Do you enjoy getting punched in the face? I recall from boxing training at the Academy that I very much do not like getting punched in the face. (To the point that a buddy and I tried to choreograph the final bout so we’d both squeak by with Bs. Instead, the old-assed coach spewed a torrent of filthy (and, frankly, homophobic) insults and we ended up exchanging haymakers for a horrific three minutes. My nose bleeds like a faucet; good times heading to take a Spanish test five minutes after the fight, blood all over the place, hands shaking and smelling like 50 year old communal boxing gloves and mask.) This memory helped drive one of the many great ideas I had while working on a submarine: the one-punch policy. (Note that in investment banking I did not have any great ideas – the downside of aging (or possibly exposure to radioactive stuff.))
What is the one-punch policy? It’s a simple management technique in which managers are incentivized not to act like assholes because everyone in the organization is legally entitled to punch one person, once, per day, sans ramification. One non-recourse punch. (Actually, I should’ve come taken this a step further when in the finance world and securitized the punches, established the market for punch non-thrown swaps and maybe even figured out how to make a synthetic fist.) Everyone is suddenly much nicer when they consider the fact that all the minions “stepping up” or “providing leverage” (translation: actually doing sh-t) could fire a right cross under duress of snide commentary or, heaven help, passive aggression.
This is a pretty natural progression of thought for me, considering that the one-punch policy is an offshoot of the concept of mutually-assured destruction. All those subs with missiles hang out in the middle of nowhere so that subs with missiles operated by other countries know that if some shit goes down, they are definitely getting blown up. Sure, we will take some hits (and that’s why there are so many missile silos in Nebraska and South Dakota – those spots make West Helena, Arkansas look like Vegas) but most likely we are going to blow [fill in the name of enemy country here]’s ass right off the map. Point being: launching a nuke is a lose/lose proposition. So is getting punched in the face, knowing that the other guy can retaliate or even have colleagues help to beat that ass (note that there are more junior folks than senior folks in pretty much every organization.)
Do people have to stand there and take the punch? Of course not – not knowing what’s coming, or when, is part of the positive motivation. You’d have to position yourself for a clean shot; if you miss you can get your own ass decked. I suspect that if this system were in place, telephone communications with colleagues on Wall Street would rise something like 800%. Usually you would all get in a room together to review a document, but with the possibility of the 73rd format change to a meaningless table on page 132 of a pitchbook causing a couple of analysts to lose their minds, I’m betting internal conference calls would suddenly be de rigueur again.
(Editor’s Stuff That I Want To Mention In Parentheses: Unlike some other topics that I just left twisting in the wind, it’s time to wrap up the Summer Associate chronicles. I will try to keep this well under 6,000 words; I know some people are still bitter about the TL,DR-fest that was Comedy of Harrah’s. Still feeling pretty rough Monday night after a long Saturday of sun and beer (turns out there is a limit to the number of Coronas I can consume and still operate heavy machinery), but dreading the thought of returning to the dismal summer of 2001 without a little liquid courage, I pondered whether I should get some wine. (Don’t bother trying to determine the grammaticality of that last sentence, just roll with it.) I decided that, in fact, I should get some wine. The question was, big bottle or small bottle? (SO is out of town, so just me and the couch.) After some contemplation, it occurred to me that it would be financially irresponsible not to get the big bottle, since it’s only $16 and one small bottle is $9. Then I was faced with a further dilemma when they were inexplicably out of big bottles of purple yellow tail (I am not solely responsible for the shortage – I hope). So then the course of action was clear: I got two small bottles. Let’s do this thang.)
Vignettes From A Painful Summer: Mercy Killing
Office Environment/”Culture” Everyone that worked full-time at TBTNLSA absolutely despised all their colleagues. This was amplified by the palpable sense of “everyone in this bitch is getting fired just as soon as the ridiculous amount of summer interns we overhired finish up.” No love from the full-timers for all the interns running around, either, probably for good reason – nobody who’s about to be canned wants to be answering career guidance questions from a bright-eyed noob with misguided visions of BSD-dom.
