The reaction to my piece on Goldman partners was fascinating.
It’s like drilling into a nerve when you’re in the dentist’s chair. I’ve had central bankers questioning whether all the study, work, and sacrifice they made to get into their seat has ended up making a difference to society. I’ve had fund managers questioning why they are earning so much less - according to them - than us like street-side players. And I’ve even had one trading mate at another shop ask me - ever so contritely: 'Have you ever thought of getting a different job, amigo ?'
You see we all want to do better - we all want to achieve more. Being a 'Goldman partner' is the very pinnacle of our profession. Like being in Seal Team 6 and shooting Bin Laden. And there has to be something in the water that we drink in financial markets that ensures the Jones effect is always with us. We don’t want only to keep up with the neighbours, we want to destroy them; we want to annihilate them; we want to dance on their graves while howling at the moon.
To my central banker friend I could only answer that if you’re not happy with your social contribution, then what hope is there for the rest of us poor money grabbers. To this he replied most that most of the rest of society would envy our market positions and the money we earn, and might feel that we were the cats that got, or sometimes stole, the cream.
To my fund manager friend, I said that most of us in sales longed to be the person who made the final decision and came up with the strategy that made sense of all the tribulations of financials markets. For me, the only strategic decision I ever make is whether to get a cappuccino or a latte in the morning.
But I saved my most doleful response for the mucker who had the temerity to suggest that I might want to reconsider my job choice. Just because we can’t all retire at Goldman with untold riches doesn’t mean we are necessarily able or indeed want to do something else. It’s a path through life that many envy, despite the highs and lows. It’s impossible to replicate in other fields, and it’s like no other professional world.
So I simply answered my mate, ‘I spent the first 20 years of my career trying to get out of it. Now I’m well into the next 20 years just trying to hang on!’