Toughen up, Muppets!

on Mar 21, 12 • by corporateandfinancial • with No Comments

Banks’ defenders need to make up their minds: are they ruthless wolves or injured lambs? In the aftermath of Greg Smith’s open letter to the New York Times, many financial commentators were quick to dismiss the idea that words mattered. The Wall Street Journal explained that it was just the cut and...
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Banks’ defenders need to make up their minds: are they ruthless wolves or injured lambs?

In the aftermath of Greg Smith’s open letter to the New York Times, many financial commentators were quick to dismiss the idea that words mattered.

The Wall Street Journal explained that it was just the cut and thrust of life in the fast lane:

After all is said and done in the global economy, customers always have been and always will be “muppets”—a description Mr. Smith wrote he was shocked to hear his colleagues use. Whether a corporate culture describes their clients that way or not doesn’t matter. How a company treats those clients is the bottom line.

The FT‘s column joked:

How embarrassing. Old school bond traders called their customers much raunchier things behind their backs. Goldman MDs must learn to talk tough by watching reruns of The Sweeney on Dave Ja Vu. Do they also say “leave it aht” and “you’re nicked”?

In other words, welcome to big school! This is the real world, the global economy red in tooth and claw.  That doesn’t sound like a recipe for long-term sustainable success, but it would at least be a convincing argument if it was consistent. However, simultaneously, we’ve had to put up with bleeding heart bankers, telling us how hurtful the name-calling aimed at them has been.

politicker has reported the backlash that’s beginning to brew against the idea of Maxine Waters chairing the House Committee on Financial Services in the US:

“Most of the international banks would start folding their tents” if Ms. Waters were to became chair of the committee, said John Allen James, the executive director of Pace University’s Center for Global Governance, Reporting and Regulation and a former consultant for McKinsey. “She is anti-bank. She doesn’t like anybody that wears a suit and a tie. She yells at them, and says why aren’t you doing more to address the housing problem, why aren’t you doing more to raise the boats of the less fortunate.

JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon - “the toughest guy on Wall Street” – has called for an end to the public “vilification” of bankers. As Vanity Fair described,

Earlier this year, when JPMorgan’s $10 billion pay pool was announced, Dimon complained that he had grown weary of the criticisms over the payouts. Speaking to a roomful of JPMorgan investors, he said of the insults thrown at bankers, “It hurts your feelings a little bit.”

The banking community needs to decide – street fighting or Queensbury rules? They can’t have it both ways.

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