Keith Hahn was a former analyst at JPMorgan, associate in PE, consultant for a hedge fund, gigolo for hire and Dealbreaker editor. He's now a writer in Los Angeles.
Not everyone gets to write a New York Times Op-Ed when they quit their job, however disaffected. It’s also easier to quit a job after twelve years of cashing investment banking paychecks. No matter how “morally bankrupt” Goldman Sachs is, Greg Smith isn’t giving his bonuses back.
Unlike Smith, who quit his job on his own terms and got to publish most of his resume in the Times, most of corporate America isn’t as lucky – and almost everyone in corporate America really wants to quit their job.
So what are you supposed to do if you can’t get any above-the-fold space in a major newspaper?
You have to burn bridges the old fashioned way – by writing a farewell email.
The farewell email has been honed through the struggles of our sycophantic forefathers, initially as a way to build bridges, nobly ensuring that wealth remains in a select substratum of already rich executives and financiers.
Not anymore – the farewell email is the “little guy’s” way to get back at an oppressive monolithic corporation that you have absolutely no power to change. Take that Goldman Sachs!
So if you want to quit, or you’re experiencing the creeping dread that you’re one of the thousands of Wall Street employees set to win a “permanent relocation to your home office” over the next economic cycle, it is important to be well versed in the etiquette of leaving a firm. Since your corporate death will most likely be sudden, it’s best to prepare a eulogy in advance.
To help your smooth transition into unemployment, here is a farewell email template that can serve as either a creepy Orwellian love letter to your corporate masters or a bridge burner:
Financial Institution Farewell Email Template, In Three Variations:
Subject Line: [Farewell / Auf wiedersehen / Freeeeeeeedom!]
Dear [awkward paternalistic term; All / My Fellow Americans / Workers of the World],
As many of you may know, today is my last day at [financial institution / Funville, USA / most repugnant circle of hell]. It was a [adjective directly correlated with bonus size or severance; hernia-like / adequate / phonetic transcription of the pool-scene in Showgirls] pleasure to work with all of you. Everyone I met here was [great / amortizable / in the genus Homo] and possessed the financial acumen and [terms describing deity currently worshiped; infinite wisdom / the usage of six functional arms / a penchant for smiting one’s enemies] that allowed me to learn [a tremendous amount / Spider Solitaire / how to sleep on a mouse pad].
Next year I will be relocating to [new occupation / ward number / cell-block] where I will be [paid more / finding serenity / serving time]. Keep in touch, and I hope to hear from you [soon / in court / when smallmouth bass rule the earth]. I wish everyone well and [good luck / a better tomorrow / the fate of Demetrius and Chiron in Titus Andronicus].
[Valediction: Sincerely / I love you / the final refrain from Kelly Clarkson’s A Moment Like This],
[Alternate hard-core corporate valediction; One firm, thirty-two teams! / We’re #6 in North American Media Debt Refinancing / Obey your thirst]!
[Name / alias / inmate #]
[New contact info / Fake new contact info / cell-phone number of most hated rival]
[Main email address / Old alumni email address / Email address that receives the most offers for FREE VIAGRA]
[Social security and credit card number of most obtuse managing director, easily obtained from recently berated assistant]
If we haven’t tapped into your deep rooted angst, here is a breakdown of the ten most memorable corporate farewell emails typed with excited, cramped hands.
EMAIL #1: Contract Terminated
Date: August 2007
Background: A Greenberg Traurig (yes, that’s a law firm and not a Jewish hybrid car), employee got sick of contracts and working past 6pm, especially on Tuesdays. He drafted a farewell email in the format of a legal memo and left the firm for the greener pastures of software sales. That’s not a typo. Every man has to pursue his dreams at some point.
Burning Bridge Scale (1-10): 2 – A few hard-liners were probably offended at anything that slanders (or libels?) corporate law, but the employee goes out of his way not to burn any bridges. He spends two whole paragraphs apologizing and offering help in transitioning his projects, without sarcasm. Alright, so this is one of the most earnest farewell emails ever. The author dutifully fans a couple of embers for breaking his employment contract, and for trying to keep legal form throughout the missive.
