Monday, June 9, 2008

Finance Reunions

The Unbearable Sweetness of Finance

Gopal treats Princeton Reunions the way MBAs treat “information sessions”—he doesn’t miss a single one. A few Princeton students will opt to come back only for their 5 year reunions (5th, 10th, etc.) and many of those in New York City will at least make an attempt to pretend, right up until they realize they know of nothing better to do, that they “don’t think they’re going to make it back this year.” Not Gopal, though. No—he primes for Reunions weeks in advance. For him, it’s like Goldman coming to Stern—something you just can’t miss because it’s too good to even believe is happening in the first place.

In preparation, he methodically lays out a different pair of pastel or seersucker shorts and a polo for each of the three days. He tries on each outfit with a different set of Oliver Peoples sunglasses and saunters out into the living room of his 4-man apartment.

“Sugar in the RAW, motherfuckers!” he announces, wings spread, bouncing to his own beat. He reaches into his pocket tosses a few half-open packets into the air.

Knowing that if they don’t act clueless, he won’t subsist, his roommates are forced to inquire: “What do you mean?”

And, every time, taking his sunglasses from his face and placing them on his head, Gopal points up at his face and gives the same response: “That’s how sweet I am.”


For those unfamiliar with Princeton Reunions, it is the most absurd event that occurs, ever, in the United States. The annual orgy is held the weekend before graduation, and for three nights (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday), alumni from all classes come back to campus to get shitfaced under massive tents while listening to 80s cover bands, or, as it were, “be sweet.”

At Princeton, Gopal wasn’t the coolest kid; he had few friends and flew miles under the radar of the eating club social scene. In a colony of ex-valedictorian overachievers, he somehow had managed to remain a huge, friendless dork.

Still, every year he came back to Reunions in the hopes that he’d finally blend in and make friends with the popular kids. This past year in New York City, his sweetness level had risen significantly, so his expectations were high. He had completely reinvented himself; he tossed aside his difficult-to-pronounce name and devised the most Anglicizable Indian identity ever—Rohit Harshan, a guy that white people could confidently call “Ro,” “Shawn,” or even “Harsh.” And although it’s unconventional to base a nickname off a secondary syllable, he’d often add: “But you can call me Hitter.” This made the girls swoon.

He had long forgotten his days as Gopal—the guy who couldn’t get chicks, didn’t have “two passes of any color” to get into clubs, and got trumped by dudes more solid than he was. Rohit lived with a consultant from PENN, a guy from Harvard who worked at Sotheby’s, and a civil engineer from Cornell. Respectively, they were: Tight. Lame. Tight. Lame.”—perfect candidates for a new in-airport HSBC advertisement. And in that little world, Rohit ran shit. Most importantly, though, since none of his other roommates worked even remotely close to Banking, they deified Rohit, and the free drinks they milked from him fueled his burgeoning ego.

It was with this new mentality that Rohit rolled into Princeton on the Dinky, a toy train which shuttles between Princeton and Princeton Junction. It was the perfect day for Reunions—80 degrees, sunny, and just humid enough that the strap of a sundress might slip off, or the elastic band at the bottom of the more slutty ones might creep up. Already buzzed from two furtive beers drank on the NJ Transit, Rohit checked in, kissed his wristband for good luck, and started wandering around campus to the various tents.

What welcomed him was magical.

A common legend used to give scope to the level of the event’s egregiousness is that since the Indy 500 went dry, Princeton Reunions has become the single largest group alcohol consumption in the United States. But more importantly, as a result of the makeup of Princeton’s alumni body, the event is, without question, the largest single meeting of elite financiers, both young and old, in the world.

And despite the overlap with the Sex & The City movie opening, this year was no different.

