Sometime this week I went to a training organized by one of the big investment banks on ‘bond offerings’. This is a pretty basic topic – the process a company/bank goes through when they decide to raise capital (money to be put to some useful purpose) through a bond – but I was pleased because I am actually quite dodgy on basics and am always grateful to anyone who can lucidly explain.
The surprising bit was that my boss – the editor-in-chief of the magazine and my colleague who covers bonds (and hence should already know about something this basic) – came along too. I can understand the colleage’s (SOS for short) motivation – maybe he wanted to make contacts since the guys conducting the training were very senior – but not my boss. In the taxi on the way there (which we took after my boss suggested we take the MTR), boss goes: “they’ve invited so many people”. I had to bite my tongue from saying: “Um yeah, especially if unnecessaries like you turn up from all the publications.”
When we get there I realise that the meeting is a mix of senior people – but none I think as senior as my boss (or if they are senior, they are not covering finance, which justifies why they might need to learn more about it) and very junior people. I turn to the girl next to me and ask her where she’s from. It turns out she is from the magazine that I first interviewed with when I started my job hunt – and I didn’t get that job. In the course of the conversation I discover that she joined three weeks ago, has come down from London and knowns nothing about finance having worked at a law publication there.
So I’m thinking – this is the person they hired over me. They were prepared to bring her down from London where she already had a job which means they would have to pay her an equivalent or more than her salary in sterling plus get her a work visa for HK. She knows nothing about the subject. The obvious difference between her and me, apart from the fact that I know a sight more than she does, have already been working in finance for a year and have some amount of contacts, is that she is white and I am not. Hmm.
As Curly termed it: White Hangover.
The training starts – while the presentation material is very basic, the presenter having being a banker for so long is unable to break out of the jargon and I can tell that the newer girls are struggling. I think it would have been better if they had more junior people present so that they could actually imagine a time when they didn’t know anything about this and how it felt to learn.
The questions from the audience can be divided into three groups:
1) My boss who, given his experience and designation, clearly knows all about this but still asks questions to what end I’m not sure. It’s like a kid from five grades above sitting in a kids classroom and showing off that he knows all the answers.
2) Other senior journalists who I think don’t cover finance but work for financial publications like FT and WSJ. They ask searching questions relating to stuff going on like the sub prime market. Although this session is supposed to be off the record and a learning experience, they are clearly trying to get some quotes and to also prove that they are intelligent. I see this a lot with the Anglo journalists. They often ask questions with a kind of arrogance that is supposed to showcase how smart they are.
3) Me and the new writers who clearly want to learn.
I am mystified by boss and amused/annoyed by the second group. As E said when I was telling her about it later: “They should just go – shut up you guys, we pay your salaries with our ads.”
I am also amused by the banker presenting who for some reason is trying to be diplomatic about the relationship of the bank’s with the rating agencies when everyone knows that it’s symbiotic. But the point is – if we know and they know, why go on about it from both sides. Sometimes I think journalists also get carried away with this ‘carriers of the truth’ idea in terms of badgering the person they’re interviewing instead of just getting the information quietly, making your judgement and writing it up in the way they see fit. What’s the point of confrontatation unless it’s on TV?
What was more weird was the conversation in the elevator downstairs:
Journo 1: What’s the big deal with what they do. They’re just glorified salesmen. (errr yes, and you’d give your right arm to be one of them if you could).
Journo 2: Yeah there must be some guy putting it all together for them on a computer (so?)
Journo 3: Yeah just a salesman in a suit.
I’m thinking: Guys grow up and get over the pettiness. It’s one thing for people like E and me to diss the bankers because a) we’re actively trying to get out of this field b) we have a problem with their conservative and chauvinistic behaviour more than anything else, which the male business journos also exude because they’re semi-bankers themselves.
If we chose to work in finance for more than 3 years, then we wouldn’t have the face to criticise these guys because hey if you’re not interested in it, why are you here? And if you are so interested in it – why aren’t you a banker? Yes yes, we all know that you are the communicator but how many of you really are? How come so many business journos end up going over to ‘the dark side’ and working as Corporate Communications guys or analysts after a few years? Surely there’s some envy there. And pissing on someone in a suit is ironic if you yourself are wearing one – thereby attempting honorary banker status in your clothes. So what gives?
Also it’s just plain bad manners to start bitching about someone, who was kind enough to offer their time to train you on something you should already know and who also paid for your lunch (for their own nefarious reasons no doubt but still), just as soon as your step out of their door.
Oh later in the evening the guy who got me the interview at the first magazine (the job I didn’t get where they chose the inexperienced white girl instead) smes and says: “oh hi how are you…” so I go “fine… bleh bleh” and he goes “we should meet up” and I go “yeah sure…” (trying to be vague) and he goes “when? where? what time?” I’m like Whoa! Desperation. OK the background is that when I applying for the job he tried to get me to ‘meet up for a drink’ in order to “discuss” something that really did not require meeting up for – and then when I said I had plans said he could not discuss it over the phone on the weekend becasue of ‘my son and all’. See I would have thought it was perfectly normal if he hadn’t dragged the job or the son into it – why couldn’t he just say “hey i’m bored let’s meet up for a drink”.
Also, this guy is married and has a kid. He knows I am married too. So what is going on here? Only in bloody Hong Kong.