One one of my projects, the analyst and associate weren’t even on speaking terms. The analyst was a real f*ckhead – if I saw him today I’d probably punch him in the throat – who just gave me a model template and 10K and said he needed a full model for Company X in two days. This would’ve been fine if I’d had the slightest f*cking clue what I was supposed to be modeling, instead of just being told “I’m really busy on other stuff, just figure it out.” I vaguely recall not even conforming the balance sheet items to what was in the filing – I assumed it wasn’t important if it wasn’t one of the stock line items in the standard model (“f*ck yo balance sheet, telemundo”). And I developed the widely despised habit of doing side calculations in random cells and then linking those to random other spots so that it was impossible to audit – who needs that blue is for input, black is for output nonsense. I spent those 48 hours sweating and flailing, praying a miracle was headed my way. The analyst had, of course, already done whatever analytical work was needed for the project – the model was just something to keep me busy. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those feel-good cases where I learned a lot and leveraged that knowledge for the next few weeks – wasting all that time cost me critical sleep and credibility on my other projects, and was the beginning of the end.
Projects Writing this part gave me the most trouble: I honestly can’t remember what I did for those 18-20 hours per day. My landing a banking job was similar to having Patrick Dempsey go ahead and take a shot at a stem cell transplant. I had parlayed good grades at a respected “quant” business school and a memorization of the Vault guides into a real job, with zero substance backing it up. Please note that this lack of preparation was all my fault: I should’ve paid more attention to some key second semester classes and done more background work instead of becoming the all-time leading consumer of Goldschlager at the Beacon Hill Pub. It was like a romantic comedy, sometimes the hero gets what he pined for but then realizes it isn’t for him and that his tomboy best friend is actually supermodelesque when she lets her hair down and takes off her glasses. That simile kind of fell apart, but the point is that sometimes when you get something you think you really want – despite a plethora of information suggesting you shouldn’t want it – theres still a big chance of disappoint, or perhaps even physical or mental harm.
Given my office on a different floor, my workflow started slowly. A Hispanic television pitch here (where I scoffed at latino sensibilities for the seemingly silly concept of telenovela Betty La Fea, only to later see the cracker version, Ugly Betty, become almost popular), helping turn the pitchbook for Huge Satellite Company A buying Huge Satellite Company B there. I vividly recall that the M&A floor was like another world, all these insane people never sleeping, ordering Dominos at 3:30 AM, generally basking in the busy-ness. Some girl went crazy on me up there for inappropriate formatting, yelling “Fitz is gonna f*cking go nuts!” over and over again. Despite the fact that I now know how to format the sh*t out of some powerpoint, I still hate M&A floors.
I also recall waiting around for Word Processing a lot – some places it’s called Graphics, some WP; Monkey Business evensuggested bribing the word processing people since they were all-powerful. TBTNLSA was the only bank I worked at that used such a bizarre document control system – literally everything went through these people (possibly exacerbated by the fact that my Powerpoint skills were nonexistent) and it took fucking forever. I remember seeing my colleagues from training roaming the halls at 3:00 AM like zombies, ready to knife a motherf*cker for cutting in line at WP. I don’t know what I did for all those hours at TBTNLSA, but I did a lot of it.
Plagiarism Once I was assigned to do a very simple pitch update with probably the most easygoing VP at TBTNLSA – TJ? RJ? AJ? Some initials ending with ‘J’ – a solid guy unfortunately destined to get blown out in the looming devastation. There was an existing pitch for a similar company in the same space that had been done like three days earlier. Being an English major and an honorable citizen, I assumed that each thought in the “updated” pitch should have been generated by my pretty little head. I wasn’t aware that 90% of pitch books are total retreads, and probably 100% have at least some vestige of a pitchbook from two decades ago. My hours of toil looking for synonymous ways to express thoughts about areas I had little knowledge of were not well spent – should’ve just been a quick update of the comps (whatever those were?), change date on the (fudged) league tables and make sure there were no new tombstones to be added. A book like that should’ve taken like three hours, even for someone inexperienced. I was a dipsh*t.