I hereby formally terminate my employment with Greenberg Traurig, LLP. My two main reasons for doing so are as follows:
1. I do not enjoy the practice of corporate law. At all. I find it extremely tedious and stressful. I particularly do not enjoy the following activities:
a. reviewing contracts;
b. drafting contracts;
c. editing contracts;
d. research corporate law; and
e. strategizing about deal structure.
Being that a.-e. above pretty much describe 95% of the job of a corporate lawyer (whether a first year associate or 20 year partner), I can safely say this is the wrong field for me.
2. At this point in my life, I want to work in a job with predictable hours. I want to work a job where I am not connected to a blackberry. I want to work a job where I am not expected to work past 6 (except on rare occasions (i.e. 2-3 times per month on average)). I want to work a job where I am not expected to work weekends. I also realize this is not the life of a corporate attorney (regardless of firm). Basically I want to be able to commit to being somewhere on a Tuesday (or any other day of the week) at 6:30, every week, and not worry all day Tuesday whether or not I will have to cancel (absent extremely extenuating circumstances). I also understand that as you get to be more senior in this job, your control over your schedule does increase. However, it is also clear that to me that it doesn’t increase enough. At the same time, I could probably have put up with reason 2. longer if reason 1. wasn’t so strong.
I do apologize for accepting this job in the first place. In all honesty, I thought there was a chance that my dissatisfaction with this job had to do with where I worked before, but I have learned that it is the job itself, and not where I do it, that I am dissatisfied with. In addition, my decision certainly has nothing to do with any personnel conflict with anyone in the office. On the contrary, it is clear to me that the people at this firm (both lawyers and non-lawyers) are both highly genuine and highly skilled at what they do. I also apologize to the lawyers whose short term workload will increase because I am leaving. There’s no good way to spin this other than I’m kind of screwing you on this one. Hopefully I can make it up to you one day.
I also want to be clear that I am happy to continue to work until Thursday, August 16 to help transition whatever projects I am working on to other people in the group. Just as a point of full disclosure, I’ve accepted a sales position at a software company here in Chicago. I will be making significantly less money than I do here, but I am more than willing to make the trade of less money for more control over my life.
EMAIL #2: Don’t F*** With The Corporate Babysitter
Date: First surfaced on the internets in 2001
Background: The following email is usually to a Mr. Baker, usually from an employee of Zantex Computers, usually from someone named Ted Brewer. Unfortunately it’s all made up. The closest thing to a Zantex Computers is a scrap recycling company in Florida. Ted Brewer’s aliases include “Daryl Brewer,” “Darryl Brewster,” “Jack Cock,” and “Cecilia,” suggesting that either Ted is fake or a transsexual B-movie star.
Burning Bridge Scale (1-10): 5 – Some points are awarded for the “Ted Brewer” in all of us, but since the guy (company, and tyrannical boss) is imaginary, no real bridges were harmed in the sending of this email. The other tragedy is that since back-office employees are like unicorns to most senior execs (imaginary), there’s no bridge to burn. Back office doors would remain open (many on film, for “Jack Cock”).
If real, the hissy fit thrown by Mr. Baker would be well worth the ridiculous lawsuit he’d slap the author with. Then all of us would be crushed by the imminent revolt of network systems administrators, who, like Chloe on 24, could bring the nation to its knees with a few keystrokes. In the meantime they wait, with our passwords, internet caches and nudie pictures.
Dear Mr. Baker,
As a graduate of an institution of higher education, I have a few very basic expectations. Chief among these is that my direct superiors have an intellect that ranges above the common ground squirrel. After your consistent and annoying harassment of my coworkers and me during the commission of our duties, I can only surmise that you are one of the few true genetic wastes of our time.
Asking me, a network administrator, to explain every little nuance of everything I do each time you happen to stroll into my office is not only a waste of time, but also a waste of precious oxygen. I was hired because I know how to network computer systems, and you were apparently hired to provide amusement to myself and other employees, who watch you vainly attempt to understand the concept of "cut and paste" for the hundredth time.
You will never understand computers. Something as incredibly simple as binary still gives you too many options. You will also never understand why people hate you, but I am going to try and explain it to you, even though I am sure this will be just as effective as telling you what an IP is. Your shiny new iMac has more personality than you ever will.
