Walking down the quays the ice cold breeze cuts me in half, although I’m grateful as it wakes me right up. This is the first time in weeks that I’ll be in before nine and I didn’t sleep a wink last night in anticipation. The day hasn’t even begun and I already feel drained. When I arrive in the office I ignore Roseanne and make my way straight over to Sonya. Before I have the chance to greet her Roseanne rises straight out of her chair like a phoenix from the flames. “What time do you call this Anthony?” she says while tapping on her wrist.
“Good morning Roseanne, sorry I didn’t see you there.” I fumble in my pockets slowly before producing my mobile phone. I glance down at the screen and then confirm the time. “I have 8.53 Roseanne.”
“But your job starts at 8.30.”
“Sorry Roseanne but as far I was aware I start at 9.00. HR never said otherwise.”
“Well take it from me you start at 8.30 sharp going forward.”
I wink, “No problem at all Roseanne.”
She’s seething so much her nostrils begin to flair so I divert my attention to Sonya.
“Morning Sonya, how are you?”
“It didn’t take you long did it? Your cards are well and truly marked.”
“Fuck it Son the situations of out my control. If Godzilla with a fanny wants to bring it on, well then bring it on.”
“Yeah that’s what your man out of “One Flew out of the Cuckoo’s” thought and she’s ten times worse than that nurse.”
This analogy hits me with a lot more force than I’m sure Sonya intended but the parallels are quite frightening.
“Here Tony wakey wakey you’re not on the projects team now and I’ve got loads to show you hun.”
I apologize and we get things underway. “So what exactly is it you do Son?
“I have procedures here somewhere for you but basically what I do is price securities, security setups i.e. setting up bonds and equities etc. from scratch, update rates, and various daily, monthly, and weekly reporting. Then we have to prepare wire movements, get them checked, signed, and paid out to the client.”
“Jesus and you get all this done in your normal day?”
“Well I always come in around ten past eight to give myself a head start and I don’t generally take my hour lunch.”
I haven’t even done anything yet and I’m beginning to panic. If Sonya-who’s being doing the job for five years-comes in to get a head start what chance have I got?
I shadow Sonya for the entire day. I’ve already missed most the morning stuff but from 9 – 10 she basically manipulates spreadsheets. Prices come in from a vendor known as Valuelink and it’s her job to size, column stretch, copy, paste, delete, and format the way AIE wants and then feed it back into the system. One slight column width too big, or piece of data entered in the wrong column and the whole spreadsheet, and process are fucked meaning back to the start again. There’s no logical sense to any of it other than do A to get to B. Having just looked at my own notes-stuff I wrote less than five minutes ago doesn’t even makes sense. “Delete column C – F, hide column N, cell C23 to D 29 font size 8, delete all spaces except the second last row after S. Paste column h into sheet 2 etc….”
Once this is finished we begin the wire process which is setting up payments for clients who have redeemed out of their account. This process is fundamentally monkey work at its most basic. Each client has an account number, which corresponds to a template number set up on the system-saving you the hassle of having to type all their bank details every time the client wants to withdraw their funds. So basically all that changes most times is the amount in question, although Sonya has warned me that setting up a template from scratch is a nightmare as you have to pull up original documentation for everything; bank details, identification, bills, and authorization lists. Once this has all been complied with the information it then has to be handed around and signed by two directors according to their redemption limit i.e. one director might be able to sign off on a 10,000,000 redemption while another can only sign off on 1,000,000.
I watch Sonya as she plows through at least thirty redemptions in no time at all. Next, she compiles them into stacks according to their limits and urgency (CHF’s have to be completed before one, EUR before three, and USD before home time).
Next, she attaches a photocopied pack containing bank details, identification, and bills etc…to every single transaction.
“Hold on Sonya I’m confused. Why are you attaching the template stuff set-up on the system to every single transaction?”
“Because we have to.”
“But it doesn’t make any sense? It’s already been pre-approved and you can view it all on the system can’t you?”
“Yes you can luv’ but that’s not how we do things.”
“But this must add at least an extra pointless forty-five minutes on to your day?”
“I’ve brought it up before and got nowhere. Now come on bleeding hero before you get us all killed.”
Bureaucracy gone mental. I attach all the pointless information to each transaction while Sonya continues with the rest. After all the stacks have all been collated in order of urgency and amount they’re handed to Donal to review. I already know Donal well.
