2016년 6월 29일 수요일

[발췌: Guardian] Bankers: an anthropological study (12 Sep 2011)


출처: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/sep/14/bankers-anthropological-study-joris-luyendijk
지은이: Joris Luyendijk

... Guardian is launching a new projectL an anthropological study of the Square Mile


※ 발췌 (excerpts):


So what is a Dutch anthropologist doing talking to bankers in the City of London? That was certainly the first thing bankers themselves wanted to know before they would even consider meeting with me in secret.

Look, I'd tell them via email, everybody hates you. Do you hate yourself? No, you don't. Then why don't you tell me about your life, your ups and downs and what an average working day for you looks like? I'll work your words into a portrait of a banker as a human being, we'll anonymise it because you've probably signed a document saying you'll never speak to the press, and then we'll post on my Guardian blog. Who knows, when they read about you in your own words, people outsie the financial sector may change their minds about you─or at least come to a more nuanced and realistic view of what people like you are all about.

This was my pitch and most of the time it failed. Why should I invest my time to contribute to a better understanding of my sector, some bankers replied, when all outsiders want is a reason to hate us? Others politely indicated they didn't trust journalists or the Guardian. Or they didn't trust me; what ^is^ a Dutch anthropologist doing talking to bankers in the City of London?

Before I explain why, here are the words of one financial worker who did sit for self-portait, the first of 10 to do so. He is involved in mergers and acquisitions ( ... ) and explained that when a company is in the process of being sold, confidentiality is everything:

"This is one of the reasons we invent code names for deals. ( ... ... ) "
And here's a former M&A banker who agreed to meet:
'Let me tell you, the financial sector is not rocket science. ( ... ... ) It is an endurance game, in part."
Another banker who would talk but declined to sit for a portrait, compared his work to that of a GP: "You spend many hours memorising terms (body parts, diseases, treatments) and learning to recognise patterns. Then you put in very long hours and collect a nice salary, while employing your jargon to intimidate outsiders."

That's the sort of thing I've been talking to bankers about, and why I am beginning to be captivated by them. Beneath the layers of lingo there are subcultures and dress codes and ways of speech, their mutual stereotypes, conventions, taboos and of course jokes: "Every economist knows that there are three kinds of economists; there are those who know how to count, and there are those who don't."

It's quite a change for me, exploring bankers. I used to do anthropological fieldwork among students in the slums of Cairo, then worked as a Middle East correspondent going back and forth between Hamas leaders and Jewish settlers. The latter were people who knew they might die at any moment for their convictions, and had made their peace with that. Meanwhile those students lived off less than a dollar a day.

Compare this to the bankers and I have moved from freestyle boxing to billards. Then again, readers' responses may not be that different.

When I wrote about Israel and the Palestinians some readers would judge an article exclusively by whether it was likely to make one camp look good or the other. ( ... ) I expect the same thing with bankers.

The Middle East is a pretty intense place but unless you have family living or serving there, for most readers it is also a pretty far away place. Finance is not. If somebody told you your savings aren't safe, she'd have your full and immediate attention, wouldn't she? But if she then said the words "bank reform" many would have to suppress a yawn.

This is paradoxical. Finance directly affects everyone's interests, but many have a hard time maintaining their interest in it. But as the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the following three years have shown, the financial world is too important to leave to the bankers─in fact in some countries democracy is beginning to look like the system by which electorates decide which politicians gets to implement what the markets dictate. The people in this very powerful sector are worth learning more about. And the good news is, when you listen to them in their own words, that can actually be pretty entertaining. And humanising.

Now for the blog. Here's the idea. You have the internet and today's technology. You have the classic techniques of narrative journalism and anthropological fieldwork. And you have this enormously important yet devilishly complex thing called the world of finance.

What if you mix those? Is that a way to make the world of finance accessible to outsiders who are interested but can't find an entry point? ( ... ... ) Every interview will be posted on the web, with comment threads open to let other outsiders to ask questions and, who knows, to let insiders elaborate on the material. Over time I hope to build an intellectual candy shop full of interesting stuff about the world of finance, stuff that will then help you as a reader maker better sense of the news.

( ... ... )

The hours some of these people put it seem completely insane. Here's the PR officer for a brokerage firm.
"I get up around 4.30am. ( ... ... ) Most days I thrown in the towel around 6-6.30am. ( ... )."
Even after only a couple of dozen interviews, it seems fair to say that this is not a sector for whiners. The same PR officer, a veteran of four decades in the City, said this about the top bankers, the ones with the huge bonuses: "In the old days the caricature was of a fat man with a cigar in one hand and a glass of brandy in the other. In the current environment somebody like that wouldn't last a week."

The subtitle to the blog reads "going native in the world of finance". It's a nod to the risk that you identify too much with the people you are studying. That after a while in the jungle of Papua New Guinea, human sacrifice begins to look pretty reasonable. It is happening to me already, a little bit. I also remind myself there's a clear bias in my sample: would Gordon Gekko have made time for a Dutch anthropologist?

( ... ... )

As I said, it's a captivating world, and often all too human. This is what a lawyer said about dress codes in the City. ( ... ... )

On the blog you will find 10 self-portraits of financial workers. Hopefully more will follow soon. Let me say something nice about people in the financial world, to encourage them to defy their PR departments and come forward for a confidential interview.  ( ... ... )

The Joris Luyendijk Blog launches on Thursday at 11am.

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