Let’s skip the witty introductions and get right into it.
#1 Multiple Trophy Wives
For the investment banker, trophy wives are required due to both pride and necessity.
Pride: What kind of rich, successful guy only has 1 wife? Come on, even in third world countries polygamy is common place, so why can’t you get yourself another wife or 3?
Necessity: Bankers always need to replenish their wife counts. Excessive drug usage, long hours, and constant travel means that multiple divorces are just as common as multiple wives.
With hard luck falling on many financiers these days, some senior bankers have resigned themselves to a mere 2 or 3 wives rather than the 5-10 that were common in years’ past.
Don’t let this fool you, though: underneath their calm exterior, these bankers are secretly running detailed Excel spreadsheets mapping the rise in bonuses as the economy recovers to the number and quality of trophy wives they can procure with their new-found plunder.
#2 Talking About Cocaine
You might be under the impression that all investment bankers actually do cocaine on a regular basis. Hey, I don’t blame you, but there are 2 main flaws with your theory:
- With the way bonuses were last year and this year, most bankers are more worried about affording their mortgage rather than buying an extra hit or two.
- Fundamentally, bankers don’t do things. They talk about doing things. It’s just like how they don’t actually create value – they just help other people sell value, and take a cut of it for themselves.
There’s no subject that bankers and wanna-be-bankers love to discuss more than doing drugs – and cocaine is the perennial favorite.
Just be aware that if someone starts talking about doing cocaine or recounting a story about cocaine, he’s just lying to make himself look better (see #6 below).
#3 Pls Do
Being creatures of sloth, investment bankers love taking shortcuts to avoid actual work while making themselves look better in the process.
This leads to giant email chains between your deal team, the Managing Directors, and your clients that always end with someone senior emailing you the infamous “Pls Do” request.
Typing, “Please spread these comps for Brazilian mining companies with between $100 Million and $1 Billion revenue and look at EV/Revenue, EV/EBITDA, and P/E” would take far too much effort – why not just rely on the email below and attach a simple “Pls Do” request above it?
Just as senior bankers enjoy whipping out the “Pls Do” on junior bankers, so too do junior bankers enjoy crushing interns with a strong dose of “Pls Do” whenever there’s work they really don’t want to do (Converting PDF to Excel, I’m looking at you).
#4 Buenos Aires
You might think that Rio or Amsterdam are the leading destinations for former bankers with a lot of time on their hands now, but you’d be wrong once again.
The winner is neither of those places – it’s Buenos Aires, the city in the developed world with the best ratio of models to cheap bottles (and cheap models too, but let’s not go there).
And yes, I know Thailand, India, Eastern Europe, and other places are “cheaper,” but those destinations are not “developed” and are therefore unsuitable for bankers.
Even Playboy Magazine came to the same conclusion recently: Buenos Aires is the preferred destination for newly unemployed bankers, especially those who have a nice nest egg saved up and ready to spend on beautiful Argentinian women.
The only problem with Buenos Aires is that there are so many other bankers there now, you’ll probably want to kill yourself when you walk into certain bars.
#5 Making Empty Threats
If talking about cocaine and plotting to move to Argentina are second-nature to bankers, “making empty threats” has to be #3.
The most common empty threats are variants of the following:
- “I can’t stand [Insert Name of MD/VP/Associate Here]! If he gives me one more stupid assignment, I’m going to quit even if I don’t get my bonus!”
- “This place sucks so much, I’m going to move to [Insert Name of Competitor Here] tomorrow!” (more plausible in boom times)
These threats are typically made either late at night in fits of anger, or during one of the 10 daily trips to Starbucks that are required in investment banking.
You can glance at these for 2 seconds and realize that both are empty threats, because:
- As mentioned above, bankers like to talk a lot without taking action and are extremely risk averse – they don’t like doing anything that might be remotely interesting if it could result in full or partial failure.
- Even if bonuses are a measly $10-$20K, no banker in his or her right mind would give up money just to prove a point. It’s all about the dollars.
There are countless other empty threats indigenous to banking culture, of course. But threatening to give up money or prestige – the only 2 things that any banker really cares about – are at the top of the list.
#6 Lying to Make Themselves Look Better
There are a number of standard items that bankers lie about, but here are some of the most common ones:
- Bonus #’s. Notice how this year (2009) there haven’t been solid, widely reported and consistent bonus numbers anywhere – that’s because the numbers were so low that bankers felt compelled to lie to each other simply to cover up their misery.
- Girls (or guys if you happen to be the lone Banker Chick). Sure, she was a Top Model… and she spent the night at your place… and, and… oh wait, you just got drunk and passed out on your couch once again, I forgot.
- Future jobs. Sure, you got the offer at KKR but you didn’t want to accept it due to “lifestyle reasons.” Yeah right, you just screwed up your modeling tests with your meager technical skills and got hosed by that guy at Goldman TMT.
Lying to make yourself look better is essential in many fields, but bankers do it better than most anyone else.
#7: Reminiscing About the “Good Ol’ Days” or the “Bad Ol’ Days”
If it’s 2008-2009, senior bankers love to talk about “the good ol’ days” when deals were actually happening and when they were actually getting paid more than plumbers.
If it’s 2005-2006, senior bankers love to talk about “the bad ol’ days” when nothing was happening in 2001-2003 and when they were lucky to get 1 closed deal for every 100 pitches.
And as soon as you get interns, you’ll be reminiscing and feeding them the same stories of how many trophy wives you had, how much cocaine you did, and how many trips you took to Buenos Aires back in the good ol’ days.