Sunday, 14 February 2010
I came, I saw, I Cheapsided!
Thanks to the encouragement of Dumdad I have (finally) plucked up the courage to talk about my days in international banking.
Back in September 1990 I joined a certain Scottish highstreet bank (currently in receipt of lots and lots and lots of state aid) as a Graduate Trainee.
I went to London University to read Spanish and Italian...and did so. I enjoyed college so much that I didn't want to leave its safe confines. (I had been spoilt to death...no student loans for me! Rather I had received a state grant and boarded for three years in leafy Hampstead where my college was located.) The last year was SO engrossing that I could barely face looking for jobs in that 'orrible world outside my verdant Shangri-La.
During the dying embers of college days I had begun to think about working for a bank (preferably in the international section so I could use my languages) after all, at that time, banking was THE flavour of the day. Think back to Michael Douglas espousing "Greed is Good" and Maggie Thatcher freeing up those juicy regulated markets...
So, extremely reluctantly, I embarked on a plethora of interviews and further interviews around a few banks. I had also applied to join the international banking graduate scheme of NatWest and had ended up in NatWest Tower, in The City, for a second round interview. NatWest was a very big deal then...one of the biggest players on the UK banking scene. There were lots of would be yuppy grads there (some even wearing red braces...and that was just the girls!). I used to name it "Pinstripe Poker". I recall that the competition was fierce and that despite my best efforts of pretending to be an international banker, in the role play, it still terminated in a debutant's debacle. I think was just "yuppied" out. It felt utterly terrifying and I was completely out of my depth. (I had met a few of these contenders already...they had tended to congregate at King's College, University of London. All their parents seemed to have highflying jobs with international companies. To me they were a breed apart.) That process spat me out in a miserable, lumpen heap.
I got my rejection phonecall, from a chap at NatWest, in the college lobby. I stood there with the phone in one hand. Tears flowed down my face. I remember thinking: "What was I going to do with my life now?"
That Autumn of 1989 found me back at home in Newcastle upon Tyne on a post-grad course in Business Information Technology ("BIT")at Newcastle Polytechnic (now Northumbria University). I positively loathed it. I had to sign on to qualify to do it. I had completed three quarters of it when I found that I had landed a contract with that Scottish bank's graduate scheme. I had stormed all of the interviews and had even ended up running the meeting (in role play) at their Manchester training centre! So I skedaddled from the "BIT" course and headed elsewhere. I was now free to go and earn my keep.
And so...after having dreaded that my first posting would be in a mobile bank, decked out in tartan, in The Hebrides or The Orkneys or some far flung besporraned place...my first graduate placement came through. It was at the bank's Cheapside Branch in The City of London. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't wait to start. I decided to celebrate by spending my 1990 summer in Andalucia with some Spanish friends.
I flew back to start my first day at the bank. There I was suitably besuited knocking at that huge wooden double front door on that first crispy autumnal morning with a lump in my throat and my right hand encased in plaster....