Your friends in the investment banking community

It’s the five-year anniversary of the financial crisis. My comfortable, dull, ordinary life was upended to a point whereby I still haven’t fully recovered. While gainfully employed these past five years (thank god), I’ve only managed to find consulting work. A staff hire with full benefits remains elusive.

In an interview reflecting on the TARP program that bailed-out failing financial institutions, then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson commented:

“There was a total lack of awareness from the firms that paid big bonuses during this extraordinary time. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. There was a colossal lack of self-awareness as to how they were viewed by the American public.”

Allow me to enlighten Secretary Paulson. I’ve spent my entire career working in asset management (except for one whorey detour in advertising). I know what lurks in the hearts and minds of investment bankers and, believe me, it’s nothing good. There was no “colossal lack of self-awareness.” They knew exactly what they were doing. Those guys couldn’t give a flying fuck what the American public thinks of them. They possess a single-minded obsession with money. Wives, children, reputations, everything, takes a back seat to their manic pursuit of wealth. They’d sell their own mother’s burial plot (with her in it) to a strip mall developer if they could get a good price on the land.

The asset manager I currently work for allows company officers to choose original artwork to decorate their office walls. There’s a sizable budget for it. The Head of Fixed Income chose to decorate his office with beautifully framed currency from around the world. HE FRAMED MONEY. Money is their art. Their art is money. From what I’ve observed over the years, it seems that people who are drawn into this line of work are afflicted with a dreary psychosis. Happiness can only be achieved through wealth accumulation. Money is love. I’m actually kind of stunned that my career inadvertently became intertwined with these vampires. Henry Paulson is an idiot.

*     *     *

Speaking of art. (You knew I’d get around to it sooner or later.) There was an exhibit at the Whitney that, by description, didn’t sound very interesting to me. I had no enthusiasm for seeing it but I was in the neighborhood so I popped in.

Robert Irwin’s Scrim Veil—Black Rectangle—Natural Light was a reinstallation from 1977. It’s a simple idea. In an empty gallery (the one on the fourth floor with the odd-shaped window), they hang a translucent scrim along the length of the room. Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

I’m not sure the photos do justice, but it was actually pretty great.


The only light in the room pours in from the window and plays off the scrim.


The scrim is mounted on the ceiling and stretches the length of the gallery and falls halfway down. There’s an aluminum beam across the bottom holding it taunt that you can easily bang your head on if you’re not careful. I almost did.


There’s a black line painted around the perimeter of the gallery that’s the exact same hight and width of the aluminum beam. In this photo, the border extends from the camera, down the wall and then turns a corner. From this viewpoint, your eye is tricked into thinking it’s a giant triangle.


 *     *     *

Professor Xavier and Magneto (or, if you prefer, Captan Picard and Gandalf) stroll Times Square hawking tickets to their upcoming Broadway production of Waiting for Godot.


27 thoughts on “Your friends in the investment banking community

  1. Never mind the scrim, did you notice the reflecting sheen off the stone floor tiles? I bet it looks excellent in the natural sunlight. I must admit that I am quite in to the minimalistic look, everything painted a nice bright white, light reflecting from different angles, just the occasional bright object to interest the mind.


    • I believe that’s intentional. Floors, walls and ceiling are all part of the installation. I was surprisingly impressed.

      • hey, Chef – great idea! i’ll wear reflective stone tiles and stand outside on a sunny day. so much easier than going to the gym every day.

  2. That window could be the bright light people see in near-death experiences.

    Did you hear that Captain Picard married his decades-younger girlfriend? I have to admit being slightly curious about their sex life.

    • There have been a wave of celebrities buying brownstones and settling in Brooklyn, Captain Picard being the latest. Apparently, he met a 25-year old waitress in a local restaurant and presto! Love blossomed! I wonder what they see in each other? I can’t imagine.

  3. The belief by those that should have known better that this was all a bit of a storm in a tea cup is frankly insulting to the vast majority of us. I see it starting again in the UK, everyone clapping happily and going whooped to whoop over house prices hitting 5 year highs.

    But let me look at is this way…

    When I bought my first house at the tender age of 22 I’d just qualified and my starting salary in 1984 was a stunning £7,250 per annum. The house I bought was a nice three storey terrace town house it cost about £22,000. Roughly just about 3 times my salary. I had to show intent to marry my betrothed and the bank manager finally agreed to lend us the money.

    So it is 2014 – a house just like that one, same area etc. for £190,000. Starting graduate salary today – about £23,000 – ok I’ll stretch to £25,000 that is 7.6 times that salary. Now there is a problem – and the banks just lend and lend and lend and then … oh look it all collapsed again. Frankly – they don’t care and they haven’t for years, not since the bank manager who was rewarded for his prudent lending to people who would pay it back for 25years was replaced by an advisor who is rewarded for lending the most in a month at his branch…

    • You bought a house at 22 years old?! My lord. I was still wiping my nose and watching cartoons on a Saturday morning. Some of us are slow out of the starting gate. Well done, you.

