Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chartered Financial Banalyst

The HP12c -- God's Calculator

For about 2 months before my boy Mark took the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Level 3 exam, he didn’t go out at all. He’d go to work, come home, hit up the gym, and then study. That was it. Done.

“Going out is fucking lame, anyway,” he’d bark from the couch when I rolled up to his place on a Friday with two Lauren Conrad lookalikes. Sitting there in sweaty mesh shorts and a T-shirt, he’d wave a #2 HB pencil in the air dismissively. “Staying in is the new going out.” Then Lauren #1 would strut over to his fridge, showing off her perfect physique in the process. She’d take an ice cube and press it seductively against her collarbone as she closed her eyes and sighed in relief from the dense heat of New York City summer. I could see the Monte Carlo simulation running in Mark’s brain; Crystal Ball says—“you will get laid.” Then, right after his eyes entered back into his skull, he would look back down begrudgingly at his practice exam and mutter to himself, unconvincingly: “Whatever. That bitch is a 6, anyway…”

He’d break down right as we were leaving, his face falling into his hands. We’d hear his sobs all the way from the street, and I’d feel the girls’ hands tighten around my arms as he started clawing away the window screen and shaking the wrought iron bars he had installed during the Level 2, specifically to save him in such situations.

You see, Mark really loved to go out. I mean loved. Obviously, we all like drinking and slaying chicks, but more so than anything, Mark just straight up loved “being out there.” “Gotta get up in the mix,” he’d coach himself if he hadn’t been out in more than two or three nights. He had to scratch that itch. The heat, it gave him clarity. He was the kind of guy who’d buy 4 bottles, not to drink them, but just for that one moment when everyone was surrounding him, cheering him on and taking pictures as he snarled and held all 4 bottles held up to his mouth in triumph. And the only time he was happier was when he was on his computer posting that ridiculous photo up on Facebook as his profile picture, his status set as “absolutely killing it.”

I don’t know very much about the “Chartered Financial Analyst” program. Generally, I’m the one chartering shit, so the concept doesn’t even really make sense. From what I gather, though, it’s a set of exams that you take to get certified to be a money manager out in Ohio and for some reason, Mark, as one of the few non-prop traders I know, also has to take it. They ask you trivial finance questions and tease your brain with provocative ethical scenarios like: “Should you steal your clients’ money? Answer yes or no.”

I do remember, a few months after graduating from college, hearing the news that a girl we knew, Jen, had somehow managed to fail the CFA Level 1 exam. There was such widespread disbelief in the community, on the same order of magnitude as when we heard someone we knew was “making a documentary.” Something like 40% of people pass the exam, and frankly, we just couldn’t wrap our heads around the concept of the 59th percentile. “I’m disgusted,” said a friend who had hooked up with Jen once, quickly making his way into the bathroom to shower and rinse his mouth out with Scope. Jen took the failure as a sign—an opportunity to “follow her dreams” and become an actress. She is now the subject of our other ex-friend’s documentary, the title: Banker Chick Gets Creative: A Riches to Rags Story.

To be fair, though, there is one redeeming aspect of the CFAs—one characteristic that is actually legit, the calculator. One of the two calculators permitted to be used on the CFAs is the HP 12C, and apart from the fact that its name sounds like some highly involved consulting framework, it is the epitome of Banker technology. The 12C embodies everything about us—elegant, bold, somehow clinging on to life in a world that no longer needs it. One look at its brushed plastic exterior and you think: “Damn, this thing is pro.”

Excel Mobile, it speaks a pure, unambiguous language: Reverse Polish, a postfix notation that eliminates non-commutative issues. So instead of having to enter 7 + (5 * 2) – 5, you’d enter: 7 5 2 * + 5 -. Direct and to the point, crisp even—exactly how Bankers think and speak. I met a model from Kraków once, and although we hit it off physically, her English struggled, blocking us from that real “same plane” level I like to reach. So as a gesture of cultural sensitivity, I decided I’d speak to her in something closer to her native tongue. Over Lil’s Wayne’s Lollipop, I pointed between us aggressively and instructed: “You, friends, 2, TIMES PLUS… panties MINUS“ Boom. “Same plane,” said her eyes.

But overall, it’s all very misguided, the concept of having to be sanctioned to practice finance by some governing body. To me, being a financier is god given, a birthright. There are no “Chartered Investment Bankers.” You cannot charter someone to be a prolific value adder. It is an art, not a trade. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been chartered to do whatever the hell kind of finance I want since I was 10, screaming at Production (Celia, my Hispanic maid) to not fuck up comb-binding my book reports. “You numbered the Table of Contents?!” I’d scream at her, winging the thing across the kitchen. And then I’d provide the brand of constructive feedback you might hear from a pissed off MD at Goldman:

“This kind of shit might fly at Banco Popular, but not in my house.”