Everyone in the company knows Donal. He’s the poster boy of incest and its side effects-a warning to everyone why mother and son should never consummate. A midget mismatch of body parts, you can’t help but think he came out at least four months prematurely as most of his features haven’t developed or are malformed. His giant boulder head arches on his ample frame looking as if it’s ready to topple over at any time.
Whenever he speaks it’s nothing more than an inaudible mumble akin to Mr. Bean. The only time I can make out what he’s saying is when he’s telling a joke, and that’s because I’ve either heard it before or it follows his usual pattern of racism or sexism.
The only thing that scares me more than his giant head finally topping over and crushing me-while I type-is his laugh. He laughs like a child telling an inappropriate joke within earshot of an adult but with a sinister twist. His whole face goes beetroot purple as he struggles with refraining himself from laughter, but all that comes out is a strange spluttering sound like an old car trying to start on a particularly cold morning. If ever there was someone who knew the whereabouts of Madeline McCann, it’s him.
As soon as Donal hands back the corrected piles we head off onto the floor in search of directors. “This is the worst bit. Nobody ever wants to sign these and will do everything in their power to avoid them.”
“Can’t you leave them in on their desks?”
“No I’ve tried that before and then if the deadline is missed they’ll blame it on me and claim they never saw them. The best thing to do is to try and get the wires out before 12-any later than that and they all start to go on lunch and you spend the rest of your day hovering around the corridors trying to find directors.”
“How do you know who can sign what?”
“Sorry there’s a list on my desk that tells you who can sign what. Mind you there are some people on that list who intentionally make your life such a hell it’s not even worth it. I’ll have to highlight those pricks for you.”
I already know most of the directors from social events and tea station run ins-most of them seem okay. We quickly bomb around from desk to desk and office to office and offload our wires.
“That wasn’t too bad,” I say.
“That’s only because you were with me and they didn’t want to make a bad first impression.”
We return back to her desk and begin pricing securities, which is nothing more than obtaining a price from the Bloomberg terminal and entering it into the system. Once this is complete she starts setting up securities on the system which is a totally different ball game altogether. I have previous experience setting up securities from my time in JP Morgan, but at this point it’s nothing more than a line on my CV as very little of it is applicable to the way they’re done here. This is like the wires all over again. “Sonya I don’t understand why you’re populating those fields? None of this information is on Bloomberg.”
“I know it’s a glitch luv’ but if we don’t fill them in it won’t allow you to carry on with the set-up.”
I watch her intently as she randomly fills in boxes, clicks on drop-down menus, and tricks the system with random cheats and shortcuts. Again my notes look like something out of a scientific formula-skip a/c number, fill account code with 22, system ref put IRE88(only if it’s a corp bond), act 365 for all bonds, except German, and if mortgaged backed fill all factors as 1 regardless of Bloomberg.
I can’t distinguish if my head is thumping as a result of trying to absorb too much information at once, or because of the sheer bureaucracy and stupidity of the job in hand.
“Then when we’re finished each security we have to print screen everything we’ve entered, paste it into word, and print it out for Donal to check.
“But why would we do that? Can’t he just check it on the system by its ID number?” I say although I already know the answer.
“It’s what Roseanne wants.”
“But hold on I spent the last two months over in the project team trying to eliminate paper trails, and here you are printing off at least three pages for every one security set-up…the irony’s delicious!”
I can tell by the worn out look on Sonya’s face that she’s fit to blow.
“Well then bring it up with Roseanne. I’m sure she’d be delighted to implement any recommendation you bring to the table.”
I decide to leave it at that as Sonya’s the last person I need to alienate. I spend the rest of the day dutifully watching over her shoulder like a brainless chimp. Anything that strikes me as being moronic or a waste of time I simply ignore and remind myself of the department motto-once A is equal to B that’s all that matters.
The day ends with Sonya showing me how to prep the price files that we receive in the morning. Basically using ancient DOS prompt coding we delete today’s file and ask our pricing vendor Valuelink to ensure they send the prices in tomorrow. Naturally, this can’t be done on Sonya’s PC due to IT problems and has to be done on a stand-alone PC over in core-ops, which of course has a queue-yet another permanent temporary fix. This whole department seems to be a dam on the brink and I’m afraid that as soon as Sonya’s fingers are pulled from the cracks that it’s going to explode and drown me.

Previous chapter.

From the beginning.

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