Time To Go
My time at UnderDog Bank remained enjoyable and I worked on some transactions that took less than a day and others which lasted over a year. On one of the more drawn out deals, I was in a room on an all day conference call with a trader, as well as several law firms and other banks. As people droned on, an American voice piped into the discussion. We had been on the call for over four hours and this man had not spoken before. I banged on the conference speaker mute button.
“Who the fuck is that?” I asked the trader, who leaned over and also pressed something on the speaker.
“When you want to mute the call, you need to make sure the light goes red,” he replied with a smile.
I looked at the speaker and saw the red light. I must have missed the button first time, so my swearing was audible to all the others in London, New York and Japan. An uncomfortable silence descended on the proceedings while the trader and I laughed until we cried – with the mute button still on. Eventually, the trader got back on the line.
“I’m sorry, we appear to have had some interference. Now, where were we?” he announced calmly. I don’t think anyone was convinced, but the call carried endlessly on afterwards.
Whilst it was good there, I knew it would come to an end. I felt too comfortable in the job and decided to move on. I contacted a search firm and began to interview. I wanted to step up a league and walked through the marbled atrium of Moneybags Bank. It all went well and I racked up twelve interviews in two weeks. Then I got a call from the recruitment agent. The good news was that, out of the four candidates, I was in the lead in terms of performance, legal knowledge and experience. The bad news was my application wouldn’t be taken any further as I was from the wrong background.
Even though I did well in interviews and had the right technical expertise, I was being pushed aside by a snob in Moneybags Bank. Being rejected in favour of candidates of the right background who did less well in the interviews left a nasty taste. I was furious. Properly fucking furious. Not that he would remember, but I met the central interviewer a year before at a legal conference and noticed how he smirked whenever he spoke. I had seen people like that in the City before who were too impressed with themselves, but he stood out. Someone said to me once that you meet interesting characters in the City. Whilst it’s true, you also meet some real idiots.
After six largely engaged years at UnderDogs, the bank hit financial difficulties and I went from being busy to my workload falling off a cliff. My usual morning turned from traders being at my desk to absolutely nothing. Then I spent time messing about on the internet and my days were generally wasted away. This went on for months until the threat of redundancy loomed. A round of redundancy interviews followed in the legal department, but I survived while other lawyers were laid off.
The situation was a bit surreal and I wanted out. But the boredom rolled on and I met people for coffees just to pass time. I saw a friend and said there was a limited amount of time I would put up with this. I woke up one morning and decided enough was enough. I went into work and asked for a meeting with my boss. I told him I was leaving the bank that day either with a redundancy cheque or I would commence legal proceedings against the bank. To be honest, my grounds were tenuous but I was going to confront them anyway. The alternative was to put up with career death by a thousand cuts.
Whilst the bank was considering my position, I walked down to Tottenham Court Road and listened to some music in the stores there. I was nervous because I liked the bank but it was time to end it. Their timing didn’t suit me, so I had to force the issue. I took a call and met my boss in a pub by Edgware Road. He bought two pints and sat opposite me. A long moment passed.
“We’re prepared to make you an offer,” he said.
We worked out the details within minutes and everything relaxed. The next couple of hours drifted over some pints and the good times. We told stories and laughed. The nostalgia meant something good was coming to an end. I was honest and said the only reason why I stayed there so long was because of him. The evening rolled toward an inevitable finality and we said our goodbyes. I was losing a friend.
“This is the end of an era,” my boss said.
I turned and walked away.