You hear the occasional story before you take the leap; and longing to maintain the image of The Next Chapter you have so delicately envisioned for yourself, the one that rests deep in the confines of your subconscious and gives rise to those fanciful journeys your brain so frequently likes to embark upon during tedious afternoons spent in cramped lecture halls, surrounded by dozens, perhaps hundreds of students, each even less interested in binomial distributions than yourself, you try your best to suspend disbelief... for as long as possible.
No one really wants a magician to reveal his secrets. No... you, like most, prefer to remain captivated; a harmless victim to slight-of-hand, theatrics, and hypnotic charisma foreign to all but those truly talented and dedicated to their craft. You can almost hear Christian Bale drawing you in with the seductive timbre of his voice...
Are you watching closely?
Perhaps that really is the greatest magic trick of all... The Prestige.
Sure... you've read Monkey Business and Liar's Poker, but bestsellers are so often accompanied by a more-than-healthy dose of embellishment and lend themselves so conveniently to the type of "creative license" critics so harshly indict as "prosaic" and "self-absorbed." Understandably, select details necessitate a bit of tweaking in order to protect The Innocent, and perhaps more fittingly, The Not-so-Innocent. Semantics aside, you're really just wondering if all that you've read and dreamed of is true, even if only partially.
So you seek out confirmation... Maybe from a friend a year older who has long since departed the comfort and familiarity of crowded off campus pre-games and sweaty, late-night basement dance parties fueled by Swedish House and Natty Light. You catch up with him over winter break, trying to play it cool, as you ask him as nonchalantly as possible,
"So what's it really like?"
You hope that you don't sound too eager... too naive... Your friend seems different... Tired... as though he has seen much in such a short period of time. He shrugs his shoulders and provides a vague but simultaneously intriguing response,
"It is what it is..."
You feel as if he is baiting you... playing coy and relishing the fact that you are hanging on his every word, though unbeknownst to you, he is merely too tired or shell-shocked to go into it. All he wants is to pound shots of Jameson, while assessing the establishment's "talent situation." This brief reunion is an even briefer respite from the chaos of the office. He's not looking for validation or even acceptance... merely an escape, however temporary. You oblige him and down the rabbit hole you both go...
One of the benefits, however few, of engaging in a night of self-destructive binging alongside a friend who has descended into the depths of the industry is that as the alcohol begins to flow more rapidly, so do the stories... and tonight is no exception. Thanks to generous volumes of blended Irish whiskey and draft beer, your unrelenting inquiries have not fallen upon deaf ears...
Alright, alright... I'll tell you one since you won't shut up...
So during my first year... probably 5 months after training ends, I have this rough stretch of a couple of weeks that are pretty brutal... Not ungodly, but we're talking 100-110 each so they aren't exactly a cake walk. I've been packin fat upper deck lippers and rocking the late night Guilty Pleasure Playlist especially hard. At the time we had been working on IPOing this tech company whose CEO was a serial entrepreneur who had already sold a couple of companies but had never taken one public. Given the situation, the management team was especially needy so putting together the roadshow pres was a particularly painful process. By this point, I'm so ready for this whole shit show to be over with that I'm really just trying to make it through this thing in one piece. That being said, roadshows, despite being a total cluster fuck of travel logistics, pampering the egos of the client, and sleep deprivation that comes with covering multiple cities in just a few days, can tend to be a lot of fun in hindsight, and as this was going to be my first experience with one, I was really looking forward to it.
