Saturday, May 29, 2004


Miscellaneous Borborygmic Observations

Some terminology may be in order before I begin skewering the geschaftwelt. Back in the pre-Sarbanes Oxley days we would tend to identify our clients in things like internal resumes and proposals as a "Large Investment Bank", "Large Asset Management Firm" all in the interests of client confidentiality. This was always a pretty transparent exercise, as you had to state your quals to whomever you were trying to sell the gig (or yourself) to. For example, you could say you recently worked on a trading floor project, but since there's usually only one or two of these going on at a time, it was usually obvious who your client was, and the old boy network would kick in to vet you.

We tend to give clients nicknames, for instance "Large Asset Management Firm" would be "Happyland", and "Large Investment Bank" became "Stalag 13". My current client has been cheerfully dubbed "Colditz". In some cases the nicknames might identify these firms so in the interest of protecting the innocent, said firms will be identified using the following naming convention {Large|Medium|Small} {Investment Bank|Asset Management Firm|Broker Dealer|Retail Brokerage|Information Provider|Exchange|Regulator}{Sequence Number}.

As much as these firms pay lip service to quality, process and all the other management-speak terms out there, they're really deer in the headlights. Got to work at the client last Tuesday, and there were signs all over the place about a fire drill. An Important Person came over and said "There's a fire drill today". I shot back "How can you tell the difference?"

My own firm is as guilty or guiltier than the rest in terms of cluelessness and deer-in-headlights syndrome. One memorable staff meeting a couple of years ago, my boss (who I actually respect and admire, no joke) asked me to cool the Groucho reflex, as some honcho "Jack So-And-So" was coming to speak to us. Jack So-And-So gets up to speak and wants to make a point about building leadership cadres. His lead-in was priceless - "Who knows what the German Army did after World War I?". This was without a doubt the biggest softball ever offered up to a frustrated comedian, and would've been physically painful to pass up. I shot back "They started World War II!" and the room dissolved into huge laughter. I probably could've given him a reasonably lucid discussion of the Freikorps, Stahlhelm and all of that sort of history, but jeez, what a lousy example to use for leadership. Jack So-And-So wins the Junior Captain of Industry award, with General Cluelessness Clusters.

To answer what is undoubtedly a burning question in your minds, just what the heck is a "Farbissiner Paskudnyak"? A translation can be found here. Why'd I use it to name my blog? There was a mediocre movie from the mid-80s called "Over The Brooklyn Bridge" where Shelley Winters called someone a "Farbissiner Paskudnyak" with such relish I knew it had to be useful somewhere along the line.

Priceless quote of the day (courtesy of a thread on American Idol on Voxtalks):
"There is only the remotest chance that, sometime in my life, I will be given a choice between prepping for a colonoscopy or listening to Macy Gray sing. I've already made my choice. Pour me another Nulytely."


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