You walk around the building all day, shiftlessly looking for fault in others. You have a sharp dressed useless look about you that may have worked for your interview, but now that you actually have responsibility, you pawn it off on overworked staff, hoping their talent will cover for your glaring ineptitude. In a world of managerial evolution, you are the blue-green algae that everyone else eats and laughs at. Managers like you are a sad proof of the Dilbert principle. Since this situation is unlikely to change without you getting a full frontal lobotomy reversal, I am forced to tender my resignation, however I have a few parting thoughts.
1. When someone calls you in reference to employment, it is illegal for you to give me a bad recommendation. The most you can say to hurt me is "I prefer not to comment." I will have friends randomly call you over the next couple of years to keep you honest, because I know you would be unable to do it on your own.
2. I have all the passwords to every account on the system, and I know every password you have used for the last five years. If you decide to get cute, I am going to publish your "favorites list", which I conveniently saved when you made me "back up" your useless files. I do believe that terms like "Lolita" are not usually viewed favorably by the administration.
3. When you borrowed the digital camera to "take pictures of your Mother's birthday," you neglected to mention that you were going to take pictures of yourself in the mirror nude. Then you forgot to erase them like the techno-moron you really are. Suffice it to say I have never seen such odd acts with a sauce bottle, but I assure you that those have been copied and kept in safe places pending the authoring of a glowing letter of recommendation. (Try to use a spell check please; I hate having to correct your mistakes).
Thank you for your time, and I expect the letter of recommendation on my desk by 8:00 am tomorrow. One word of this to anybody, and all of your little twisted repugnant obsessions will be open to the public. Never f*** with your systems administrator. Why? Because they know what you do with all that free time!
Wishing you a grand and glorious day,
EMAIL #3: The Firm That Launched A Thousand Associates
Date: May 2004
Background: The following employee of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky, and Walker (PHJW), LLP found a sugar mama and decided to quit in style. He leaves a diagnostic of the current human resources situation at PHJW, consisting of “gossips, backstabbers and Napoleonic personalities,” and a helpful analogue to working at the firm, which ranks slightly below getting dressed up as a piñata and beaten.
Burning Bridge Scale (1-10): 8 – This guy not only burns bridges, but also points to the flames on his way out. This is textbook bridge burning, with a classic three-pronged verbal assault on the line of work, senior members of the firm, and the general incompetence of everyone involved. The mannerly valediction “Respectfully submitted” is a nice touch, and smacks of debate in the House of Commons when a member addresses someone as “The honorable gentlemen to my left” followed by a brutal insult. The Iliad quote is a little indulgent, but still sounds cool and foreboding.
From: [REDACTED] Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2004 1:11 PM Subject: FW: Goodbye...
As many of you are aware, today is my last day at the firm. It is time for me to move on and I want you to know that I have accepted a position as "Trophy Husband". This decision was quite easy and took little consideration. However, I am confident this new role represents a welcome change in my life and a step up from my current situation. While I have a high degree of personal respect for PHJW as a law firm, and I have made wonderful friendships during my time here, I am no longer comfortable working for a group largely populated by gossips, backstabbers and Napoleonic personalities. In fact, I dare say that I would rather be dressed up like a pinata and beaten than remain with this group any longer. I wish you continued success in your goals to turn vibrant, productive, dedicated associates into an aimless, shambling group of dry, lifeless husks.
May the smoke from any bridges I burn today be seen far and wide.
ps. Achilles absent, was Achilles still. (Homer)
EMAIL #4: Employee’s Inferno
Date: August 2007
Background: A librarian sent this three line gem to her colleagues at Patton Boggs, a Washington D.C. law firm swarming with lobbyists, lawyers and politicians. It’s one thing to tell people to go to hell; it’s another to say that they’ve already stamped their ticket. This is the email of someone who has abandoned all hope (of the value of telling people off) before leaving Patton Boggs.
Burning Bridge Scale (1-10): 6 – This is another one fingered salute (to “*everyone” in the office) from a back-office employee so it’s tough to say if there’s a bridge to burn. The prominence of this position in a politically minded law firm would suggest the functional literacy of its employees, which the author of the email doubts (notice the backhanded usage of [sic]).