Inside the comfort of the warm bubble that is Princeton, hundreds of young Investment Bankers futilely aped their more polished heroes in Private Equity and Hedge Funds, not yet able to BlackBerry while dancing to Bon Jovi. Older industry titans behaved childishly—Eliot Spitzer (’81) and Paul Sarbanes (’54) pounded (and exploded) one another as they watch John L. Weinberg (’48) spit up on himself trying to chug one to get one at the 50th, while in the kids’ areas, the children of alumni behaved like senior Bankers, banging out deal terms before engaging in any form of play. Michael Lewis (’82) sat on the lawn of Tiger Inn, devising a way to bring an accessibly “quantitative” yet narrative angle to yet another sport, quarters.

At “The 5th,” the tent where the most recent alumni congregate, one freshly minted graduate shouted to a classmate: “I’ll race you to $100MM net worth!” And the two jogged in place for a moment before looking up and saying to one another: “Oh shit—you’re already here, too?”

Princeton Reunions is the most elite slice of the tip-top of Wall Street—“the tips.” There were no talks of layoffs or small bonuses. There was no rehashing of poor performance reviews. The air was filled with the confidence that can only come from the comfort of being completely insulated by a powerful old boy network.

“This is why I’m hot!” shouted a 30 year old man in madras shorts, crushing a plastic cup on his head.

Rohit smiled from ear to ear.

He meandered through the crowds, sipping one beer after another. For a while, he played it cool, convincing himself that he was just “settling in,” as he progressively got drunk and still hadn’t spoken to a single soul. Even jacked up on Bud Heavy, he was unable to channel the confidence that served him so well around his friends in New York. He felt trumped, outdone, like he had on his first Econ 101 test, when the prep school kids first showed him how pathetic a public high school education really is. Rohit couldn’t overcome the knot in his stomach, and, all of a sudden, he was feeling distinctly Gopal-ish.

To his credit, while getting his 9th drink, he did manage to mutter a couple words to a beautiful blond-haired Theta from Georgia he had admired for 4 years. “Maddie—what ethnicity is that?” he slipped, a bit of 2nd generation minority ignorance showing through. He stumbled to recover, but he couldn’t even get to “Hitter” before she asked: “So what club were you in?” referring to which eating club he had belonged. Gopal hadn’t been in any club; he was an “independent.” And upon hearing this, the girl gasped, pulled her hands close to her chest, and scurried away, as if having just confronted someone with full-blown AIDS.

Dejected, Gopal plopped down on the grass and let his head fall back against the hard brick of a building he’d once lived in. He was right back where he’d started. Longingly, he looked out at the group of people he wanted so badly to be a part of but couldn’t even manage to speak more than three words to. He prayed for his BlackBerry to vibrate to give him an excuse to look occupied, but, mercilessly, it stayed silent in his pocket.

And just then, he heard a female voice say:

“Hey – weren’t you in my politics precept?”

Gopal assumed the girl had been talking to someone else, the brick wall, perhaps, but she got closer and repeated the question.

Squinting, he was able to make out that it was Amy—a girl who had indeed been in his politics precept. She was a molecular biology major, he remembered. She had been vocal in class, one of the few students who actually did the reading and tried genuinely to have intellectual conversations. Yes—he remembered Amy: she was almost as big a loser as he was.

She wasn’t pedigree. She wasn’t wearing a sundress. In New York, Rohit would have called her “a hipster,” laughed and thrown change at her. She most certainly didn’t represent the Princeton that he yearned for, but she was cute, and she was speaking to him.

So they talked. And before long, Gopal was drunkenly waxing loser, divulging all his darkest secrets—he thought he might be losing his job, his friends seemed to be using him, and he was considering going back to school, for anything. And either because she, too, was drunk, or because she liked him, Amy listened.

She listened for an hour before the 5th shut down, she listened on the walk to the WaWa, and she listened while she took him to The Street to her eating club, Terrace, a building Gopal had been too terrified to ever even consider entering. Of the eating clubs, he knew it as the “edgy,” “druggy,” one—where you might end up seeing a bunch of naked dudes dancing around doing heroin together, being vegan. “Breathlessly freakish,” in F.Scott’s words. But with Amy, Gopal felt he might finally be starting to find his true self, and so he followed.

