Investment bankers turning their hand to fiction have invariably stuck to what they know and set their stories within the financial sector. However, in a bid to bolster sales and get the populist vote, there’s another trend emerging in the books created by financiers turned scribes – killing off bankers.
Investment banking thrillers involving investment-banker killers have been the themes of a number recently published novels by financial sector workers who have written whilst sticking to their day jobs. This could be a cathartic exercise to vent their frustrations with colleagues, or perhaps it’s just a device to sell more books.
Simon Leighton-Porter, a specialist in securities and derivatives trading-cum-author, has recently released Death to the Bankers, a follow-up to his novel The Minerva System, in which a battle over a top-notch electronic trading system results in a series of murders – largely among City workers.
“The public now see bankers as the devil-incarnate, so featuring a plot whereby a number of City workers are knocked off is a good way to increase the book’s appeal,” he says. “I’ll also admit, though, that my background led me to include a lot of technical details not easily understandable to the layman, but my wife convinced me to take this out.”
Cyrus Mewawalla, a former Nomura analyst who now runs his own equity research firm CM Research, has penned City of Thieves, a murder mystery centred on the investment banking sector that also shines a sceptical eye on the industry's culture. Michael Crawshaw, a former Schroders and Credit Lyonnais banker, released To Make a Killing in 2012, where a City trader is battling to secure a big bonus while also avoiding being bumped off.
Meanwhile, Marietta Miemietz, former head of pharmaceutical research at SocGen who now runs her own research boutique Primavenues, has written Off-Site (which is available to download for free this weekend), which she describes as a humorous “investment banking thriller”. In the novel, a group of equity researchers retreat to a Cornish manor for a weekend of team-building and the protagonist becomes convinced someone is gradually killing off her colleagues.
There are also a lot of sly digs at the corporate brown-nosing and managerial structures present in investment banking.
“People always assume that I’ve based the characters on real people, but if anything the less agreeable people are an amalgamation of all the bad line managers I’ve had,” she says. “Ultimately, I wanted to create something with suspense and humour – there are legal, medical and even pharmaceutical thrillers, so why not investment banking?”
The life of scraping by as a poverty-stricken scribe was not appealing for either Leighton-Porter or Miemietz – both have stuck to their day jobs in banking. Miemietz said she wrote the novel while caring for her unwell grandmother over the course of six weeks, while Leighton-Porter says he dedicates every weekend and holiday to his fiction work.
“I make a few thousand pounds a year from the books, so it’s certainly not enough to give up my current job,” says Leighton-Porter. “Every book I write is with one eye on its commercial potential and I certainly don’t limit myself to writing about bankers. Butterfly collecting might be a hobby of yours, but it’s not going to appeal to that many people.”
Miemietz says that she’s put her literary ambitions on the backburner to focus on running her own company, but would like to dedicate herself to writing when she retires.
Investment banking isn’t known for attracting creative types, but there are still a fair number of budding writers sheltering behind a large pay cheque that comes with working in the sector. For example, Nomura’s head of origination and sales for Russia and the former Soviet Union, Alla Bashenko, is also a children’s poet, while the ‘Wall Street Poet’, Eugene Schlanger, was a member of the bank’s legal team.
“A lot of creative people went into equity research in particular,” says Miemietz. “It used to be that you’d have no real boss, you had to play detective to find out what’s going on and what the growth drivers were in particular companies. And then you had to come up with a great report – it’s a creative process.”
“There are definitely a lot of creative people working in finance, but you get on the roundabout of high pay and can’t afford to get off,” adds Leighton-Porter. “Finance isn’t just full of mono-maniacs chasing a big pay day, but while I dearly love writing it’s still not something I can make a living from.”