By Satyajit Das, a former banker and author of Extreme Money and Traders Guns & Money
Autumn is the time for awards. The EU has received the Nobel Peace Prize! The approximately US$1.2 million should help alleviate the parlous finanial position of the Euro-Zone. But it is also the season for banking awards. Financial magazines and newspapers assign bouquets to the best Finance Ministers, banks and bankers to coincide with the annual World Bank shindig and the approaching year end. Here is an insight into the process.
In the mock-umentary Best in Show, Christopher Guest mercilessly portrays the world of dog shows, following five dogs and their owners in the competition for top honours at the Mayflower Kennel Club Show. Bankers have their equivalent – banking awards. There are many similarities – an overt self-absorption, ferocious competitive bitchiness and feigned good sportsmanship. Both are completely meaningless and very funny.
Just as dog shows bring out the essence of humans, awards highlight the absurdities of banking and bankers. Any industry, which celebrates transactions with “tombstones” perhaps depicting the post deal status of some clients, has issues.
The idea behind industry awards is that clients and peers vote on who is the best. In reality, the major driver is not recognition by clients and peers. The value of the award is in promoting the bank’s services. A dealer voted best “something in something somewhere” uses it prominently to solicit clients. “See our clients and peers have voted us ‘best in show’”.
It complements the ostentatious self-promotion in “pitch books”. There are lies, there are statistics, and then there are league tables that inevitably show the bank in the top one or two of the relevant categories of financial services. Young analysts learn to manipulate league table positions to ensure the required