Full bridge burning potential isn’t reached because the email is so restrained, especially after nearly a decade of fodder. Where’s the director’s cut? Brevity is not the soul of wit in farewell emails, where most of the fun is in hot-headed, irrational and lengthy exposition.
Sent: Tuesday, July 03, 2007 5:35 PM
To: *Everyone (DC); *Everyone 2445 M Street
Subject: Good-Bye Patton Boggs
After 8.5 years, today was my last day at Patton Boggs LLP.
Everyone knows what I think about the Law(yers) and politic(ian)s, so I won't dwell onit [sic].
Farewell to everyone as I doubt we'll meet again in this life or the next.
Good-bye Patton Boggs.
EMAIL #5: Everybody Hurts
Date: September 2007
Background: An investment banking associate at UBS in the healthcare group decided to take care of his own health by walking out, then leaving town.
Burning Bridge Scale (1-10): 5 – If there’s one thing senior bankers (and Cobra Kai) don’t like, it’s weakness. Therefore it’s doubtful another bank will be able to overlook the author’s inability to suck it up. The author eerily affirms that he isn’t about to “flip out” (taking the fish with him) or burn the building down (taking the stapler with him), which makes him more likely to do either. In fact, if you see this person in the future, stop what you are doing and slowly walk away. Avoid audible noises, bearing tooth enamel or making eye contact, to avoid a Michael Douglas in Falling Down “YOU FORGOT THE BRIEFCASE” moment.
Subject “sorry everyone”
I'm leaving the bank now.
I'm not made to do this. If I put my mind to something as much as I do here to mindless text editing, copy and pasting, and getting yelled at for stuff other people can't/won't/don't do, I would be much better off. It's 6:43 a.m. on a Sunday, and I have at least 14 more hours of work to do today that will not be fulfilling, useful, appreciated, recognized, or paid for.
Sorry this is last minute, but it's just not worth doing more
My blackberry is on my desk
Apparently that failed staffing request was fatal (no, not as in I'm going to kill myself, hehe, I'm just going to go enjoy life). There is no happiness here.
I took all my personal stuff. No one needs to contact me for anything (except for a drink for those of you with my personal number). I will only be at my New York address a few days longer.
Good luck y'all.
EMAIL #6: Last Comic Standing
Date: August 2005, January 2007, June 2007
Background: Comedy writer Chris Kula, of Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater and Improv Everywhere fame, penned an imagined farewell email on his blog in the summer of 2005. Little did Kula know that his email would inspire a wave of corporate send-offs, two years later.
Junior accountant Cian Kelliher co-opted (plagiarized) Kula’s email when he left Ernst & Young’s Dublin office in the winter of 2007. Kelliher’s only spark of originality was to change the names in the “roll-call” portion of the email to those of his co-workers. Contrary to their reputation as hilarious pranksters, the accountants at Ernst & Young didn’t find the email amusing (despite being responsible for two of the greatest unintentionally hilarious pieces of corporate propaganda ever, as marketing pieces that can be found on YouTube). After receiving a special audit of his kneecaps, Kelliher sent a firm-wide apology the following week which read:
“I regret that the email could adversely impact on the reputation/good name of Ernst & Young and my former colleagues… I wish to emphasize that none of the comments were meant to be taken seriously. I hold Ernst & Young and my former colleagues in the highest regard.”
Ernst & Young considers the matter (and Kelliher’s career prospects in accountancy) “closed.”
Also armed with access to the internets and a loathing for his employer, Jay Rodriguez, a New Jersey-based IT employee for JPMorgan, decided to co-opt (plagiarize again) Kula’s email when he quit in June 2007. Rodriguez marked the template email with names and nicknames of his co-workers (Mr. Cronyism makes an appearance, Little Miss Naughty does not), and included an intimate shout-out “to all the executives,” starting with CEO Jamie Dimon (whose email address is on the recipient list):
“To all of the executives of this company, Jamie Dimon and such… My advice for you is to place yourself closer to the pulse of this company and enjoy the effort and dedication of us "faceless little people" more. There are many great people that are being over worked and mistreated… Find them and embrace them as they will help battle the cancerous plague that is ravishing the moral of this company.”
