A foot was sticking out from underneath a desk. A well-trousered leg. A black loafer. The leg of a junior investment banker.
No – this isn’t the start of a murder mystery.
It’s simply what happens when you’re working on the graveyard shift, surrounded by bankers who’ve been up all night, laying out pitchbooks for presentation to clients the following morning.
At 4am, a banker was sleeping under his desk. He was partially obscured by: a towel, some towers of stacked paper, and an in-house laundered shirt.
I nearly spilled my hot, bitter coffee (the machine was never cleaned).
The busiest time in a big U.S. investment bank is after midnight. Naming no names, I worked in the Most Successful Investment Bank in the Universe. At midnight, the place was always awash with junior bankers who were busy researching companies, marking up the 275th revision to their pitch book, and starting brand new projects. Their shouting echoed around the floor like rounds of gun fire. When you work in a bank and it’s past midnight, shouting serves two purposes: it keeps you awake and it intimidates people into doing what you want.
At 4.15am, some war-torn analysts stormed into my ‘Center’ to demand personal service. One rammed his chair into my desk, screamed incomprehensible instructions, jostled my hand and grabbed my mouse. His day old suit smelled of sweat. His day old stubble told of exhaustion. He splashed coffee on my keyboard and then blamed me. What he didn’t realize was that I’d slept that afternoon, he hadn’t. I knew how to do complex graphics, he didn’t.
At in the morning, banks always feel under-staffed. When you’ve only got a few more hours to finish your pitch book before your boss wakes up and comes back into the office – expecting it finished, things get a little stressful. When there aren’t enough layout specialists to go around, things get more stressful still. The analyst demanded more people to help with his pitch book. The shift leader sarcastically invited him to locate a few more at 4am. The analyst threw all his papers down, called me a “moron” a final time and ran out. I picked up his papers and quietly finished the job for him.
When it’s 4am and you’re a junior banker who’s been up for 20 hours – often more, life is intense. You may have excelled academically, you may have won your place on the banks’ program over thousands of others, but you will feel like cannon fodder. Sometimes exhaustion will get the better of you. Sometimes you will feel the need to sleep under your desk, or in the toilet. That’s normal: it’s 4am, after all.
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 for pre-order on Amazon.