At Terrace, Amy and Gopal danced to The Knife in the sweaty, packed basement tap room, and, drenched, they went upstairs together and shared bagels they acted like they “stole” from the kitchen. And before he knew it, Gopal was joking with Amy about their future marriage, instructing her on how best not to offend his mother.

“None of that shit,” he said, wagging his finger at the lox. Then he shifted his finger to point at her shoes. “And you can leave those at home, too.”

He was hammered, still wearing his seersucker shorts and a canary polo, and even though he was surrounded by guys in leather pants and girls in flannel shirts, Gopal didn’t care. At last, he felt at home at Princeton.

Swept up in the moment, he kissed Amy. He kissed her in the way he kissed stupid drunk girls at nightclubs, and, after a while of having her face swallowed, Amy slowed him down to a more tender pace. They made their way upstairs to the third floor, started to explore several other things that would offend his mother, and then Gopal passed out on Amy’s shoulder, contented.


“Wake up, Gopie,” Amy whispered in Gopal’s ear around 10:30am, petting his sticky, thick black hair.

Gopal awoke with a jolt and pulled back. He looked around and saw ash trays full of cigarettes and several passed out, shirtless bodies; he smelled vomit.

“What the…where the…?” he tried to remember what happened.

“You just passed out,” said Amy, warmly. “Poof. Like that,” and she snapped her fingers, smiling.

“Uhmm…” Gopal started before quickly throwing on his Rainbows and heading for the door.

“Woah. Where’re you going in such a hurry, Gopal?” Amy asked, both hurt and surprised.

Gopal looked back at her, and the memories of the previous night started to come back to him—that feeling of comfort, of friendship, of belonging.

And then his face turned to disgust. Like The Hulk, Rohit was surging back to life, taking over Gopal’s body from the inside. He was furious—mortified and revolted at himself for having such feelings surrounded by such C-list, ill-employed people. He wanted to spit on the ground, flex his Banking muscles, and tear through his shirt, morphing into the huge green monster he loved to be. This was most definitely not why he had come back to Princeton, and most definitely not the stature he was striving to attain.

He paused for a moment before speaking, brushing off his shirt and shorts and standing up straight and proper.

“I don’t’ know what you’re talking about, girl,” he stated, flatly, a newfound air of arrogance in his voice. There was a floater sitting on top of the TV, and, staring Amy deeply in the eyes, he picked it up and slammed back the remnants. Right before exiting the room, he reached into his pocket and took out his business card, which was covered in a thin film of unadulterated, raw sugar. He showcased it briefly like a game show prize and then pressed it down firmly on top of the TV stand. Pointing at the card and then back up at his face, Rohit clarified: “That’s how sweet I am.”

136 comments for this post.

RSS Feed for Comments

  1. +2 votes + -
    distressed assets Said:

    it?s like the ugly lovechild of jhumpa lahiri and brett easton ellis

  2. +2 votes + -
    Douchebag Said:

    Bravo on this well-written story. I loved it all the way until the end. All too true.

  3. -4 votes + -
    devil's surrogate Said:

    I recommend you all to read Nicholas Taleb?s works, he will tell you why those in finance do not necessarily possess any genuine skill, simply dumb luck and educated guesses.

  4. -2 votes + -
    I like phat chicks Said:

    Welcome to Chase. How can I help you. Thank you for cashing your stimulus check with us. What denomination would you like your bills in? Can I interest you in a subprime loan? No, OK. Yes, there is a 7-11 at the next corner.

  5. +2 votes + -
    eastern europe girl Said:

    as an fyi: J.P.Morgan is rebranding itself. Chase will be a separate entity and will no longer associate with the investment bank.