The moral of this story is to spell-check your farewell emails, and realize that originality only runs Google deep.
Burning Bridge Scale (1-10): (for all emails, in aggregate) 3 – Kula’s email, bridge-safe upon dispersal, gets points for inspiring so many future corporate connection arsonists, although it’s easier to be ballsy when nothing is on the line.
Kelliher torched the four big accounting bridges with his email, and isn’t likely to approve major corporate grievances with loose interpretations of FASB regulations any time in the near future. Kelliher loses points for the sudden retraction of his unoriginal sentiments. Unbridled loathing means never having to say you’re sorry.
Rodriguez loses most of his credibility for not being the first plagiarist of his farewell email, and for his sudden serious turn when trying to level with upper management.
The email: (Here is the original email from Kula)
As many of you probably know, today is my last day. But before I leave, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what a great and distinct pleasure it has been to type “Today is my last day.”
For nearly as long as I’ve worked here, I’ve hoped that I might one day leave this company. And now that this dream has become a reality, please know that I could not have reached this goal without your unending lack of support. Words cannot express my gratitude for the words of gratitude you did not express.
I would especially like to thank all of my managers: in an age where miscommunication is all too common, you consistently impressed and inspired me with the sheer magnitude of your misinformation. It takes a strong man to admit his mistake - it takes a stronger man to attribute his mistake to me.
Over the past three years, you have taught me more than I could ever ask for and, in most cases, ever did ask for. I have been fortunate enough to work with some absolutely interchangeable supervisors on a wide variety of seemingly identical projects - an invaluable lesson in overcoming daily tedium in overcoming daily tedium in overcoming daily tedium.
Your demands were high and your patience short, but I take great solace knowing that my work was, as stated on my annual review, "mostly satisfactory." That is the type of praise that sends a man home happy after even a 10 hour day, smiling his way through half a bottle of mostly satisfactory scotch.
And to most of my peers: even though we barely acknowledged each other within these office walls, I hope that in the future, should we pass on the street, you will regard me the same way as I regard you: sans eye contact.
But to those few souls with whom I’ve actually interacted, here are my personalized notes of farewell:
To Rudy: I will always remember sharing lunch with you, despite having clearly labeled it with my name.
To Steven: I will miss detecting your flatulence as much as you will clearly miss walking past my cubicle to deliver it.
To Eileen: Best wishes on your ongoing campaign to popularize these “email forwards.” I sincerely hope you receive that weekend full of good luck, that hug from an old friend, and that baby for your dusty womb.
To Felix: I left a new wristwatch on your desk. It is so that you might be able to still tell time even without your hourly phone call to let me know the copier is jammed. (Call Steven – he’ll come by.)
And finally, to Kat: you were right - I tested positive. We’ll talk later.
So, in parting, if I could pass on any word of advice to the individual who will soon be filling my position, it would be to cherish this experience like a sponge and soak it up like a good woman, because a job opportunity like this comes along only once in a lifetime.
Meaning: if I had to work here again in this lifetime, I would sooner kill myself.
Very truly yours,
PS: I will be throwing myself a happy hour farewell party at the burnt-out bar in the sub-basement of the bus station. Please do not stop by.
EMAIL #7: The Crying of Lot ‘Disgruntled Employee’
Date: August 2007
Background: Art handler Jason Cuvelier left the NYC branch of Christie’s with the following parting shot after six years of employment.
Burning Bridge Scale (1-10): 7 – Aside from the initial niceties directed at the co-eds (minus one) in the photography department, Cuvelier gets right to the point about how he hates Christie’s. He asserts how the “snakes in the grass” who dominate the “contaminated corporate splendor” of Christie’s make people passionate about art miserable to the point of attrition. Throw in a few swipes at silly internet policies and the overdrawn installation of what must be some legendarily heinous carpeting and you get quite a nice fire, and probably a couple dates with some hot photographers.
