A German banker, a French banker and an American banker are working together at 3am.
‘Where is my desk’, says the German banker, taking out his GPS amidst the closely huddled furniture covered with disintegrating pitch books, mouldy towels and swearing, sleep-deprived bankers. And where are my legal working hours, he asks, but silently, because he has to start a new presentation at 10pm for Sunday morning. The British banker is well ahead of him and has already signed all his rights away.
‘Where is the kitchen’, says the French banker, looking in shock at the dirt encrusted microwave and rarely-cleaned coffee machine in the tiny hovel shared by 500 people on a work floor. He touches nothing without his handkerchief. The British banker is well ahead of him, drinking milk directly from a shared bottle and wiping his saliva over the screw top.
‘Ah, here’s the boss’, says the American banker and runs after him to call him, “Sir,” laugh at his jokes, carry his workload and lick his boots while waiting for a chance to stab him in the back and take his job. The British banker tries to compete using weaponised upper class attitudes honed through the generations, but he just doesn’t speak the same language as the American and his boss.
When I worked in banking, I would meet at least 20 different nationalities on any given working night. Many bankers worked in so-called ‘country groups’ and they all spoke excellent but very different versions of English.
French bankers often worried about putting on weight as a result of British canteen cooking. They wrote convoluted texts crammed with footnotes and expected to succeed through merit. In the graphics centre, French bankers often made fulsome compliments to the ladies in a special, ‘romantic’ voice which flipped into insults the moment we didn’t smile and comply. ‘Can you please do me a special favour’ they would say, expecting to jump queues and get preferential treatment based on their ‘charm’.
German bankers were universally polite. They seemed to think that people were equal, including women. They eagerly offered their opinions, often enthusiastically disagreeing with their bosses whose titles they forgot (a really bad cultural fit at the bank I worked for). They always took away their own rubbish. In the highly charged, combative atmosphere of the bank this created nothing but the deepest suspicion.
The American bankers were by far the most aggressive. They felt truly entitled to mistreat those lower down in the hierarchy (like me) because, to them, we were worthless losers who deserved our fate. The Americans mostly focused on sucking up to the boss, staying awake for two years flat and taking credit for everyone else’s work while bragging about coming from the ‘Land of the Free’ and equal opportunity. They were also the most successful at the Most Successful Bank in the Universe, returning triumphantly to New York when their duty abroad was done.
Nyla Nox worked for seven years on the graveyard shift in the graphics department of the Most Successful Bank in the Universe in London – a Global Center of Excellence. She has seen more dealbooks (and mistakes) than any banker will see in a life time. Her novel ‘I did it for the money’, first volume in ‘The Graveyards of the Banks’ is available on Amazon.