If you work in a front office job in an investment bank and are unhappy with your pay, your hours or your prestige, you should try being a personal assistant. I am the PA to a managing director and his team of around 40 people. It is a mostly thankless task, but one with anthropological upsides.
As you sit there on the trading floor, safe in your six figure salary and your similarly sized bonus, you probably don't realize that a lot of us PAs are hired on a contract basis. - This isn't a full-time secure job for us and we therefore don't get any of the perks that you get (I'm talking private heath insurance and a pension). As contractors, we're not part of the bonus pool. And even if we're not contractors, our bonuses are usually tiny or non-existent.
However, I'm not a PA in a bank for the money: I'm a PA for the people-watching. You may not see me, but I see you.
Firstly, I get access to the MD's inbox. I arrange meetings for him and I delete his irrelevant emails. I also get to read things that the rest of you never see and that you never know about. I see your compensation numbers. I know which of you are to be made redundant. I see the topics that senior management are discussing. Sometimes I'm conflicted: a friend of mine was on the redundancy list last month; I said nothing.
I see some of your relationships and I see all of your spending habits. I have been asked to book lunches for senior bankers and their girlfriends, and I have been asked to book lunches for the same senior bankers and their wives. I am often asked to process expenses: I know who goes over-budget; who likes to eat at expensive restaurants, who is frugal.
At times, I am made party to your medical issues. We had an MD fly in from New York with a bad stomach. Guess who bought the medicine for his diarrhea? Some of you ask me to book your taxis and your cars: I am your concierge. Others of you endlessly ask me to change your plane tickets.
For this, I get a salary that is a fraction of your own, plus - usually - a generous Christmas present that reflects your quiet appreciation during the year. I'm sometimes asked to attend client dinners (so that there's a female face) and I get the occasional advance from those among you who spend so much time in the office that any encounter with an apparently marriageable woman must be leveraged. I'm sometimes flattered. I always say no. I know what bankers are like; I have no urge to spend more time with them.
Sylvie LeGaz is the pseudonym of a PA at a US investment bank
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