Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Day in the life of Ian Curtis

6 AM: Alarm wakes me up and I spring out of bed into my circuit training. Most mornings it is shadow boxing followed five hundred crunches. Sometimes I blast the Wagner to get me motivated. At the end of my exercise sessions I am a sweaty mess and dive immediately into a brief, cold shower. I then commence my seven-stage beauty routine.

7AM: I jump in the BMW M5 and hit the highway. I really love this car. I bought it on the back of an annual bonus I received that year. There was initial concern over whether I had selected the right trim package. I opted for the Deluxe option on the grounds that it came with chrome surrounds and a Bose sound system. I usually listen to Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dogs’ at high volume as I am driving in from Macclesfield.

8 AM: I arrive at the office before anyone else. Everyone starts between 9 and 10 AM, but I like to get ahead-start and work quietly for at least one hour before the open space gets full.I send an update about my project to my manager, because when you get up at 6 AM it’s good to point out your dedication to others.

Note: I’m doing a bit of “face-time” here because I’m still the new guy. But in general, people in corporate finance don’t care nearly as much about face time as bankers do as long as you get results.

After answering my emails, I start crunching numbers for one of my projects.

Usually in a portfolio acquisition, the head MD makes an estimate of the number of people required to take care of the additional clients. But, given that his latest estimate was off by twenty people, I’m creating an Excel file to make more accurate predictions. It’s a bit of maths mixed with a lot of common sense. You have to analyze comparable transactions and project the growth of the portfolio.

My time spent at Macclesfield benefits office in 1977 has provided massive amounts of experience in this arena.

If I get my work done in a timely manner I try and squeeze in a quick bit of Wordsworth on my E-Reader. Current fave is ‘My Heart Leaps up’.

9 AM: My manager arrives, and I’m a bit shocked by his outfit. I knew that Casual Friday is a big thing but I was not prepared for this – when the guy that you usually see in a classic suit and tie shows up in sneakers, jean and a white t-shirt it just rocks your world.

My first casual Friday was three months ago and I still can’t get my head around the whole concept. To me this Casual Friday thing just shows how useless it is to wear suits from Monday to Thursday when you rarely (if ever) see clients in person. Maybe it’s out of jealousy for consultants (not likely), or just in case a client shows up in the building unannounced (even more unlikely).

My Friday outfit usually consists of very skinny slacks and a brown shirt.

10 AM: I start preparing a presentation for next Monday. My manager offered to let me pitch my project to the Paris Headquarters. Maybe it’s because I’m fond of French existential poetry; last time he did a presentation they couldn’t understand a word (he has a thick northern England accent). Or maybe it’s because he just likes me.

If you make a single mistake, all this nice treatment just washes away and it’s even worse than in investment banking, because they know you and they’ll remember you when promotion season – or layoff season – arrives.

11 AM: Tea break. Apparently Starbucks doesn’t know how to make “proper” tea so we make our own. I’m from Macclesfield and don’t have any strong opinion about how tea should or shouldn’t taste, so I just observe and casually join in conversations (and speculation) about the upcoming bonus season. I usually bring my own ham sandwiches using stuff bought from the Mace shop in Macc.

11:30 AM: My pitch is almost ready but I’m interrupted by a “critical emergency.” We have a monthly meeting at 2 PM and my manager didn’t have the time to prepare his slides (no kidding !!) so I need to do it ASAP.

I wonder how he can be surprised – the same meeting takes place every month and I’m thinking about actually booking it as an “emergency time” on my calendar.

1 PM: Damn, it feels good NOT to be an investment banker. I’ve been trying to align everything but this stupid title just won’t fit properly. Thank god I only spend around 5 hours a week preparing slides for other people. Now that I’m almost done, my manager reviews it and makes me change everything by annotating with a red marker instead of using the “track changes” feature in PowerPoint. Permissible, I guess it’s not that much better than investment banking.

1:30 PM: All the modifications are done. I only have 30 minutes for lunch and I usually spend this watching a bit of Werner Herzog on my laptop.

2 PM: The monthly meeting starts. It’s a one-hour update about this month’s performance and objectives for the next one.

Every manager pitches his own business and around 40 slides are presented.

Of course, we only spend one minute on what I created. Almost 3 hours of preparation for one minute of presentation – not the best ROI I’ve seen, but I guess that’s what it’s like to be an analyst, no matter where you work.

3 PM: We’ve got another meeting. But this time we’re not the ones pitching – consultants arecoming to visit us. My mission has an obscure link to their work so my boss asked me to come. I accepted enthusiastically because it’s always a lot of fun when finance people meet with consultants. It's their third meeting with us and right from the start I regret missing the first two.

They start the meeting by talking about “what’s been done so far” and apparently they “successfully challenged the perimeter of their mission”.

I turn to my boss and he tells me that they defined this very “perimeter” – in the previous meeting.

But it gets even better:

They announce a “stochastic approach”. Unfortunately for them, they don’t know what the word means but everyone on our team does – whoops.

In my opinion if you want to be a consultant, you should really consider building expertise in one field by working at a regular company, and then only go into consulting at a more senior level once you actually know something.

4 PM: I go back to my desk and connect to the internal job search engine. I browse through the latest openings and forward the interesting ones to a bunch of friends interested in corporate finance. Hooky and Hannett would be good at this lark.

I also give them advice on their resumes and cover letters to improve their chances. It feels good to be helpful, but I’m not doing this only for the sake of philanthropy – HR offers £1200 if they recruit someone you recommend. Given the size of bonuses at analyst level in corporate finance it would be nice to get some extra cash like that. Plus, it’s also good for my networking efforts so I try to invest in this whenever I have a bit of “down time”.

5 PM: I’m starting to think about leaving but someone from headquarters decides otherwise. I receive an “urgent” email – on a Friday at 5 PM!

6 PM: Usually I’m off at 5 PM, but I had to deal with this fire drill first. I leave with the MD and we chat in the elevator about our plans for the weekend, and he offers me a ride to the pub.
To the pub? Yeah, because it’s Friday and therefore time for after-work drinks. We hit the Castle in Macclesfield.

I was surprised at first, just like with Casual Friday, but this one was a good surprise. Each Friday, everyone from corporate finance meets at the pub and you get free rounds from the head MD or other managers in a very relaxed atmosphere. It’s like Christmas before Christmas for people who like to share the latest rumors about their colleagues and senior management.


It was a typical day, with some data crunching, some interesting meetings (and useless ones too) and some pointless requests.

Ian Curtis went from punk icon to become a big-time trader. After a bout of ill health he realised
that he couldn’t hack the late nights so joined a Fortune 500 company in their corporate finance department instead.

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