Saturday, August 09, 2008

Being 'out' in investment banking

Over the years, I've had a lot of emails asking me what it's like to be 'out' as a gay guy working in investment banking, for example I did a 'Dear GB' posting about it last year. On this subject, I recently had an interesting conversation with a young gay guy called M who works at the same bank as me as a junior sales person but on a different trading floor. Having established that we're both gay, we ended up going out for drinks together one evening.

"Have you always been 'out' at the bank?" I ask him, when we eventually get onto the subject of being gay.

"Yes," replies M, "I've never hidden it. Actually the guy who recruited me was gay, although I ended up reporting to a different guy who originally didn't know."

"But your boss knows now I guess?"

"Yes, one day he asked me outright, in the middle of the trading floor!"

"Really? What on earth did you say?"

"I just said Of course I'm gay! and carried on with my work, it's not a big deal to me. I'm sure I could make a complaint to the personnel department about harassment or something, but it wouldn't get me anywhere. My boss doesn't mind anyway, he just wanted to know."

"Actually," continues M, "I was getting a price on a deal from one of the traders recently when the trader suddenly sneered at me and said I'm not used to working with GAYS. I guess the news had spread!"

"So what did you do?"

"I simply said Well I'm not used to working with arseholes! and walked off. Since then, no one's mentioned it!"

I think this guy has got the perfect attitude for dealing with his colleagues in the banking environment. However, the only reason he can pull it off is because of his high level of confidence, and the fact that in his mind he's dealt with all the issues relating to being gay so that it's now just one component of who he is. None the less, it does prove that with the right personality, being gay isn't a problem in investment banking these days :-).

17 comments:

A rebel all the way... said...

glad to hear that...but what i encounter on a day to day basis makes me think otherwise....

Diogenes said...

You're kidding, right?

Maybe in the UK, but on Wall Street there's definitely a pink ceiling, if you can even get hired. I have an MBA from one of the top 3 programs in the US. The career counselors there told me: "pretend you are strait...If someone asks, lie." I've seen guys get married to survive.

GB said...

There's no doubt in my mind, rebel, Diogenes, that M has a very bright future ahead of him as an investment banker, but only because he's 110% confident in himself and is completely unfazed by the gay issue. M's advantage over the guys that Diogenes mentions is that he's been 'out' from the start, and of course that wouldn't have been possible twenty years ago. In the global war that banks wage with each other for talent, these days talented gay guys with the right attitude are just talented guys!

GB xxx

Jay said...

Good post. Investment banking is different to when GB did it back in the day. Its very hard to get in there now.

Diogenes said...

Well check out one of the most popular blogs on Wall Street, and see if you still feel that way:

http://takeareport.com/page/2/

Apparently, the "author" was a trader at Citigroup. He will be a keynote speaker at this year's Dallas Securities Traders Association meeting at the end of the month.

Personally, I think his blog is disgusting; the fact that it's so popular says something about the industry, for sure.

A rebel all the way... said...

actually i partly agree with GB...investment banking is mostly about confidence...and straight or gay, as long as you are brash, tongue-in-cheek, quick with your retorts and superbly confident, you would most probably do well...
but the thing is lack of confidence might not be just due to one's sexuality...there are a whole lot of other reasons that might contribute to that...upbringing, culture, yada yada....
anyway, not to digress from the issue, yes, being gay in IB is difficult, but you can get away with it as long as you show the alpha-males (who are in a majority unfortunately) some good attitude...

Anonymous said...

hm - I'm not so sure, even if you are out, people who are superior then you will happen to take about you in meetings not in a polical correct way. banking ist not the fashion industry after all.

GB said...

But I'm still working as a banker Jay. I agree that in the current credit-crunch world it is hard to get in because banks aren't hiring, but that will eventually pass (hopefully).

I looked at that blog Diogenes but wasn't sure what I was meant to be looking at.

I'm glad you now partly agree with me Rebel :-).

The key point to remember is that all the alpha-males and bosses who work at investment banks want to make money, lots and lots of money. A guy's sexuality isn't relevant to making money as long as he's got the right attitude and is focussed on the job. So the gay guy for whom being gay is a big thing in his life probably isn't going to be the best guy on the trading floor for that promotion, because if being gay is a big thing for him it means that he could be more focussed on making money!

GB xxx

Diogenes said...

Hi GB,

Well here are some highlights from that blog:

-A post about Barry Manilow titled: "I write the songs that guys with AIDS sing."

-A post about model Christy Turlington: "She was in the video for that homosexual deviant George Michael."

-Making up the name "Mee Brind Too," for a blind Taiwanese child.

-posting a heavy woman's picture and saying "maybe 'thickness' should get out and exerceise and give a sh** about how she looks."

So, what were you supposed to see? Rampant homophobia, misogyny and racism. Hard to miss. This is a very popular blog on Wall Street with page after page of this 'in your face' stuff. Just my opinion.

GB said...

But who really matters on Wall Street Diogones? The junior traders and support staff who have the time to read (and write) that kind of stuff, or the senior staff who focus on bigger things? You say the author is no longer a trader at a major bank and it doesn't surprise me, because these days one can't last long term with a small–minded attitude. I've met enough senior bankers in all the major financial centres, and I can only think of one reason why such a guy wouldn't hire a talented openly gay guy to work in one of his teams, and that's if he thought that guy's attitude to being gay would be disruptive on the trading floor in his interaction with the other staff. So it really is as I said originally, with the right personality being gay isn't a problem in investment banking these days :-).

