outer bit is the old front entrance to a printing press for the daily express (I think) and is all art deco but once through this is a monstrous modern structure of grey frosted glass presumably to intimidate anyone who enters or to impress the latest FTSE 100 CEO who happens to be passing through to haggle about their latest corporate finance bills.
I think he immediately clocked me as not being ready to sell my soul and so I waffled and bullsh*tted about such and such a client and what I thought of company X without asking him the question that was really on my mind 'how do you cope with having no life? Or do you really believe in this sh*t? Or what would you do if I pissed on your feet? But I didn't fancy being forcibly ejected so there endeth my brief association with the mighty Goldman Sachs, phew! So that experience taught me that I clearly wasn't motivated just by money and when a few months later I got a call from a headhunter offering me slightly less money than I was on as a banker but importantly an exit from the city I jumped at it and ended up working for Premium TV (PTV), not as dodgy as it sounds, a subsidiary of hopeless cable company NTL, a company that hilariously the guy who used to sit next to me had on a 'sell', actually his name was Jon Dann, picture of him in post 88. If only I heeded his words. NTL was technically insolvent a couple of years later with PTV reliant on ntl for funding I was quite rightly made redundant, PTV was supposed to have been ntls glamorous new media arm and was supposed to be the sky sports of ntl and to helpntl flog broadband,cable TV and landline telephony with exclusive content. At one point using comparable per user values PTV was worth over a billion pounds, god the internet bubble was mental. To try and lighten the doom and gloom of some of the stuff I was listening to I watched 'Enron: The smartest guys in the room' a sh*te docudrama to try and understand why it had gone bust so spectacularly after being such a stockmarket darling. Fine, people not interested would have switched off ages ago, I just thought it might be an interesting collision of stuff I used to do and stuff that for my sins, interests me, before I launch into that I would like to draw attention to and something that still makes me chuckle. Since starting on the telecoms team at HSBC our top pick in the telecoms sector was a company called Energis, Another stockmarket darling spun out of the National grid, from what I recall Energis was able to utilise the tunnels under the roads that national grid had paid to dig (with government money). The costs of digging up the roads is what had brought ntl to it's knees, so I found it hilarious when Energis went bust in 2002 proving that fibre optic networks couldn't make money. We had been talking for 2 years + about what a fantastic company this was largely, it transpired because the National Grid was an important corporate client and there were big riskless bucks to be made in corporate work and woebetide any analyst who jeopardised any corporate work by uttering the truth. This is why Enron went to the wall, Enron was the corporate client of many of the top US banks and actively withdrew corporate work from banks whose analysts whisphered that something funny was going on at Enron, a company whose profit figures would miraculously always just beat the markets expectations and how did they do this? By making them up of course! The trouble was that their accounts had been signed off by one of the big accounting firms, Arthur Andersen, who were subsequently sued and went out of business. This was just a precursor to the subsequent meltdown and credit crunch where a bunch of Maths phDs tried through the invention of lots of financial instruments that noone could understand virtually bankrupted the world by persuading lots of twatty bankers,traders and hedge fund managers that there was no risk that people with no income wouldn't be able to pay back money that had been lent to them. You don't have to GCSE in maths to work out that doesn't compute! The inevitable crisis has left few lives untouched, to me this illustrates somewhat depressingly the cancer that is destroying the world for the rest of us. It is greed and dishonesty by the worlds intellectual elites. I don't know what the solution is. Does anyone?