what we don't say out loud.

What the numbers game mean to a banker.



“People ask, when will bankers have enough? But it’s not about the money. It’s a highly addictive status game. Pay marks your status in the organisation. This is why there is no saturation point.”

Banking is a great place to get a stamp of approval from the world. It validates your intelligence, your education. If you have the brand name of a major bulge bracket bank on your resume, it proves that you have been through the grind and can work hard. Everybody loves to hate bankers, but people start to consider you in a new light when they hear you work for a major global bank.

When I joined banking school back in the days banking career was one of the lucrative sort after careers and the banking school was a military sort of affair.You had to be upright and proper in your morals before you are admitted to school. I remember I even had to shave my dreadlocks in order to be admitted .Image, educational and skills qualification was everything.You were taught how to dress in conservative ways not to distract clients and proper mannerism at work. A proper banker needed to be flexible, tenacious, detail oriented, charming, rational, collaborative and rule abiding .This kind of Banker is old-school and very loyal to their work and often or not lives work at the retirement age.

Today so many colleges that offer banking courses have emerged meaning  the competition in the market has saturated these profession and  the resulting Bankers may not be so thorough as the courses offered are even shorter. This new breed of bankers are no longer loyal to the same employer and are always on the look out for new opportunities to keep up with their flashy lifestyles and peer pressure hence the same reflects to their work output.(no hard feelings). With time numbers game catches up with them and they may retire at 30 years of age.

A former banker cheerful woman in her mid-20s, born and raised in Asia. She wrote the hilarious Game of Clones blog about her time in an investment bank. She wrote;

‘I am from the non-western world and saw extreme poverty. The thing is, the life of an investment banker is such that you become entirely self-absorbed and self-centered. You forget there’s a world out there with real problems.

It is not unusual to see bankers become stressed, depressed and lonely. Many look much older than they are because they age so much faster. I used to think of people that I worked with and look up their pictures on the intranet. All these once healthy, youthful, smiling faces had slowly morphed into raisins.

“It’s not the long hours, though these are terrible. What gets to most bankers is the artificial stress. There are constant fake deadlines, creating unnecessary stress. I’d be told to have something ready by 10 am on Tuesday, although my superior will not look at it until midday on Thursday. Yet, the 10 am Tuesday deadline causes incredible grief.

“Naughty or nice” is not a discussion bankers will have with Santa before Christmas but one they have with their bosses early in the new year as they set new objectives and measure the previous year’s performance. The haggling usually opens with the boss saying what a tough year it has been and the bankers, often experienced traders and deal makers, talking about how valuable they are and the whole discussion lies in the game of numbers. Numbers don’t lie.

Outsiders, I mean family, relatives and friends focus on the pay investment bankers get. What they may not see is what that pay means to the bank: they effectively absolve themselves of all responsibility to treat you well. Your superiors don’t care if you haven’t slept in four days, or that your weekend is ruined. The numbers have to be met by hook or crook…

You’re a resource in banks, not a human being, and that applies to the people higher up as well. Years of service don’t matter. How much income you brought in doesn’t matter. If you are seen as no longer performing, you are on your way out without the bank batting an eyelid. Otherwise known as the Charles Darwin theory which I call the numbers game.

That’s such an inconsistency: you are treated as completely indispensable in the sense that, when the bank needs you, you have to drop everything at once, cancel vacations or weekends. Then, from one moment to the next, you’re fired and marched out of the building five minutes later. So how can the bank cope with your sudden disappearance if earlier your presence is absolutely necessary at all times?

One time while clearing from a bank and I had some chitchat mode with the HR personnel .I asked him what was being done about the high numbers of staff turnovers across the organisation. He shrugged his shoulder and simply said, “We are hiring too many employees at the same time that we wouldn’t notice the ones leaving employment.”

Thus the numbers game.

Author: Kate Mwamba

Financial and lifestyle blogger


  1. Very good read .
    looking out for more…you definitely are a writer.

  2. Great stuff

  3. Was researching for some time before finding your post. Very helpful. Maintain the nice writing.

  4. Appreciate the recommendation. Let me try it out.

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