What Investment Banking Is Like
June 13, 2009 4 Comments
For someone who is a high-ranking investment bank employee such as myself, you can well understand my interest in seeing the thriller The International, starring Clive Owen and what’s-her-name-pasty-face who is Nicole Kidman’s girlfriend (looked it up: Naomi Watts).
Now, audience members may wonder how much of the film is realistic and how much isn’t.
After all, at first blush the plot may seem somewhat outlandish (spoilers): a Luxembourg-based, fictionalized version of the bank “BCCI” wants to corner, as a broker, the small-arms market out of China. To position themselves, perhaps to show China their capabilities at facilitating deals etc., they decide they need to make a mass upfront purchase of missiles from China first. They have forward-buyers of these missiles in the form of Iran and Syria, but only contingent on their being equipped with a special guidance system that (Iran and Syria believe) Israel can’t defeat. So they desperately need to procure the guidance system to deliver on the forward purchase, at the risk of the deal falling through and their bank going under. But there are only two companies who produce it. One of them is an Italian defense company, but that buyer (whose CEO is a prominent, Berlusconi-like Italian politician) pulls out after he suspects BCCI of duplicity. So BCCI assassinates the politician and tries to deal with his sons instead. But they pull out too when they get wind. BCCI realizes they need to deal with the other supplier, a Turkish company whose main customer is Israel – indeed, Israel has bought countermeasures to the guidance system from them. They are willing to deal, but it all must be kept hush-hush lest Israel hear the Turk is double-dealing & stop all business with him, and lest Iran/Syria hear about the countermeasures & that they are purchasing a neuteured guidance system & decide to pull out. Two of the bankers die in some hi-jinx, but the deal apparently goes through and the bank’s efforts succeed.
(There’s also some stuff involving the characters played by Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, but I wanted to focus on the banking stuff here.)
Now, you, the viewer, seeing all that, might feel a little skeptical. “Is that really what banking is like?”, you think to yourself. “Guys sitting calmly around sleek ultramodern-architected offices, calmly plotting assassinations and wars?”
I can only speak for myself but: yeah, pretty much. They got all that spot-on. Uncanny.