  6. +3 votes + -
    eastern europe girl Said:

    Med is Better – if you think medicine is better, then why are you on this site to begin with

  7. +5 votes + -
    banker chick Said:

    ?Suits, lets be real. When your loved one needs an operation one day, you will be searching far and wide for the surgeon with the most training and experience. You will hope and pray that he/she has a good nights sleep and that the knife will produce a miracle. It will be a day you will never forget, and you wont be addressing your doctor as son???.? RoboticsSergion – your disgruntleness and bitterness are clearly shown from your post. if you were a doctor who loved the fact that he is a doctor would never give an example like that. is it the 8+ years-of-study-and-no-money mid-life crisis you are undergoing?

  8. +2 votes + -
    NSG Said:

    ?Breathlessly freakish.? Nice ?This Side of Paradise? reference.

  9. +5 votes + -
    haha is a pussy Said:

    Indians have saturated WS while your devolved persona places AIDS on the humor list. Btw, Vikram called, he wants his shirts dry cleaned.

  10. -7 votes + -
    PE-chick Said:

    Poor Advocate, what sort of redundant, out-of-context bull was that? Buy-side rocks as usual!

  11. -14 votes + -
    Med is Better Said:

    Banker chic: The only kind of surgeon you are looking for is a plastic surgeon. How much are you willing to pay to get rid of that pear shaped body you?ve been grooming since someone stuck you in a cubicle where your only talent involved knowing high level excel functions. You?re probably a pig. Have fun hating your life stuck at the VP level where your only power is to crap on lowly VP?s who hate you and realize you are a sloot who sleeps around because thats about all you can do to feel better about yourself since your free fall to gluttony. By the way, I am no where close to a mid-life crisis or being poor. I also enjoy the fact that people call me Mr. I can correct them and ask them to call me Dr. because I earned it with years of study and schooling.

  12. -11 votes + -
    Med is Better Said:

    I meant lowly associates in my last post, not VP?s

  13. -7 votes + -
    anonymous Said:

    i think people who comment on these forums are idiots

  14. -1 votes + -
    St. Paul's Said:

    Andover, what are you trying to say? Your writing?s as miserable as the short time I spent on that campus.

  15. -9 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    anyone attempting to compare banking to the field of medicine is an idiot and goes to show why you are in finance and not medicine. to someone saying that no one complains about doctors making too much money – inferring that they don?t make much is an idiot. the reason for no complaints is because people actually believe they deserve the money whereas bankers can be replaced with monkeys. P.S. i?m a banker. let?s see how many worthless idiots try and look for typos and grammatical mistakes in my post.

  16. -1 votes + -
    ham Said:

    and the quality posts return. this one was great, keep it up!

  17. +14 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Med is Better and RoboticSurgeon: I am extremely thankful that we have mentally-quick, but terribly unwise people like yourselves to do work that you will never be properly thanked for in money or whatever other assets. Why are you posting on this board? You don?t really expect to change the minds of the belligerent idiots who make up the majority of the posts herein? Your posts only insinuate that you are seeking some ?social dividend? of respect that will soothe your tired nerves and the gaping split between your compensation and that of many similarly-aged financial professionals. But how can I or anyone else here respect someone who has willingly entered a career where they feel so poorly compensated for their work that they have appeared on a finance blog, looking for a handout of social dignification? Your very presence where you should have no purpose indicts you of your inferiority. If your sense of purpose in life is the betterment of others, then you cease to have any purpose on to yourself. Worse yet, if you are a really well-regarded doctor, you are probably comforting the lives of some of the human detritus on this blog. If you are curious to how I view my life, I see myself as the creator of structures & systems that were meant to exist for an efficient world. To the extent that it benefits others, that is fine, but it is the act of creating ideas as an end in itself that separates mammals from anything on a higher order. Should I be financialy well-rewarded for what I do, that is great as well. But regardless, you will not see me posting on a medical doctors blog.

  18. +3 votes + -
    devil's advocate Said:

    PE Chick, I hope I never work on a syndication with your firm. I?m on the buyside, you waste of flesh. I just understand that this isn?t paradise. And there are a lot of other things that are much greater. You?ve still added nothing. Punch yourself in the face please.