      Not only have banks not cared for years, I’m not entirely convinced they EVER cared! I qualify that by acknowledging the futility of making a blanket statement like that and the inherent unfairness of reducing an entire segment of society to a cheap stereotype, but I believe their primary concern has always been shareholder price and market value. There are unending stories in the paper about how investment firms are paying fines for shady dealings. Just yesterday, the gov’t announced that JP Morgan will pay an $800 million settlement for trading violations. AGAIN with those guys! Can you imagine what goes undetected?! What they get away with?

  4. Best post ever. Well, best serious post.
    You are, of course, absolutely right.Many of us have thought this for years, but all around the world the money has the power. It’s like an addiction with those people.
    I’m going to share this on the ghastly Facebook, because I know people over there who will like this and, I suspect, a few who will feel damned uncomfortable.
    And the Whitney show? Think I’d need to see it to be impressed. Can I come back to NY?

    • This issue is as old as man and money. None of my accusations are new. Humankind is saddled with all sorts of weaknesses. For some people, it’s whiskey. Others, money. You own it to the people you love to rise above these degenerative behaviors.

      I keep looking at the photos of the scrim and they don’t really work that well. I was actually going to trash them and not post, but I was hurting for content. Quantity over quality!

  5. Bankers-wankers..I don’t even want to go there.. let’s move straight on to the art.

    I like that room. I like lighting and how it plays – I prefer natural lighting in photography as it always alters the mood of the picture.
    I enjoy going to see things that I think I might not like. On a Sunday I often visit our Contemporary art museum to look at all the bonkers things that I just don’t get so I can try and find something in it that resonates.

    • If you like light when it’s used as a medium for art, you’d have loved this piece. I once dragged myself to a Kandinsky retrospective at the Guggenheim. I was sure I hated his work but walked out a fan. That just goes to show you.

      I’ll bet you come across some real gems at the Contemporary art museum but I’ll bet you see a lot of junk, too. That’s the fun, innit?

    • This is one of the shows I have tickets for this fall. They’re playing in repertory. They’re simultaneously doing Pinter’s No Man’s Land.

  6. “Greed is good” still. Well at least in some sectors. Where I live there are many financiers, some of whom have made so much money, but lost their appetite for earning it. So they retire at 40. Get bored. Try and start doing other jobs. Fail. Without exception. The gallery looks very calming.

    • 40, wealthy and bored. An elegant problem to wrestle with. I suppose I should be cautious about wishing that for myself but it does seem like the lesser of two evils.

      That exhibit WAS very calming. A very astute observation.

      You have the best avatar, bar none.

  7. The Head of Fixed Income is a douchebag of monstrous proportions – and will never know it. That’s the magic of these bastards – perfecting the art of self-delusion. If you want to screw with him? Go remove his Hong Kong Dollars, Thai Bhat, Euros and Vietnamese Dong and replace it with Monopoly money. That’d be a few hours of a weekend very well spent…

    As for Picard and Gandalf? God DAMN my calendar. i need to get there this autumn, but life has thrown me a 100mph curveball and it’s looking unlikely. Grrr….

    • I can’t believe I’ve spent so many years with these cocksuckers. Just today in the paper they announced that JP Morgan is paying a fine close to ONE BILLIONS $$$ for trading improprieties. It’ll never end with those guys. I guess I need the eggs.

      Never mind Godot. They’re reviving a play next spring that you have to come out and see. It was one of my top-five favorite shows ever (and that’s saying something). Alan Cumming is reviving his role as the creepy MC in Cabaret. I’ll kidnap you and drag you out here if need be.

  8. When I went to the bank for my latest mortgage, they preapproved me for over $200K. I make in the area of $65K, give or take, depending on how much overtime and extra shifts I work in a year. I opted to buy a house for $145K in a small city just north of the city I work (and used to live) in. Why on earth would I want to have to scrape the bottom of the barrel and work tons of OT just to pay the basic bills? People like those you work for boggle my mind and should all be personally responsible for repaying the bailouts. Here in Canada, our banking system took a lot of hits but none needed bailouts due to the structure of our financial system. In fact, our former head of the Bank of Canada is now in London, trying to help out the British banking mess. I wish him luck. Lots say he’ll never do it.

    As far as the art goes, I don’t see the appeal but like you said, the pictures don’t do it justice. Maybe one day I’ll make a trip to NYC and you can tour me around the galleries.

    Those two guys look great! But Elmo’s eyes are a bit wonky… what do you think ~ drugs or alcohol? 😉

    • This is an excellent example of how people should run their affairs. Do some math and figure out how much debt you can take on. Don’t be house poor. My Bride and I did the same thing. Sure, we’d have loved a bigger house and I wish I could drive a nice, new Audi instead of an old Subaru, but being on sound financial footing makes me sleep better at night. People are in denial about how much money they make. The Canadian investment banks, to my knowledge, were required to keep more capital on hand than their U.S. counterparts. That’s why it’s a healthier system.

      I hate to resort to a tired, old cliche, but in order to be impressed by the installation you have to see it. It would be my pleasure to drag you all over the galleries and museums of Manhattan. Bring good walking shoes.

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