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Male Locker Room Humor about Investment Banking
am 18. September 2007
Before going into my review, let me start with a caution. This book is the grossest, most vulgar business book I have ever read . . . by a very wide margin. This book would have been banned in Boston 50 years ago. If that sort of thing offends you, this book is a minus ten stars. Many women will feel this book is anti-female. On the other hand, if you happen to like your humor male, bold and brassy, this book will be one of the funniest you will ever read.
As someone who often works with investment bankers, the descriptions about how business is sold and delivered should be tempered a bit. This book describes pretty much every investment banker as shoddy, shallow, and manipulative. That has not been my typical experience. There are terrifically smart, talented, ethical and humane investment bankers. For example, one of my favorites never used a pitch book during his first meeting with a client. Pitch book preparation is one of the banes of the young investment banker's existence. But like all professions, investment bankers vary a lot. There are certainly some less capable ones, and I have seen their work too. I would describe it much like the authors do.
In terms of the working conditions, they are mostly a reflection of weak management in the industry. Investment banks reward doing deals, not being good managers of the deals. A fellow I know became CEO of a major investment bank, and made much less money after that than when he was just a deal-maker. He found little interest on the part of his colleagues in improving management, so it was pretty frustrating. It just doesn't pay to work on making life better for the investment bankers in training, compared to producing more business.
The book's main point is that many young people enter investment banking without knowing what it is like, and are overly impressed with the financial prospects. If your values really favor having time for yourself, your family, and developing your other interests, this is probably the wrong career for you. There are plenty of other ways to make lots of money. The richest people I know are entrepreneurs, not investment bankers.
The book's other main point is that you should take a look at close yourself before you compromise too many of your values. The authors should have never joined an investment bank. Having done so, they should have left much sooner.
CEOs and CFOs should read this book also, to know what to check out carefully in the work that investment bankers do. Most companies now develop their own ideas, and just hire the investment bankers for implementation. In that role, fewer problems will occur of the sort described here. Perhaps the most dangerous role is having an investment banker help you select and pursue an acquisition. Many expensive mistakes follow under those circumstances. Caveat emptor!
You will probably find the monkey drawings in the book add to the humor. The text frequently refers to monkey-see, monkey-do type examples, and the whole story is seen more usefully as a bunch of monkeys playing in a gilded cage. That takes some of the sting out of the gratuitous grossness.
If you liked the put-downs of investment bankers in Liar's Poker, this book will be irresistible to you.
After you have had a good laugh, take a look at your current job and see how well it fits your values and life goals. Chances are that it doesn't. Be prepared to figure that out, and move onward and upward out of whatever gilded (or not-so-gilded) cage you are in today into the freedom of self-actualization.