It’s the strangest thing. I’ve quit investment banking yet its investment banking that continues to ruin my life. I thought that when I walked out those cattle gates, I had given up the habit for good. Yet somewhere, somehow, investment banking has managed to insinuate itself back into my life. How is this possible? Where did I go wrong? Have I been shooting puppies in my sleep? Am I finally being punished for dislocating my baby cousin’s elbow during a seemingly innocent game of ring-a-ring-a-rosie, when telling her that “we all jump up!”? Am I being further punished for accidentally dropping the same aforementioned baby cousin, face down into the pool as I was helping her to learn to swim? Seriously what did I do to deserve this never ending sentence to be subject to the qualms of a mercurial investment banking director?
Oh that’s right. It’s you.
Yes I may have left banking but I neglected that you were still caught in its spell. The late nights, the lonely dinners, the inability to do anything social, the co-dependence on work colleagues – I thought I’d left all that behind for a new job and new position, but sadly I had neglected to realise I would be unwittingly given another position – “Banker Spouse” or “BS” for short. [Note: The reference to ‘spouse’ is not meant to be some veiled attempt to hint at marriage – no, my thinly veiled hints are more likely to be in the form of singing “if you like it then you should’ve put a ring on it” down the street whilst I dance next to you. Rather in this instance, I thought that the term “banker spouse” in the shortened form of “BS” worked well with the joke that going out with a banker is BS…as in bull shit. Cool, so we’re clear? I can hear your hyperventilation and the puddles of nervous sweat forming at your feet, so you can relax.]
Having been on the other side, I’ve seen how bankers respond to their Banker Spouses and to other colleagues’ Banker Spouses: #1: “Sorry guys, I have to leave” #2:“Oh dude you’re totally whippppppped! [makes whip cracking noise] Huh huh huh huh” [yes in my head, a group of male bankers making social chat always sound like misogynist stoners]. #1 then rolls eyes and sighs as if to say “yeah, mate gotta visit the ‘ol’ ball and chain’, but would really rather just stay and spend Friday night out with the same work people who I’ve already spent 80-100 hours with already this week and will be spending the weekend with too”. It becomes a competition to one-up each other of how douchey they can be when talking about this person, who, in other circles is otherwise known as the person who the banker thinks in their heart is the person they love the most in the world and in some instances the mother of their children.
But by far the saddest thing about this sequence is that the banker actually thinks he’s in control. He doesn’t realise is that he’s but a trophy, a prize to be won, for an epic head-to-head battle that is fought beyond any realm he can imagine. It is a long, scrappy game of tug-of-war, a live enactment of the labour supply curve, trade-off between work and leisure fought between two of history’s greatest enemies – the Banker Spouse and the banker’s Director. It’s a full-blown war being waged on his behalf where the object is to maximise the time you get to spend with the Trophy…I mean banker.
It starts off pleasant enough, through a chance meeting at a work social function. Banker Spouse gets introduced to the Director and can finally put a face to the person who up until now has just been known as “[5 minutes before a pre-planned date, phone rings] oh sorry, I can’t make it anymore, I’ve just got an email from Director”. Director knows of the Banker Spouse too – for them, you’re the one constantly whispering in the Trophy’s ear about other opportunities, showing them how awesome seeing daylight can be. Director knows you have an advantage because everyone would rather do fun stuff than comps – so he has to employ dirty tactics. He starts offering the Trophy money, bonuses, training in foreign cities. Banker Spouse can’t compete with that – the only bonus they can offer also comes with a risk of pregnancy.
To make matters worse, the Director finds out classified information – they discover that you’re an Ex-Banker Banker Spouse, the only thing worse than being a Banker Spouse. Suddenly, your hands are tied – you want to insist that the Trophy come home but any protestations are met with “you know what it’s like”. There’s no argument to rebut that. It’s like trying to plead not guilty to a crime that you’ve been captured doing on eleven high-definition cameras. There’s just no escaping.
Weeks pass by, with only the minimal communication as the Trophy is ‘on a deal’ and Banker Spouse knows that they are losing this battle. If Taylor Swift were a Banker Spouse, she’d be starting to write her next hit sad song about this experience by now. Then whatever time you do get, the Director has made the Trophy a poisoned chalice as now all the poor Trophy can now do is talk about work. Director also makes the Trophy keep his/her phone out on the table at all times, not in case he needs to discuss any work with the Trophy, no – it’s just a signal to the Banker Spouse that they are omnipresent, in control and going to win the Trophy.
Then, just as all hope is lost, a miracle occurs. Some European country needs a bailout, investors get jittery and the markets go down in a sustained decline. Some commentators say that this recession looks like it could stick around for months, and talk about a double nay triple-dip recession – FUCK YEAH! A need for leverage in Europe = increased leverage for the Banker Spouse! Corporate activity dries up and it’s like you’re cutting the Director’s power source – he can’t offer interesting deal work or money anymore. Banker Spouse rises and takes the Trophy on a roadshow of their own – on weekends away, trips to the gym before 10pm, drinks after work when the sun’s setting with non-work friends. And finally, the Trophy gets within reach…