Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Demise of the Gentleman Banker

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.


Bahraini Rants said...

amen brotha, amen..

at least you got a glimpse, good times..

Seroo said...

"Gone were the days when a Mont Blanc pen weighed more than its flash value."

Although I will never be as submerged in the banking world as you were, that line made me sad.

Hasan said...

I was JUST talking about this with a highschool friend of mine over dinner this evening; he is one of the new-breed bankers. Needless to say, his point of view on things aggggrevated me.

This new breed of bankers and their social dynamics also partially explains why I jumped the corporate boat, too. Hehehe.. and I'm only 24.

See ya around Bahrain.

Mo said...

As an old indian man once said to seroo and the guy next to her when asked why he had just cut ahead of them in a lengthy queue:

"its a dog eat dog world".

Which might actually transpire in the birth of some weird preonic disease in the mold of kuru or BSE/CJD. You got kuru by having people each others brains.. i wonder if there's some kind of metaphor that can link the physical act of consuming a human being's most critical organ with the new-breed banker's willingness to eat/slurp/sleep his or her way to the "top".

Anonymous said...

You could not be more spot on than you are with this piece.

What makes the new breed of banker wankers even worse is not just their lack of style and grace. It is their unscrupulous, unethical and generally slimy methods of doing business. Everytime you come out of a banker's office these days you feel like you need to take a shower to get clean again. The air around them is putrid.

It is especially sad when you consider the great things that one can accomplish as a gentleman financier. However, rather than living up to that ideal you end up with a bunch of money grubbing pricks who are only concerned about the size of their bonus.

Remind me again why I am trying to get a job as a banker...

The Joker said...

I remember in the late 80's when distinguished gentlemen had their coffee on lunch breaks in the sheraton cafe..

Now, because of this intricate web of nepotism and racism hallowing islamic and infidel banks, everyday after work I turn around to face the diplomatic area and think to myself "I'm one day closer to retirement."

deonna kelli sayed said...

Hi Ashish,

I would like to invite you to read some of your posts at an event Elham is organizing on Tuesday 27th March at 7pm at Al Riwaq Gallery in Adliya. Bloggers will discuss expression and context in the technological age. Elham is a monthly meeting group which seeks to showcase and discuss the work and ideas of people around the island, be it writers, artists, musicians etc. The event is part of Spring of Culture and coincides with a book fair of translated Arabic literature being brought over from the American University of Cairo. I know it is short notice but if you could get in touch with us a.s.a.p. through, it would be much appreciated.

Thank you.

deonna kelli sayed said...

Sorry! The last post WAS meant for you! We are sending invitations to a number of Bahraini bloggers so I had just sent it to ashish! Apologies! Please do get in touch though, if you are in Bahrain. We love reading your blog and hope you can be part of the event.


Anonymous said...

Why aren't you writing!?!

Time for a new post.