The itinerary for my leg was New York, Chicago, LA, San Fran. Now, having had no experience on roadshows previously, I asked some of my associates and fellow analysts if they had any advice for me. They told me the standard stuff: Make sure you are on top of timing, make sure the management team knows where they are going, make sure cars are where they need to be when they need to be there, make sure you go to the bathroom and don't drink too much coffee, or you could end up like this poor soul. Pack a few extra shirts in case of accidental spillage, take notes in meetings and be sure to offer to fetch anything the guys might need... The standard stuff really. So I depart on the roadshow and for the most part it's pretty tame... The management team does their song and dance, allowing the CEO to talk about how groundbreaking their service truly is and how they have a one-of-a-kind team in place to execute their strategic vision and provide superior returns to potential shareholders... Nothing that hasn't been said thousands of times before. But the cool thing about roadshows is that the management team often loves to party, and since all the expenses are picked up by the bank, they enjoy it even more. Extravagant dinners at steakhouses, with many bottles of wine, many glasses of scotch and of course a few stories from the guys at the company. These guys were really cool and shattered many of the preconceived notions I had about what C-level guys would be like... They all had fairly diverse backgrounds and went to schools ranging from Stanford to Carnegie Mellon. They told me stories from back in prep school and it reminded me of how I used to kill it back in the glory days. This led to a good natured debate with the COO about whether his alma mater (Harvard-Westlake) or mine (Groton) was better. Conclusion: Either was better than Deerfield... All in all, these guys were pretty chill.
I enjoyed myself on the first couple of stops but was really looking forward to wrapping up the trip as I was fairly exhausted by this point. Now, for the rest of the story to make sense you need to know that the book build for this process had not been a particularly easy one, which obviously stresses the deal team out and the brunt of the abuse tends to fall as it should, on the analyst. Truthfully, it seemed as though people were a bit concerned as to whether they were going to be able to subscribe a full book, as this wasn't going as smoothly as they were used to seeing. At any rate, I'm waiting in lobby of the hotel for the guys from the company and my VP to come down from their rooms and check out as we are all about to depart the hotel and head to the airport.
I am a bit nervous as they are running a bit behind schedule, and there isn't a whole lot of wiggle room in the day's agenda. I feel a familiar buzzing in my pocket and pull out my blackberry to see what it is. It's a message from my VP telling me that he's just received word from the product guys that the book is now well oversubscribed, thanks mainly due to some larger than expected orders from unlikely accounts (thus dumb luck and not banking prowess) and they think they are going to this price this thing at the higher end of the range, an outcome that a day ago was still very much in question. When talking about millions of shares, even a few cents make a client much happier.
Bankers live for this shit... For them, it's all about under promise, over deliver, and so they are pumped to be able to have a bit of good news to share. Apart from not having to deal with a client feeling as though they should have raised more proceeds, they all know in the back of their minds that a larger deal size means higher fees and thus a bigger bonus. He instructs me to go pick up some champagne for the flight to San Fran as we are going to surprise them with the news. I want to make sure that I cover my ass on this as I don't want to overspend or underspend on the bubbly. I reply hastily and ask how high I'm authorized to go. He gets back to me and tells me to spare no expense.
I head over to the restaurant in the lobby, which is currently serving breakfast and make my way over to the bar and flag down the manager. I ask him to see a wine list and he looks at me confused and asks me if it isn't a bit early for that. I laugh and he eventually provides a list. I scan down to the selection of champagnes. I spin the list around to him and point to the last selection under the heading "Champagnes" to Dom Perignon (Moet et Chandon) - "Enotheque," Brut 1993 and hold up two fingers and tell him that I will take the bottles to go. I also ask if he could kindly refrain from uncorking either, and note that I am in a rush to get to the airport. He disappears around the corner and returns with the bottles which he arranges carefully into a sturdy bag and then slides over a black book containing the receipt. I proceed to sign the most expensive bar tab I have ever seen first hand.
I pause and chuckle to myself at the sheer absurdity of my situation, paying over $1,800 for champagne at 10 o'clock in the morning, and then the bar manager grabs my attention. "Hey I just realized you said you were heading to the airport, right? They won't let you onto the plane with those."
Figuring to myself that I may never have the opportunity to say this again in my entire life if I don't capitalize right now, I reply back, "No worries man. I'm taking a private jet..."
Mod Note (Andy) - Throwback Thursday, this originally was posted Feb 2013