Having pretty much been, seen and worn the t-shirt till it fell off in shreds - there ain't much in a Bank I have not done or been around and I have to admit they are fascinating places, today more so than ever. I remember reading an article somewhere on perceived social status and Bankers came out second after Government and Military officials, mostly because of their association with money. Of course, I knew differently then but times have changed. (Note to reader: following paragraphs to be read in a hushed David Attenborough tone)
With our position as the pre-emminant banking centre in the Middle East established, it was not long before a curious creature became a common fixture on the Government Road. They wore rather bland but somehow reassuring grey suits with french cuffs and hermes ties, they wrote long hand-written notes in green ink with impossibly large fountain pens, they were soft but well spoken on a wide variety of subjects, they took an interest in the local culture and customs (more so than the locals) and seemed to genuinely be interested in where they were.
I was lucky enough to catch a few of them, although their numbers were already diminishing by the time I took my first assignment in a Bank. They were keen to teach those who would listen, they tried to instill a sense of morality, ethics and responsibility and they led by example. They had a greater sense of where we were heading, not only as an economy but also as a society and are probably responsible for the development and advancement of many of our most cherished social institutions. After a few years in their company, I left the island for a 10-year hiatus and when I came back, I could not find a single one...
They were replaced by a new breed of Banker who was very focused on his/her position and the status that afforded them. Everyone had french cuffs and svelte suits and talked the good talk. Many aspired to greatness (regardless of whether they were actually worthy of it) and set out to become just that. Unfortunately, there was none of the substance behind the facade that set the Gentleman Banker apart from the rest. The ethics, morality, social responsibility were lost in the rush to get the corner office, the title and the moolah. There was nothing really wrong with the way they conducted their affairs, other than the fact that they were entirely devoid of any sense of style, class and civility. These guys were crude, crass and quite frankly made any business dealing unpalatable. Fortunately for them, the Gentleman Banker was no longer there and they quickly set a new standard, aided by countless minions who all fancied themselves a go at the usury game. Gone were the days when a Mont Blanc pen weighed more than its flash value.
They are not completely extinct however and a few can be sighted when they retreat from their precarious perches, but their days are numbered and not enough are coming up in their place. It is not for them I lament, but for the generations to come. What a waste.