It’s been almost three weeks now since Mark took the CFA exam, with three, perfectly actionable weekends in between. Most other guys partied their faces off after the exams, but for some reason, Mark still hasn’t really gone out. He just sits on the sofa in those unwashed mesh shorts, staring off into space. He’s a shell, a shadow of who he once was. It’s as if something inside of him has died.

“What the fuck, man?” I’ll ask with a practiced, artificial tone I like to call “emotion.”

Mark takes a moment to respond, but finally lets out: “It’s gone…”

After I ask what he means, he beats his fist against his chest and explains what has escaped him: “The fire.”

Somehow, I thought that fire might come back, that Mark might remember how great everyday life in finance is, but he hasn’t. Last weekend, I dragged him out to The Hamptons, and at Pink Ellie, he just stood in the corner alone, nursing his first bourbon. He seemed perplexed, tilting his head and looking at the world from a new, ethically conscious perspective. His 12C was still with him, cradled affectionately in his hands like a BlackBerry.

This got the attention of one genius girl, a Long Island native, who came up and asked, genuinely: “Omg, is that the new iPhone?!” Bouncing, she grabbed the boxy device from his hands. She looked at it awestruck for a moment, caressing its sharp edges. Then, hoping to zoom in, she started to pinch the ½ inch wide, very touch-insensitive screen.

Mark would have normally responded with something like “iPhone for me, girl? I’m the BlackBerry Thunder,” but instead, he just gazed at her longingly. No flame was left in him, no embers even. Timid and almost monotone, he proposed: “You, foreign film, pinot noir, PLUS, PLUS, subtitles, MINUS?”

I’d say the 4G iPhone crashing to the ground was symbolic, but those things are built so fucking strong you could run over them with an H3 and they wouldn’t shatter. Mark, however, took it as a sign.

I looked over and saw him leaving the club, a shadow cast over his glass of bourbon and the calculator with his business card taped to the back. Over at our table, another guy was doing Mark’s patented pose, but the snarl was too creepy, not genuinely elated enough, and there were only 3 bottles, not 4—it just really wasn’t the same.

In that moment, I had to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged—their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone.

The 10 next to me was angling herself to most prominently display her lack of tan lines, and I let out, a little less practiced, and a little less artificial:

“I guess I just miss my friend.”

146 comments for this post.

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  1. -7 votes + -
    Crunchberries Said:

    I use my blackberry?s calculator, how do I translate that function into the proper bberry calculator format? Or should I leverage myself and get the iPhone, it?s supposed to have a better calculator?

  2. 0 votes + -
    k. Said:

    Shawshank quote, caps it all. Sooo good it stings.

  3. -8 votes + -
    Numbering the TOC Said:

    SERIOUS QUESTION FROM A NON-BANKER: How do you avoid auto-numbering the table of contents in PowerPoint 2003 anyhow? I already know about ?Don?t show on title slide? and ?Start numbering from:#? Efforts to toy with the Title Master have been fruitless. Do your production assistants manually number the PBs? (gasp)

  4. +11 votes + -
    Manfred Ziegler Said:

    # the TOC: Upgrade PPT, idiot. The problem is that you have an inferiority complex as evidenced by your submissive reference to ?Master?. Now take that strapped apple out of your mouth and become the pitcher for once!

  5. -10 votes + -
    Wang Chung Said:

    Awesome! Some dude will really be fucking your bitch balls to walls if you are working 100 hours a week. Money doesn?t buy good cock from a guy like me. Go PE and make good money and be able to go balls to wall with this skanky hoes. Asian in the house bitches!!!

  6. +7 votes + -
    p Said:

    Illiterate Asian, by the looks of it.

  7. -1 votes + -
    TrueShala Said:

    Nice Shawshank reference at the end, and a good shot at Banco Popular, those worthless Puertoriquennos.

  8. -1 votes + -
    Gris Said:

    Top notch post. The Shawshank tie-in makes it brilliant and the Banco Popular crack near killed me. Thanks

  9. -1 votes + -
    haha Said:

    you socially awkward dorks working as i-banking chimps make me laugh. try working in S&T and make some real money (not to mention working some normal hours).

  10. 0 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    agree w/ haha S&T > all

  11. +8 votes + -
    Make it rain Said:

    Shit son, Ameriprise in the house! We?re not required to get our CFAand still make 50k a year plus full dental!

