Losing your job is a depressing, humiliating experience which I wouldn’t wish on anybody but which is also becoming a reality for thousands of people in financial services. There are stories about maddened bankers punching the HR messengers who deliver the bad news. There are also plenty of people who go meekly and mildly.
Personally, I’m in favour of mildness. I’ve been through several hiring and firing cycles in the City and remain in employment today thanks to a lack of redundancy histrionics. But if you’ve been particularly poorly treated, mad histrionics may be the only satisfying option. Observation suggests there are two main ways to take revenge upon a bank that has made you redundant for no good reason at all after sucking your life and soul like a wraith on a tree-lined track to a woodland cemetery.
1. Sound and fury
This strategy is used to best effect on the trading floor, but can be employed in any busy banking office. A former colleague of mine from one of the Mediterranean countries demonstrated it to excellent effect a few years ago when, despite being well-liked and despite making money, management decided to shut his desk down out of the blue.
When the time came to have “a quick chat” in his line manager’s office, he was understandably miffed. Raised voices led to a loud and emotional slanging match. Things soon turned violent.
At this point the details of the story become fuzzy. At least five security guards were called, and at some point the line manager’s paperweight was thrown halfway across the trading floor and smashed a large flat screen TV. The manager suffered a black eye and a torn shirt (although this might have been collateral damage involving one of the security guards).
The former colleague was eventually ejected from the building, spent the rest of the day in City bars and ended up in a club in Mayfair running up a telephone number-sized bill.
2. Cold revenge
I have also seen examples of less emotional, more calculated retaliation. This is best put into practice when there is some warning that redundancies will take place.
Another colleague, forewarned of impending doom, decided to make his displeasure known by stealth. He quietly changed passwords to key internal documents and, for good measure, permanently deleted a few irreplaceable files from the network drives.
The bank wasn’t really supposed to have this data in the first place, so it had little appetite to sue in case this came out in court.
Be warned that the ‘sound and fury’ strategy means you are unlikely to ever work in an investment bank again. On the other hand, the cold revenge-takers are more likely to find salvation at private equity houses and hedge funds. My experience suggests banks have a grudging respect for these former employees – and since they are now their clients, they couldn’t do much against them if they wanted to.
The author has worked in investment banking for a decade. Ralph Smith is a pseudonym.