Towards a Quieter, Gentiler Bank

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Muffie Benson-Perella (muffie AT dealbreaker.com) is an Associate in the Investment Banking Division of a "Bulge Bracket" bank. She holds a B.A. in French and Art from Vassar College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Her regular column "Heard in the Suite" is a probing (and, ahem, fictional) weekly look into the secret lives and behind the velvet curtains of the investment banking world.
I want to talk about yelling in a minute. First an update:
There is this transaction in London and I am supposed to go to the London office next week and work on it. I don't know why I was picked since I'm supposed to be re-training for the next rotation of the Associate Ambassador program but I've been told that I have to go so I'm going. I thought about pointing out that I wasn't really in the transaction work pool anymore but the more I thought about it the more it occurred to me that London would be a cool place to go for the spring, if a little rainy.
I am thinking that I am going to keep a photo essay of my trip. That way you can get an idea of what it is really like to be an Associate on the road doing transactions at a bulge bracket investment bank.


So my mother came into the city to help me with some things in the condo and I thought after that we'd go camera shopping and pick up some things for London together. The problem is that she hates to come into the city and she absolutely won't if it means rush hour. That includes the lunch hour. That meant she wanted to come in after lunch but sneak out before 4:30 or so to avoid the start of rush hour. Apparently, my father had the driver all day so she had to come down on her own in the Rover.
At first I thought I would just push my lunch back a bit. No one in my office seems to go out to lunch in the first place, they all order god-awful stuff in instead. You can see the grease stains on their desks even. It is no wonder that there have been so many heart attacks in my group. Sometimes there is even a line of scruffy looking delivery men waiting in the lobby when I go out waiting for people to get their food. The entire lobby smells like French fries and pizza sometimes. Really, I can't think of anything less civilized.
Anyhow, I decided just to sneak out at around 1:00 or so to meet my mother. My mother hates it when I talk on the phone when I am with her, and she's right, that's really rude, so I turn off my cell phone whenever I go out with my mother.
There's a problem with the painting in the condo, I won't bore you with all the details except that they got the color wrong and it was supposed to be a satin taupe and instead it was glossy and it really didn't look taupe at all. My mother had been really particular about the color and she has particular ideas about certain brands being superior so this really got her upset. When she gets upset she gets sick to her stomach and it was really close to being a big scene. So I might have to stay at a hotel tonight because of the color problem, but other than that it was fine.
I bought a new camera. Canon. I really like what the Japanese have done with digital cameras. Mine is really cute. I'll add some photos later.
Anyhow, I get back and this Vice President starts yelling at me. Yelling seems to be a thing in banking that I didn't really expect. There was some yelling at my internship, but it never seemed to happen to interns for some reason. No one said anything about it during recruiting either, of course. I asked him to please stop, and that I didn't appreciate being yelled at, but he just got madder, telling me I couldn't just walk out like that and what the hell was with my cell phone and there was work to be done. What bullshit.
Look, I understand that banking is a high pressure sort of thing, but this singular focus on work is a crock. There are "work-life-balance" initiatives in place for a reason. If you are going to yell at an Associate it probably better not be at one of the Associate Ambassadors who tell new recruits how great it is at the firm, that is unless you want new recruits to all think it is a bunch of yellers or something. As it turned out it was nothing that couldn't wait or be given to someone else to handle until I got back. I wasn't gone but 2 hours anyhow.
There is just no call for that kind of yelling. Ever. Anyhow, a Managing Director came around, probably attracted to all the noise right when I was explaining that my mother had gotten sick in the condo. Well, the Managing Director heard that and then pulled the Vice President aside. I didn't hear all of the conversation but I did hear my father's name mentioned. After that the Vice President stalked off and the Managing Director apologized to me, took me to his office and asked about my mother.
I think younger bankers lack experience and they think everything has to be solved by yelling. No wonder everyone is so pissed off all the time. Everyone yells.

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