  19. -3 votes + -
    Banker Chick Said:

    Med is Better: Since you are not well versed into the banking world I will enlighten you: the few women you meet in banking are very high-maintenance and stylish. and no matter how tough it is for women to work in banking, money is great, and we take pride in not being labeled as goldiggers – unlike women in any other industries who munch on losers like you! moreover, it seems that you are really angry and frustrated with your job. There is nothing more inspiring in life than working in banking and knowing that you can have an impact on the global movement of equity markets.

  20. +2 votes + -
    ex-buyside Said:

    ?There is nothing more inspiring in life than working in banking?? HaahahahaAHHAHhhaahahaaa

  21. +11 votes + -
    realistic banker Said:

    ?I see myself as the creator of structures & systems that were meant to exist for an efficient world. To the extent that it benefits others, that is fine, but it is the act of creating ideas as an end in itself that separates mammals from anything on a higher order.? It?s nice that you see yourself that way. Now let me enlighten you about your own profession. What you ACTUALLY do is create structures and systems that are meant to generate fees for your bank, ideally with enough ancillary benefits to the client that he remains solvent enough to come back for more business. But perhaps ?create? is too strong a word. You (or, in fairness, ?we?) primarily modify other people?s structures and then produce pretty books to convince the client that those structures are our own original ideas. Architects, civil engineers and designers create structures. You?re a paper-pusher. So am I but at least I?m not so deluded about it that I would argue with a doctor who heals the sick about the relative merits of his profession compared to my own. There is no comparison. We have highly specialized skills and are well-paid because of it. But the Darwinian drivel that constantly gets trotted out on these comment pages to justify this situation as the proper state of the world is just sickening. By the way, it?s tough to argue banking contributes to an ?efficient world? when the government just lent JPM $30 billion to take over Bear Stearns. Wall Street is latched just as firmly on to the government teat as any welfare recipient sleeping on the subways.

  22. -4 votes + -
    St. Mark's Said:

    Andover, Exeter, St. Paul?s – leave the Battle of the ISL+ to Rivers and Lawrence. They are still ?finding themselves? and living at home ?studying? for the MCAT, jealous of our ballerness? or they are retail bankers. BAAAAHAHAHAHAHA

  23. 0 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    realistic banker, I don?t really disagree with your view of the investment banking profession; however, I am not an investment banker and I don?t work for a bank. So when you talk about what I ?ACTUALLY? do, that is ?actually? entirely inaccurate. I?m a turnaround/turn-up investor and I have taken part in the elimination of useless overpaid family managers, screwed-up incentives for real managers, illogical financial reporting metrics & IT systems, inefficient manufacturing layouts and really a variety of things that were meant to be destroyed or replaced. Alternatively, I?ve also been able to partake in establishing compensation structures that make people actually want to do their job, legitimate board oversight, new manufacturing in developing regions with developing human resources, and the creation of marketing plans that have changed the way companies conceptualize themselves and improved communication with customers. Also, I do stand by my comments regarding Med is Better and RoboticSurgeon, which I believe you misread. It is not the merits of the medical profession which I attacked or have any interest in attacking, it is (i) altruism and (ii) their misconception of the merits of the medical profession that I attack.

  24. -2 votes + -
    Not Important Said:

    I know Rohit well. Dated one for three years trying to help him find his Gopal. Only reason he listened to me was that I was older, wiser, more mature and of course wealthier. To all of you who are on this path of emptiness I wish you the maturity to find your feet to carry you off of it. Happiness does not lie in ?things?. Pick up a copy of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and read it as if it was your bible. Good luck.

  25. +4 votes + -
    Bizarre Said:

    The ?doctors? commenting here are kind of aggressive. Not to mention cripplingly insecure.

  26. -5 votes + -
    Seth Said:

    You know that everyone who went to Princeton is an ass. Only they would call it ?reunions? and have everyone go every year. Its because they will never be cooler than they were at school. The rest of life sucks so they keep goinb back.

