January 15, 2016

The reunion

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My first job out of college was in New York City, with a financial institution famous (or infamous, depending on how one sees it) for its trading prowess and its innovation in financial products.  I joined the bank right when its reputation was at its peak, and witnessed the first of the derivatives scandals to emerge - with lawsuits coming in left and right.

As a fresh grad, I saw investments get wiped out as a result of leverage (up to 40x, and sneakily hidden from clients), saw the havoc wreaked by the sudden devaluation of a major regional currency (3 years before the start of the Asian Financial Crisis), and went on a wild ride of the markets after a political assassination.  That was a lot to take in during the first two years of my career.

After those first two years, I transferred with Bankers Trust to Hong Kong, where I met up with old friends from school and made new friends.  After a little more than three and a half years, I left Bankers Trust and followed some colleagues to my second financial institution.  Months later the Asian Financial Crisis happened, and the following year the Russian Debt Crisis.  After that, BT was basically toast, and had to be taken over by Deutsche Bank.

The group of friends I worked with at BT, though, were a close-knit bunch, and we kept in touch after more than 20 years.  But the strong ties among the BT people aren't just limited to the small group of us.  Back in 2002, a reunion was organized for the people who worked for BT in Hong Kong, and more than 120 of us showed up at the American Club.  I'd say that's a testament to the cohesiveness of the organization.

Tonight, more than a decade and a half after the demise of Bankers Trust, around 120 of us gathered at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.  There was a buffet dinner at the Happy Valley Race Course, but we didn't really come for the food or the drinks.  We came to see old friends.

It's natural to expect that people have scattered after all these years, and tonight we had people flying in from Taipei, Manila, Singapore, Tokyo, and even as far away as Abu Dhabi.  Some of us have left the financial industry, while others have retired.  The world of finance has changed so much since our time together at BT, but we still remember the old days very fondly.  BT was a very entrepreneurial organization, and the camaraderie I saw back then is nowhere to be found in most large financial institutions today.  People were a lot nicer to each other, and as I repeated a few times tonight, there were just "fewer assholes" around...

Many of us haven't seen each other in years, and there were plenty of selfies and other pics being snapped all through the night.  Towards the end of the evening, people took turns to take group pictures on the stage - gathering with their team members to preserve their memories.  A bunch of us really didn't want to leave the gathering and stayed till the end of our allotted time...

One image from the slideshow of old pics stuck in my mind, and it's something we always said many, many years ago.  What makes an organization great... it really IS the people!  And I hope to see more of these people in the coming years... and hopefully more than once every 10 years!

P.S.  Since I didn't write about the buffet food, here are some notes on the bottles of wine I brought to share with my table...

2000 Smith-Haut-Lafitte Rouge, en magnum - smoky, minty, and mineral.  Very nice.

2003 Fisher Vineyards Syrah Hidden Terrace Vineyard, from magnum - very ripe and sweet, exotic, oaky and vanilla.

2006 Mollydooker Cabernet Sauvignon The Maitre D' - still a little sharp and rough around the edges, slightly pungent with the sulfur.  Sweet and punchy.

P.P.S: I just found out that one of the young kids I worked with a little more than 10 years ago at another financial institution is actually the son of a colleague I used to work with at Bankers Trust Hong Kong 20 years ago!  What an incredibly small world!

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