Bankers and others in the business of finance aren’t exactly winning any popularity polls at the moment. The Facebook IPO has many complaining that the investment game is rigged. The Occupy Wall Streeters are still in the streets, banging pots and pans. And now Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen, currently on tour in Europe, is blasting bankers as “robber barons” and “greedy thieves” in pointed songs about America’s economic divide.
But if you really want to hear the worst about bankers and banking, you need to talk to those who’ve been in the belly of the beast: bitter bankers themselves.
We got a taste of this banker angst back in March, you may recall, when one Wall Street bigwig named Greg Smith announced his resignation from Goldman Sachs in a tell-all New York Times op ed, accusing his former employers of trashing the company’s proud traditions and creating a “toxic and destructive” company culture based on making quick bucks with shortcuts, in which the interests of the clients seemed to matter not at all.
But Smith is hardly the only finance professional to have second thoughts about his job. On Wall Street Oasis, which describes itself as “one of the largest and most entertaining finance communities online,” one regular commenter known as anonymousman recently revealed that his real name was Stephen Ridley and that he’d quit his job at a “a top tier European Investment Bank” in disgust. Oh, and that the glamorous life he’d been posting about on the site was basically fiction.
Banking is f–ing brutal. … Like everyone [at the bank], I worked my ass to the bone, working mind numbingly boring work. My life was emails, excel, powerpoint, meetings, endless drafts and markups about shit I couldn’t give less of a f– about, edits, drafts, edits, drafts, edits, send to printers, pick up, courier, meetings, more work, multitasking, boredom, boredom, tired, boredom, avoiding the staffer on a friday, more work, depression, tired, tired, tired, f–ing miserable. 15 hour days were a minimum, 16-17 were normal, 20+ were frequent and once or twice a month there would be the dreaded all nighter. I worked around 2 out of every 4 weekends in some form. I was never free, I always had my blackberry with me, and thus I could never truly dettach myself from the job.
And what of all the fashion models that would-be Wall Street “ballers” boast about dating?
The only models were excel models, the only bottles were coca cola, which I drank a lot of to stay awake. …Your not golfing with CEOs, talking about strategy, then driving your lambo home at 3.30pm to have sex with your hot girlfriend. No, you sat at your computer, haven’t spent more than 5 minutes in the sun in weeks, out of shape, bad skin, tired, overworked, and facing yet another office dinner before calling yourself a cab somewhere between 1am and 5am to take your lonely ass to your empty bed.
And as he dragged himself back and forth to the job he hated, he realized that the money he made – which was decent if not as spectacular as he had hoped – wasn’t really enough to compensate for a job that was eating his soul, and his youth.
Long story short, he quit his job to become a musician.
Ridley’s post got a surprisingly positive reception on Wall Street Oasis, with many of the regulars expressing admiration for his bold move, and wondering aloud if they should follow his example and get out while the getting is good.
But if you really want to see what it feels like to work in finance on a day to day basis, from the point of view of those at the bottom of the totem pole, the place to look is a simultaneously hilarious and horrifying blog called #WheninFinance.
The format of the blog is simplicity itself: no long rants, or much writing at all, just animated gifs (those little looping images you see all over the net) and funny captions, sent in by weary and demoralized finance industry drones trying to transform their misery into comedy.
One post illustrates “When my VP delegates even more work for me during our ‘thanks for all your hard work’ lunch” with a gif depicting an infamous moment from the Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Some other favorites:
That poor dog!
As you can see from even this small selection, some of the posts are stupid; some are crass; some are hilarious; most are some mixture of the three. The real effect of the site is cumulative. Clicking backwards through the site’s extensive archive, you find yourself wondering why on earth anyone would want to live like this.
That’s wasn’t the intent of the blog’s creators. As one of them told Business Insider:
We … make fun of people and ourselves on how hard we tried to break into an industry that was pretty much vilified by everyone in the media, the public and the government. … We don’t agree with all the negative opinions about how the industry has been portrayed, but there is some understanding to why people are angry.