Mistreatment in the money den

D. Murali | Updated on: Jun 01, 2011

BL26GOLDMAN_SACHS | Photo Credit: Scanned in Chennai_grrks

In the ‘Money' chapter of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs came to rule the world by William D. Cohan ( ), there are many instances of how women employees faced mistreatment in the firm. Sometimes the abuse was physical, sexual, and humiliating, and sometimes the abuse was subtler and psychological, but no less devastating, the author writes.

For instance, the account of Anne Brown Farrell, a graduate of Trinity College and the Wharton School of Business who joined Goldman in 1973 as the first woman in its fixed-income group, speaks of a trading floor with ‘masses of people, no privacy, food all over the place, and at the time… everyone smoked!'

Worse is the story of Kristine Utley, who was the only woman sales associate in the money market department at the Boston office in July 1985. For the next twenty months or so, her life turned hell, what with the men in the office viewing her ‘as a foreign body to be expelled at the earliest possible moment.' The book mentions a disturbing episode, of how she was invited to a meeting in the conference room where the projector went on and a hardcore porn film was showing just to humiliate her.

One learns that during legal proceedings later, Utley testified that ‘office humour was a source of sexual harassment' and that memos at Goldman introducing new women employees ‘were illustrated with nude Playboy pin-ups' and with phrases such as ‘beer is better than women because a beer always goes down easy.'

Cohan draws from a class-action suit filed in New York in September 2010, to describe the travails of H. Cristina Chen-Oster (who told the story of how, in the fall of 1997, her department went to Scores, a topless dance club in Manhattan, to celebrate the promotion of a colleague), and of Shanna Orlich who was denied the opportunity to work as a trader (and was instead told to be ‘a team player' and stay an analyst, performing clerical tasks for other traders, such as making photocopies, taking calls from wives, and setting up BlackBerry accounts).

Instructive narrative.

Motivational bank

Create a ‘motivational bank' and bank on it, advises Roopleen in Principles of Success Made Easy ( ). Getting motivated is not difficult but staying motivated is a challenge, the author observes. You need to continuously pump yourself up with motivation in order to have sustained results, she adds. This is where the relevance of the ‘bank' lies.

The author reminds that you can derive motivation from others such as the everyday people you meet, historical personalities, celebrities, and anyone you think of as your role model. “Collect the life histories and success stories of all such people who appeal to you and create your own motivational bank.”

A simple how-to guidance outlined in the book is to write down each motivational success story on a piece of green paper, and then write each motivational quote on a piece of yellow paper. “Now mix the green and yellow chits and put them in a box. Your motivational bank is ready.”

Each morning, pick up a green and a yellow chit from the ‘bank' and read; you will feel motivated instantly and that ‘dose' of motivation will last throughout the day, assures Roopleen. “Next day, pick up two different chits, a green and a yellow. Try doing it for a month and you would see the difference this makes to you.”

Ready takeaways.

Transitory view of wealth

An important outcome of the transitory view of wealth and insecurity surrounding it is a pervasive tendency to invest in land, immovable property and gold, observe Katherine C. Zubko and Raj R. Sahay in Inside the Indian Business Mind ( ). The intent, they note, is to leave property for the next generation in order to provide financial security and to perpetuate the family name.

“In rural areas, wealth accumulation is reflected by ownership of agricultural land, orchards, livestock, and agricultural machinery. In urban India, wealth is stashed away in the form of houses, land, cash, gold, silver, precious stones, and gems.”Since the focus is on wealth, property-related litigation accounts for the highest number of cases in both rural and urban Indian courts, and property law in India is one of the most complicated areas of judiciary domain, reason Zubko and Sahay. They also see the same property concerns are behind the country's high savings rate.

Interesting perspectives.

Pricing of intangibles

The financial services industry is not paying much attention to the pricing of the new-age services, rues V. C. Joshi in E-Finance: The future is here , second edition ( ). “Traditionally, the pricing of intangibles was a function of the support. The price of a book was determined by the quality of printing, number of pages, and so on. The content can now be priced separately from the support,” the author distinguishes.

His advice, therefore, to those in management is to clearly spell out what the bank or the financial services company expects from the migration of customers to the Internet, and also to clearly communicate the basis for pricing decisions. “The members of the staff who are to operate and market these services are many a time not aware of the rationale and do not take the required initiatives to publicise and market these facilities.” The author is also unhappy that banks are deficient in informing their customers about the true state of affairs and more particularly the risk aspects of some of the newer products. Suggesting that the banks could certainly work at increasing the awareness about complex products, he calls for customer education about the care needed while using Internet services. “Merely sending out complex printed documents could perhaps absolve the financial institutions, but would it not be better to use more interesting methods to bring home the same message?”

Recommended read.

Published on June 02, 2011
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