  27. +5 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Are you just bitter that your community college won?t let you go back and graduate?

  28. +2 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Breathlessly freakish,??? in F.Scotts words.?Best line ever

  29. +1 votes + -
    Oh man Said:

    Dead fucking on, brother. Amazing post?you just described my last 3 Reunions

  30. +2 votes + -
    Every Night in Bangkok Said:

    Banker Chick, ?There is nothing more inspiring in life than working in banking and knowing that you can have an impact on the global movement of equity markets.? ? I think i nearly pissed myself laughing at such a narrow view of life, but whatever keeps you from slashing your own throat in existential despair at being tied to a cubicle 12-14 hours a day slaving away for fools and greater fools for a few soggy crumbs. And the poster who said that the folks who create and build real companies and sell or IPO them and live the dream was spot-on. As someone who worked years at a bulge-bracket bank in quant/fi and then did the latter (founding and selling a company that makes real product), the satisfaction of creating something of value that enables livelihoods and lives for many people pwns the the shit out of the typical banker?s comp package, financially and overall.

  31. +23 votes + -
    HEDGEmony Said:

    HOLY SHIT! Could this one be the greatest post? Or just my favorite? I suppose it?s just my favorite, and only because I can relate way too much. I know Gopal?s shame of hooking up with hipster chicks when you live in our industry. Its a stain on my otherwise total BSD reputation. Something inside that hipster girl pursuing a worthless liberal arts PhD cries forth for my manicured hands to grip her pale, veganically malnourished body. To feel her fingertips unknot my luxurious red silk Hermes tie with the purple pegasus print, and look down to admire how expertly the belt I?m taking off, a calfskin leather J.M. Weston, matches my cap-toe Ferragamo oxfords. She wants all this, knowing full well that given we come from different worlds, this is an affair to be short lived. Sooner than she would like, the morning (early afternoon) sunlight enters through a window in the dingy east williamsburg loft she shares with 50 other people, waking me from my slumber, and throwing me into a frenzy of confusion, getting dressed, and wondering what the fuck the L train is. And so I begin my sojourn west, back across the east river to civilization, all the while ironing out details of a story I create about shacking up with a standard WASP from sutton place. The high fives and ?fuckin sluts!? outbursts do little to remedy the shame I feel inside.

  32. -9 votes + -
    Leverage^(e^e) Said:

    A lot of you peaheads are fighting over peanuts in WS; as you monkey asses are being layed off, we are making money in Africa; the more fucked up the country the more opportunities (there are some alternative investments in mines; Congo has every-fucking resource, copper in Zambia, Uranium in it). If you are true hardcore ballers, come ball in Africa.. TIA bitches

  33. +10 votes + -
    HEDGEmony Said:

    No thanks. I?m pretty content working on Park Ave pulling more in a bonus than the GDP of whatever malaria/AIDS/DeBeers ravaged shithole you think is ?ballin?. I?m guessing you?re probably just making shit up anyways, you have a lot of time to daydream about Congo and diamond mining gorillas in whatever bushleague backoffice your broke ass is stuck in.

  34. -4 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Gopal is a gay ginder bitch.

  35. +1 votes + -
    AAAsubprime Said:

    Man .. I am such a tool for loving this site!

  36. 0 votes + -
    Stern Alum Said:

    ?For him, its like Goldman coming to Sternsomething you just cant miss because its too good to even believe is happening in the first place.? Uh?what? I went to Stern and Goldman was on campus every year like clockwork. At a ?fit? interview for a trading position, they asked me what I thought was the most important skill-set for a trader. I told them that, other than a surgeon-esque technique with the HP12C, it was the distance I could throw my monitor when the market was tanking. I then asked for my resume back and went to work at a hedge fund. Fuck Goldman, bro.

Leave a Comment

Copyright Leveraged Sellout, LLC.