During my nearly six years here at Christie's, I have come to conclude that farewell emails are a lot like those boring Academy Award speeches where they thank everyone under the sun. In these emails everyone just babbles on and on with the same old euphoric poppycock; read one, read 'em all. Well, you won't be able to include this email in that group.
And so it is really here before me; my departure from the 'World's Leading Art Business' and all of its contaminated corporate splendor. I announce this without hesitation, or regret and I don't expect that most of you to have already known I was leaving.
I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation for those I have worked with in the Photographs Department: Laura, Stuart, Sarah, Elizabeth and Ashley. They are the best and most dedicated in their field and I wish them continued success. I would also like to thank all of the dedicated Art Handlers and Attendants I have represented as Shop Steward - they are the backbone of the company and deserve everyone's respect!
I feel it is best to quickly express my fondest appreciation for some of the endearing ideas that I have seen peddled around me: like how everyone seems to be replaceable, thinking outside of the box is liken to heresy, favoritism is thicker than water and speaking the truth gets you into trouble.
For the snakes in the grass that covertly sent the message a few years ago that I was being 'perceived as a trouble maker' and I that I should leave Christie's – I thank you wholeheartedly for that uplifting gift.
A moment should be taken to note the optimism that once existed after we unionized only to see it squashed by a culture of harassment that has since permeated and fostered.
It would be shameless of me not to let the powers that be know my deep gratitude for eliminating most of the older Art Handlers internet access. God knows what treacherous and deviant websites you have kept us from visiting - thanks!
But most of all, I would like to thank this bold and majestic company for taking someone who actually liked the business – someone who could have seen themselves staying here, giving their all and making them feel totally miserable to the point where they had to send an email like this before they left.
Finally I would like to applaud the wonderful decision to install that brilliant new carpeting on the 5th & 6th floors and my dismay that I won't see it completely installed…....
EMAIL #8: And This Time, It’s Personal
Date: June 2005
Background: A JPMorgan I-banking analyst, after two years of requisite abuse, leaves the bank with a token of his appreciation before moving on to a job in private equity. The analyst in this case happens to be yours truly.
I arrived at 277 Park Avenue on June 30th like any other day, about 40 minutes late and hating my life. The only thing different about that day was that it was my last in investment banking, and I was in a tuxedo-print T-shirt, shorts, sneakers, a stars and stripes headband/wristband set and a neon pink belt with a digital scrolling screen buckle programmed to read “Free at last” (the rest of the Martin Luther King speech exceeded the 30 character limit). A departing compatriot in a similar outfit had a buckle which read “JPMorgan loves you.” Yes, our group was that popular.
I had no intention of sending an email upon my departure. Aside from creating a well-received holiday party presentation in my second year, refusing not to shower during a week of consecutive all-nighters (getting yelled at every night I left the bank for an hour o’ hygiene), and serving as the group’s resident expert on the rural telecommunications landscape of Texas (not too many people dip into that font of knowledge, let me tell you), I was an undistinguished middle-of-the-road analyst. I saw no need to make my mark so that managing directors I had weekly meetings with for the last two years would have to learn my name.
I changed my mind after the analysts in our group received their bonus numbers, which amplified the loud sucking sound that emanates from 277 Park Avenue just enough to spark creative resentment. The analysts that announced their departure in advance (raises hand) out of courtesy and in order to transition projects – got slammed.
JPMorgan promised that leaving for greener pastures made no difference to compensation, to lull those considerate enough to notify the bank in advance that it was ok to crap on them. Of course, the analysts that waited until bonus day to announce they were leaving were rewarded for their “loyalty” (whoops), and JPMorgan still got to say it paid departing analysts the full-range of the bonus spectrum. My farewell email popped out in about 15 minutes.
Burning Bridge Scale (1-10): 5 – Despite my best efforts and graphical prompting (I pasted a picture of a burning bridge at the end), bridges were barely singed by the email. Sure, the BSDs tried to gnash their teeth and beat their chests immediately, wanting desperately to find a few distended red anuses that weren’t already out the door (several VPs answered this call).
An emergency transcontinental compliance meeting followed, in which the wise group elders threatened to fire anyone who forwarded the email from that point forward, after realizing that everyone had already forwarded the email.
