Real-life bankers reveal disturbing truth we didn't see in 'The Wolf Of Wall Street'
Aside from providing us with two hours of unparalleled entertainment, Martin Scorsese's epic The Wolf of Wall Street acted as a powerful critique of the drug-fuelled, money-obsessed, and ultimately morally-bankrupt world of corporate finance.
Scorsese's tale of excess attempted to shine a light on banking culture in its heyday. But despite featuring the requisite amounts of narcotics, flashy cars and you-name-it, The Wolf of Wall Street also attempted to show another side to banking culture: the human toll.
Now, I'm not particularly too fond of bankers, and chances are you're not either. The press, in particular, have made their stance on the issue quite clear - in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, tabloids everywhere condemned investment bankers as being everything from "greedy" to "parasitic".
Now, Scorsese's 2013 comedy-drama was after all, just a film. However, its depiction of such unbridled partying and reckless drug and alcohol consumption left us all wondering, was it really that obscene? Economy took it upon itself to uncover the reality of working in finance during its veritable zeitgeist and what they discovered may just surprise you...
As it turns out, bankers have a fair amount to say about what they did before the crash of 2008, and they're rather self-aware of how they are perceived in the public eye, too.
Richard, who has worked in the sector for over a decade told Economy that he's aware that "people think we’re scum [...] I think it’s just envy. We did earn too much money… that’s probably the root cause of it." And a new recruit to one of the top dogs of the financial world, James, corroborated, "they think we're sitting around plotting how to become rich."
One thing, that won't come as a surprise to anyone is that bankers certainly did (and still do) earn a lot of money. US investment banker Jeff confirmed that bonuses really are as high as reported: "generally, my bonus is between 25 and 75 per cent of my salary. But I’d freak if it dropped below 40 per cent, actually. It can go up to 200 or 300 per cent, depending on the firm.”
And if you're worried about impressing the in-laws, look no further. Melissa, who worked at Lehman Brothers in 2007 said: “Status-wise, a lot of people think it’s one of the top places to be [...] You earn way more than you would in any other job right out of university - or you did back then, anyway. I’ll never earn that much in one year again. It’s a ridiculous sum.”
However, there is certainly a price to pay, and it's something that all of the interviewees seem united on. Jeff, an investment banker on Wall Street seemed to sum it up for many when he stated,
"I have had weeks where I wake up, work out, then work for 15 hours straight. I’d pass out, wake up, rinse and repeat. The industry tends to murder its young employees with work because they never stand up for themselves. Then they kick the weak or stupid ones to the curb."
In fact, the gruelling working hours are something that mass media seem to look over. Bankers don't exactly work a 9-5; rather, their working hours seem to be a pretty solid 14-19 hours, and each hour seems to be more intense than the last. Melissa offered a pretty cogent anecdote on the latter:
"We had a coffee shop inside the bank, and when I was relatively new, I literally just got up from my desk to get a coffee, and took about five minutes, but I didn’t take my Blackberry. And when I got back, the whole team was like ‘How were you not responding to our emails?!’ You’re always expected to be on call, like it’s an operating theatre."
So yes, whilst there are parties galore and rather impressive salaries and bonuses, the image we're getting of the day-to-day life of investment bankers seems to be more mundane than Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of a revelling, frolicking Jordan Belfort. As Kevin eloquently surmised, "it was less Wolf of Wall Street and more ‘Sad, Abused Dog of Wall Street’":
"These are not millionaires and billionaires who have crazy yacht parties and do cocaine on the hoods of their Lamborghinis. Most of them are 22, 23, working 100 hours a week on the most boring stuff imaginable, and they just want to make enough money to pay back their student loans and quit to do something they’re actually passionate about."
Well, there you have it. The life of banking, though incredibly well-paying, and yes, filled with some rather bountiful job perks, really isn't as glamorous as popular culture will have you believe.