GUEST COMMENT: An anthropological investigation of the managerial types in the middle office of an investment bank

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Middle office man

Needless to say, there’s no revenue generation in the middle office. In my opinion this makes for a more political environment: promotion is all about who you know and how much they like you.

For my sins, I have worked in a variety of jobs in the middle office. In the process, I have come across a variety of managers, most of whom can be fitted into one of several categories. These include:

1. The manager who arrived as an analyst/associate, worked hard, was competent, motivated, and engaged socially with his/her seniors and achieved promotion at an appropriate pace.

Often very professional. Unfortunately not very likeable.

2. The manager who was recruited externally, from a non-management (or unofficial management type position) often in another asset class.

Usually has weak technical knowledge and is capable only of writing emails. These managers can often delegate almost EVERYTHING. Blame for not meeting targets is attributed to everyone except themselves.

3. The manager who was promoted internally, for the wrong reasons.

Within middle office divisions there is often a culture of, ‘making yourself seen/heard.’ This will often manifest as childish/moronic observations in dull divisional meetings. These people are frequently incompetent to a degree that could pose a serious level of operational risk.  PowerPoint professionals, they will spend their days interacting with people on a face to face basis leaving no audit trail. Confirm anything they say in an email.

4. The happy-go-lucky manager, who likes to be liked by colleagues, not too strict, reaches a sufficient proportion of targets, didn’t actively search out management but was there when the opportunity was available.

He or she will do his/her utmost to defend colleagues. Actually quite pleasant to work with.

5. The middle office manager from a more prestigious bank.

This person has often worked at a US bulge bracket and will have moved to a lower tier European bank in search of better work-life balance. He will speak frequently about procedures at a previous employer, before realizing that it’s not necessary to work so hard any more.  Can be bearable once this revelation has been achieved.

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