Embarassing Moments I once faxed 15 pages to a senior MD, upside down. (Always look at the fax machine tray, there’s usually some heiroglyphic showing which side is up – generally it’s printed words down.) He was not excited to get blank pages. At a group lunch with the group head, I used the wrong end of the pepper grinder, resulting in a little pepper cloud coming out the top. Then, I had a french fry overloaded with ketchup break halfway to my mouth, leaving a splatter on my white shirt that would’ve made the censors at CSI blush. I also once foolishly wore a polo shirt to a business casual event – I looked like quite the moron when everyone else was wearing sport coats. There are probably a ton of other incidents that I have repressed, but there were certainly enough blank stares, uninformed opinions, bad guesses, inaccurate analytics and poorly formatted documents to suggest I was not ready for prime time.
Red Light There was no worse feeling at TBTNLSA than seeing the red light on your phone: voice mail. (This was before summers got blackberries; we had to check our voicemail every two hours). That red light was never, ever for something good, it was always indicative of something that was going to seriously wreck your next several hours or days. At my first full time job at TARP I, this fear was made even worse by the horrific Message 8001 text you’d get on the old school bberry: call your voice mail. Never leave me a voice mail, I HAT VOICE MAIL. I’m with Sting: you don’t have to put on the red light.
Whatchamacallit The one upside was that I managed to briefly corner the market on Whatchamacallits in our building. The downside: there was no financial reward for this as Whatchamacallit demand was surprisingly soft -possibly because of the tainted peanut-flavored crisp scare of July 2001. I also garnered an impressive share of the Red Bull market, but could never snare a majority of the market.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back A terrible movie, but by the last two weeks of my too-long stint, I was not receiving phone calls anymore. So I’d go to the movies during the day, which was nice. I even did a brief stint in – yuck – real estate after it became clear there wasn’t a spot in Media for the kid. My time in real estate did not endear me to anyone in particular, either, but I did learn how to use the Outlook Calendar to increase efficiency.
So that about sums it up, my summer experience sucked. I was terrible, the environment was terrible, the subway was hot, the only thing that was good was the proximity to delicious Cosi sandwiches. Later on, I will post how I managed to get a banking job a month after 9/11, having had a dismal summer (perhaps in conjunction with my guide to performing fellatio, as they are somewhat related topics).
Is anybody going to fucking follow me on Twitter???? Two followers??? That’s f*cking embarassing…the problem is that all the well-to-do motherf*ckers who read this aren’t on Twitter, because Twitter is somewhat stupid. Well guess what, it takes three seconds to sign up, you can totally use fake information (@ParisHiltonsVag, for example, seems fake) and then you can at least follow like comedians or athletes who will occasionally say some funny sh*t. And the power of Twitter search is amazing – it’s not like search engines where some magic algorithm determines the results, Twitter just shows you all the most recent comments on whatever topic you type in – this will prove to be extremely powerful, trust me.
I’m headed to LA for a couple weeks, so posting will be sporadic at best – I better have at least three followers by the time I get back,
I need to quickly update my treatise on tie brand hierarchy (or, as identified by the Google search engine, “tierarchy” a word I invented/created/coined). In the original piece, I focused mainly on the brands that were acceptable as everyday Wall Street attire. Yesterday, I spotted some ties that are at the bottom of the tierarchy totem pole.
If you are tie shopping at Rite Aid, you are doing it wrong – even if you are a Summer Analyst. Although, bonus points for the kid willing to buy one of these, wear it to the office, and successfully fish for compliments. “Thanks, I got it at Rite Aid, they have a pretty killer accessory selection. I got this belt there, too.”
I am not done with the Summer Associate stuff, but exhausted from that friggin AC recap,