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

I'm 33 and also work in the City but not in Investment Banking, but private equity focusing on investing in financial services companies, so work closely with a half a dozen city businesses. I've had not issues at all with being gay and in the city - I don't wear it on my sleeve but equally I openly talk about my boyfriend so am completely out. Like M, I'm forthright and self confident and what banter there might have been rapidly moved on as people could see that it was no more an issue to me as being str8 was to them. The City for all its faults is, once you have entered it, seems to be to be very meritocratic, at least for me. But there are two provisos - one you need to get in in the first place and two you need to be willing to be fully integrated into your team (i.e. don't allow a lack of interest in girls, or football say, make you keep your distance). Matt

Tapak said...

GB ,
Good to hear that experience. But very few people has that much confidence. Expecially 50% of gay people are closeted at work in the corporate world. And in investment banking it is less than that as it is more difficult to be gay.I can really feel that difference working in the IT field and coming to Business School.
May be if the person is very confident and top in the job and has strong network at work can tell something like waht you mentioned. I dont think an average investment banker will be confident to tell that unless there is a good support network around.

Anyway most people dont care (other than some bigots) , if you come out naturally. But people may not like it ,if you try to talk about pink market in a marketing class unless you have a strong network to support you or understand there is a market like that.

GB said...

Well said Matt :-).

It's true, Tapak, that a lot of people aren't very confident, and allow their own self-doubts to hold themselves back. However, you never find those sorts of people on an investment bank's trading floor anyway. And the confident guy, whether gay or straight, isn't going to worry about whether people like him talking about pink marketing if he thinks he's got valid points to make. But he'll only talk about it to the extent that he's done research on it.

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

Hi GB.
I work as a trader in a large Inv Bank and while I don't think my colleagues are necessarily homophobic, they would still prefer to work just with straight guys. In fact one of the reasons its going to become difficult for me to be more open about my sexuality would be the impact on the team when they consider all the snide "fag" comments they've made about other people. While I didn't find most of the comments too offensive - they seemed to have been made more for effect rather than with real malice, I still think they would be extremely concerned about any potential legal liability. That is bound to have an impact on the mood within the team. Even though my position would probably be more secure, the atmosphere would probably be very tense.

I would still think that the trading floor remains a pretty inhospitable environment for a gay person to work in, especially compared to other parts of banks, legal firms or corporations.

GB said...

Trading floors can be inhospitable places for everyone, Anonymous. Traders like to poke fun at people, end of story, so everyone who works on a trading floor needs to be correspondingly robust and resilient. If your colleagues knew that you were gay and you had the attitude of M, they'd probably stop making so many jokes about gay guys but other minorities would become the target. For that environment, to defuse any potentially tense atmosphere, my suggestion would be that you swat up on all the gay and homophobic jokes you can find. That way, when you come out to them and they feel a bit embarrassed about past remarks, you'll be able to fill in the void for them!

GB xxx

Lord said...

So happy i found this site, i am a sales trader in paris...everyone makes fun of everyone. we are worst than school girls. honestly, no one cares i am gay. they call me names, but no different than me calling them names. its a very friendly in the end. When you have a secret you feel the comments so much more. I did subtle things rather than come out...i put a photo on my desk of mates. etc. it worked really well.

Any other traders out here? the trading floor is definitely tougher than corporate finance in terms of socializing.

Anonymous said...

I worked for a Magic Circle law firm in Hong Kong doing IB. I am not out as I don't see a need to. While I was out one weekend at a gay club, I saw one of my office mates! It was weird. In addition, a guy I was working with kept asking me if I was married - he is married - but I don't find him attractive. He would also come into my office, close the door, and pull his ranks. He told me that since I don't have a blackberry, he can make me stay as late as he wants (I stayed till 5:30 a.m.) and do whatever he wants, in a denigrating, insulting way (I am not into S and M). When I complained at a quarterly review about harrassment, they put me on trial for a month and then said my work was inaccurate and forced me to resign. It was then that I realised this guy was probably sleeping with the lady boss. She was completely on his site. I don't think I want to work in IB or IB Law cos the people seem stupid, crass, and obsessed about money in a crass vulgar manner. It's different in New York...everyone is classy. My boyfriend was a partner in a top firm, and no one made any comments about his sexuality (due to legal protection). I find that in the UK, it's also rather backward in terms of equal opportunities. Gay Straight shouldn't be a problem, harrassment, office bullying should be attacked. I prefer working with people in PE, they are classy. IB people are crass. IB "bankers", "accountants", "consultants" normally don't have the intelligence, savoir-faire and class. IB has been a dying industry in New York since 9/11. I can't believe it's only tanking now in London. IB guys in London are really homophobic sissies with big bellies and flaccid arm muscles. Any Chelsea-gym-toned tranny could box the daylights out of them. The Hong Kong "bankers" are worse. They ALL look like fags...(even if married or straight) and no gay person in the US would be attracted to them.