  12. -4 votes + -
    Captain Said:

    So everyone please forgive my ignorance but in reference to ?haha? what the hell is S&T and how do I get in it?

  13. -2 votes + -
    Prop T Said:

    ?Make it Rain? I hope that that was a joke.

  14. -5 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Ameriprise?haha what a joke! What shitty state school did you go to? $50k?haha, real baller.

  15. -2 votes + -
    son of W Said:

    you said it wang chung, you said it Wang Chung Said: August 14th, 2008 at 9:48 pm Awesome! Some dude will really be fucking your bitch balls to walls if you are working 100 hours a week. Money doesnt buy good cock from a guy like me. Go PE and make good money and be able to go balls to wall with this skanky hoes. Asian in the house bitches!!!

  16. +5 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Truthfully, I owned a TI-BAII and never felt like a real man. Always used to hide that Texas POS it from my HP-12c toting peers. Every once and a while I will get this feeling like I am missing something and I will look around, check my pockets, search my office, rack my brain until it dawns on me what is missing – I never owned a 12C.

  17. -1 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Screw undergrad? I am into the CFA for the party scene.

  18. +3 votes + -
    Anon Said:

    S&T = Sales and Trading. Same money as IBD, 5 days/week, market hours. Enough said.

  19. 0 votes + -
    Captain Said:

    Sales and Trading. It sounds better than pushing mutual funds to snow birds.

  20. +2 votes + -
    Hugh Jorgen Said:

    I love the CFA exam?.I hooked up with a tight little hottie out in the hamptons while her boyfriend was back in the city studying for the level I. Sorry pal, it just had to be done. MBA > CFA every time.

  21. -1 votes + -
    BALLIN Said:

    CFA > MBA 80% of the time every time.

  22. 0 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Completed all the exams last year. I?m still trying to find my fire! Side effect they dont tell you about before you start the program!

  23. -2 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    The 12C is for chumps. It?s all about the BA-II plus.

  24. -2 votes + -
    Seoul Man Said:

    Americans are so dumb and stupid?even people who can?t speak english can pass the CFA exam. This is why the Chinese, Indians and all other minorities will take over banking. The white anglo americans and the sex-starved, pale Brits will be going away like the dinosaur. Take a look around these days?the MD you are working for is probably an Indian. What happened to the American education system??

  25. -1 votes + -
    CFA Hero Said:

    I?ve failed the CFA Level 1 three times but i?m going to NAIL it this december! All of you knocking the analyst forum?save it. Its VERY helpful. I?ve been visiting the forum for almost 2 years and will finally get a username once i pass, **fingers crossed** (its my treat to myself). Anyways. For those of you studying, Goodluck. Our Golden ticket is around the corner!! and think of all the money we?re saving by not doing an MBA like the rest of these suckers. We?ll have the last laugh, my friends! hahahahahahaha!!!!

  26. -1 votes + -
    Pauli-z's Said:

    yo-yo, its your boy Pauli-z reping Statin Island?Gotti! Wondering if anyone can drop some advise on how to break into to the Ibanking. I got 2.5 years in fixed income Ops. and 6 years working at my Uncle Ray?s Pizzeria? the last year i actually helped balance the balance sheets. I didn?t go to school but realy good with numbers. Let me know? and no wise guys ok.

  27. -1 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    whoever wrote this post is a fake and a loser/ probably some F.O.B. i.t. guy at goldman, 1. you dont know any ?non-prop traders? huh? yeah almost believable, if you worked for schonfeld or etg. otherwise you wouldnt even be able to post this crap from a bank, or you are some loser market maker, 2. all you do i hang out with other traders? that is both unbelievable and unbelievably loserish?.way to roll deep with your co-workers brah 3. you think LC is hot? really? really? so 1) your clearly just some shmuck trying to get on a desk/front and 2) the fact that you think average white girls are hot makes me assume that you are a dirty F.O.B. who is obssessed with ?white bitches? go back to the motherland and fix some servers. im going back to dealbreaker, this shit blows. motherfucker is talking about LC and calculators?.

  28. 0 votes + -
    Mad Max Said:

    I love the Indian 3rd grader and teaches you to become a money manager in Ohio. Took level and lost the fire. Trying to get it back.

  29. +1 votes + -
    CFA Said:

    ?and while you?re at it Mad Max finish your GED and sign up for a grammar lesson.

  30. 0 votes + -
    I-bank-u-wank Said:

    Best post I?ve ever read, on any website, ever. Really! Hats off guys?

  31. 0 votes + -
    Mad Max Said:

    CFA,why don?t you finish your Denny?s breakfast with the rest of the treasury department at your commercial bank in Ohio.