JPMorgan’s most vigilant search for accountability before the billions in write-downs of mortgage-backed securities (and sadly, after as well) culminated in a cascade of threats the firm couldn’t legally carry out. (Unfortunately, the firm did take away a small, small sliver of my bonus as a slap on the wrist, in a retroactive move that no one who I’ve talked to thinks is legal, but wasn’t worth trying to squabble over)
The moral of the story here is that if you have the choice between losing JPMorgan billions of dollars and wounding a few egos by telling people that the banking experience is less than desirable, lose the billions – at least you won’t have to give up any of your money.
I had my next job (in private equity) lined up, and I started a few weeks after I left JPMorgan. Our firm ended up working with JPMorgan a couple of times. Each time JPMorgan was more than willing to offer up a sacrificial analyst or two. To this day I run into many of my old banking bosses who don’t attach my face (to my actual name) to “the kid who wrote that email a while ago,” and greet me with the same awkward cordiality in trying to sniff out a potential client as everyone else.
If anything, I built bridges by sending an atypical farewell message. I received responses from every continent but Antarctica (still waiting for the show of solidarity from disillusioned penguins), and made a few lasting acquaintances. Not one of the responses was negative (or at least the people who hated the email were too busy and important to respond).
To: Everyone in the Investment Banking-TMT coverage group in North America
Subject: The end of an era
As many of you may know, farewell emails must start like this or some planetary misalignment triggers the spontaneous combustion of several exotic and furry species. That being said today is my last day at JPMorgan. I would say that it's been a pleasure working with all of you, but then again, losing the ability to walk fully upright, several inches in various key places, and possessing a gait resembling someone just released from a night in a maximum security state penitentiary would suggest otherwise.
Although the tone of this email smacks of someone who just got the equivalent of the petting zoo parting gift behind the wrong door in "Let's Make a Deal" in lieu of a normal banking bonus, I assure you, that even though the bonuses of the departing second years make Planck's constant seem like a Powerball jackpot, I am not bitter. After all, a firm must try especially hard to have a retention rate pegged somewhere between the NYC water main and an incontinent schoolboy, and have a unique talent to put a veil over people's eyes so thick that it makes a burqa seem like a leopard print thong. Thus is the nature of the sweetly scented veil of empty rhetoric, in which all pitch-books are under 25 pages, each telecom dividend is more “special” than the last, each project is on its way to becoming the "SECOND BIGGEST LBO EVER!," and all GBC bindings are dolphin friendly.
To be fair, I have grown fond of many of JPMorgan's finer qualities – the glorious inverted pyramid, in which prides of senior people are supported by a lone analyst, in which Atlas doesn't only shrug, he is in serious need of a chiropractor. It is not necessarily debilitating to process the groundbreaking ideas of those who make "Ice, Ice Baby" seem like an original score, or coexist on the bottom rung of a firm whose idea of resource management is so misguided that its next major strategic initiative is to invade Manchuria, but it does tend to wear on the psyche, if not the cuticles.
My only advice going forward – impair or infirm yourself in some way or another. JPMorgan rewards competence about as well as Pol Pot rewarded wearing eyeglasses, and never has a firm been so afraid of those who work out and bathe regularly. The firm’s "star" system is apt in many ways, in that it emphasizes the critical role in the firm played by giant balls of hot flaming gas. The M&A floor smells like Cheetos and feet for a reason, and although this reason could definitely use the aid of some anti-bacterial soap and moist towelettes (and why are M&A off-site activities so desperately masculine (gun ranges, et al.) that in general the overcompensating M&A folk make the cast of Queer Eye look like Gunsmoke), M&A personnel sure are "highly regarded."
So throw off the chains of dynamism, point-of-view, and especially humor! Cast away the shackles of personality, creativity, and passion! JPMorgan will take your tired, your sick, and your hungry – and hire them on the spot.
Switching gears for a minute – good luck to everyone – there were ups and downs, highs and lows, cheers and jeers, kip-ups and tri-pods, but most of all there was soft, gentle, weeping... Most of all – thanks to everyone who put up with me for the last two years. I did learn a lot – some financial, some hygienic...
And next year I'm joining the circus...
Keith R Hahn