7.25 am, your train is cutting through the guts of the city directed towards Mansion House. Now take that guy standing a few metres away on your carriage: all dolled up in his tailor-made striped suit, preferably midnight blue, wearing a striped tie, blue stripes on red or purple, over an even more striped shirt, which makes the ensemble look like a futuristic painting magically jumped out of the Estorick collection in Islington. Now that very guy, who must be wearing cuff links, black leathered loafers and a punchy watch, is probably reading the FT, with a copy of The Economist peering out of the inside pocket of his Burberry trench coat. Every so often his left hand nervously fishes out a battered corporate Blackberry, and his eyes cast a wary eye on the email flow.
If Don Draper were looking for some kind of testimonial for an ad of the quintessential investment banker, surely he would look no further. But Don should probably know a couple of things first. To start with, the chances of our subject being a continental ex-pat are high, for some old boy network clichés of the City are as alive and fresh. Our prominent-jawed banker may well be Italian for example, in which case there would be a light blue shirt, a bit less stripes all around and a larger dose of testosterone, along with the obvious assumption that his outfit ought to be made by Brunello Cucinelli himself. Well, think again: that suit is probably made by some skilful Indian tailor that jots down the body measurements in London before sending them back to India to make it cheap-chic. If you ask the quintessential investment banker whether he would recommend that tailor or not, he will probably think, “Of course, this suit looks way more expensive than it is!” but will probably say, “Of course, great fabric and craft, but my tailor only works with regulars.”
“Of course, this suit looks way more expensive than it is!” but will probably say, “Of course, great fabric and craft, but my tailor only works with regulars.”
With respect to his serious newspapers, he probably won’t get past the titles on the first page, and the Economist will likely be left to rot on his desk to add that extra touch of professional charm. The beeping Blackberry battery is probably agonizing over emails from IT incident updates that have nothing to do with him, market commentaries that can wait till after the second coffee, more market commentaries that can wait forever and a decent amount of spam from the FT (and the Economist) pitching a new subscription package. The Burberry trench coat is hence the most genuine part of the outfit. Now, if you happen to get to know this breed of investment banker, make no mistake and never buy their attitude at face value, just as you wouldn’t buy at face value whatever they have to sell you. If Warren Buffet is right to say that 80% of success is show-off, then you know which discount to apply.
P.S. If you are wondering what the actual version of a banker looks like—well, unless he has not been sucked in the loop of self harm that is working in M&A—, he is probably wearing a white shirt on dark trousers, yawning while flicking through the pages of City AM. He doesn’t keep looking at his Blackberry since there is no, er…, and he stays away from Red Bull. Even more surprisingly, he is probably a nice person too.