  32. 0 votes + -
    Balls Said:

    They forgot to tell you that girls will be replaced by books when you sign up for the CFA exams

  33. 0 votes + -
    Biggus Dikkus Said:

    Three taken, three passed, suckaaaaaas(!) You bankers should take heed ? this could be something to do when all your jobs are being performed, ehem, prolific value being added from Nagpur and Nanchang. All respect due on the posts, though. Hilarious.

  34. 0 votes + -
    wb Said:

    interesting story. too nerdy though. an abacus would have gotten the chicks in a flash.

  35. 0 votes + -
    Some Chick Said:

    Quality stuff.

  36. +2 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    This is hilarious. I love the sexist rubbish (I?m a girl) – it?s so true of these types. The times I have to put up with some idiot IB imagining himself immortal and doing me a favour by deigning to ?court? me? Oh, it?s hysterical stuff, guys. If you?re a good-looking girl, these suckers just CANNOT comprehend how or why could you possibly not want to have their dick inside you.

  37. 0 votes + -
    Fire is Back Said:

    Party has not stopped since June 7th. For those of you who lost the fire, I question whether you ever really had it. Finding out the results in late Summer fueled Round 2. CFA does not take place of MBA nor does the MBA take the place of CFA – way different.

  38. +2 votes + -
    No Clue Said:

    Guys, when you jerk off in your cubes, how far does it fly? Onto the pitch book or onto the monitors?

  39. 0 votes + -
    No Clue Said:

    The computer screens, that is?

  40. 0 votes + -
    U r such a loser Said: it a big deal? Cleared all levels in the first attempt. Took last one this summer in bangcock. Had a week of Thai fun before and after. Actually almost bailed on the exam, was so drunk the night before. Result u know. And you really think 40% is a low pass rate? Please?.. And yeah..never lost the fire..exam or no exam. The thing about Indian fifth graders is so true!

  41. +1 votes + -
    Captain Bigstuff Said:

    This was the best post you have ever written. Excellent work. Never lost the fire, but understand completely how some can. It?s called ?getting married.? I recommend you do not participate in such a thing.

  42. -4 votes + -
    Old baller -->ubermen*** Said:

    This story is about me. I used to lead the pack with legendary stories – balling at huge numbers and putting up unprecedented global numbers – superstar king taking ?bank?. They used call me ?coach? at 23 and then ask me to ?put them in?. My friends even constructed a 20 minute music video from hours of footage of me partying around the world in one of my many trips to everywhere in limos all the time. I now live in a distant borough, self employed quietly doing construction cause I like to build things. It feels really good make something with your hands. I practice mathematics and physics on friday and saturday nights. Before banking dumbed me down I was math and physics champ. I don?t drink alcohol and haven?t been laid in 2 years. I had over 100 girls in 3 years before that. My old friends at goldman and other places tried to call me and bring me out, hire me, etc. Now that its been several years of non responsiveness they don?t even try me anymore. Nobody trys me anymore except my family and the few select real buddies who will travel to see me without the promise of gains but with the promise of laughter and color. Sometimes I think back and want what i once had cause manhattan stoked the fire in me. But then I think about how much i like to build things and think about math problems and quietly read books and make predictions and pace around. Although I feel more sane then ever, it would seem I am more insane then ever. I was a ?bird? who couldn?t be caged and soared above all. I stopped because if I kept being what the industry wanted me to be then I would have been greedily obligated to hurt millions of people like we are seeing now in this market. I was too cowardly to change the culture! Money has no effect on my ego anymore. Its liberating and revealing. Hopefully, the the new era of bankers will be people who act responsibly as stewards of wealth, rather then narcissistic black holes. I am just searching for one women to marry and be with for life and have children with. It excites me cause I am curious about real love!

  43. +7 votes + -
    HEDGEmony Said:

    Your search for a woman will never end because you have to be a man first. You disgust me you pathetic quitter.

  44. +4 votes + -
    Anonymous Said:

    Nov 9th, you sound like a friendless minority virgin. I sincerely doubt you worked at any investment bank let alone GS.

  45. +4 votes + -
    wild card Said:

    Nov 9th ? we all know you were a consultant so stop lying to yourself

  46. 0 votes + -
    Rshooter Said:

    Hey Seoul Man. The reason American companies hire a lot of people from India these days is because the labor is dirt cheap. MBAs in india are the equivalent of getting a 3 week online certificate at Phoenix University. It’s all about the labor cost. You’re not the best and the brightest. High value really means cheap labor. Also, you need to speak proper English and be polished to deal with clients. Speaking an English dialect with little grammar won’t get you ahead in I-banking or Private Equity. So shut your trap.

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