Authors: John Rolfe,Peter Troob
What’s the use in running if you’re not on the right road?
olfe and I saw each other a lot after we left DLJ. Our old buddies back in the DLJ purgatory were still spending every waking
hour tied to the job, so we didn’t get to see too much of them. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though.
A couple of months went by and we decided to round up some of the old crew. The plan called for a 7:00
. rendezvous down in Little Italy with me, Rolfe, Slick, Big Man, Wings, and Tubby. Well, 7:00 came and 7:00 went and the
only ones at the reunion dinner were Rolfe and I.
Slick rolled in about half an hour late, smiling like the Cheshire Cat. It was obvious that he had something he wanted to
“What’s up, you smug bastard?” Rolfe asked him.
“I’m leaving, man. I’m done,” Slick replied.
Rolfe and I looked at each other. We knew what he meant. He was leaving DLJ. We were shocked. Honestly, truly shocked. Slick
and Wings were the last guys that we
ever thought would leave. They’d always bitched and moaned as loud as the rest of us but we had figured them for lifers. We
thought that the cache of being investment bankers was enough to keep them happy.
“What are you going to do?” I asked him.
“Risk arb. There’s a group of guys over at Attica Capital who are doing merger arb and special situations investing. It’s
mostly equities. I think it’ll be good.”
Rolfe was laughing. “You’re unbelievable! We never thought you’d leave. Troobie and I figured you were in for life.”
“You guys don’t know shit,” Slick said. “I want a life too. I’ve been looking around for months.”
“Well, get ready, man,” I started out, “’cause you’re gonna have to talk to Brock. He’s going to tell you…”
“I know,” Slick said, “Rolfe already told me about the houses in Greenwich speech, the song and dance about being an indispensable
associate, and all the rest of that horse shit. I’m ready for it. I’m gone.”
A waiter stopped by the table. “You gentlemen ready to order yet?”
I looked over at Slick. “What about the rest of the guys? They coming or not?”
“No way, man,” Slick said. “Big Man’s getting his clock cleaned by the Widow and Tubby’s tap dancing all over a merchant banking
deal like Fred Astaire in an MGM musical. I don’t think that either of them’ll hit their balls out of the bunker in time to
meet us here. I’m not sure about Wings, I think he’s flying back in from Mexico City later tonight. Maybe he’ll show up eventually.
Let’s go ahead and order.”
Slick turned to the waiter. “I’ll have the artichoke heart
appetizer and the shrimp scampi. Also, I’ll have the apple pie for dessert, OK? Thanks.”
Rolfe and I stared at each other, dumbfounded. There was absolutely no question that we were thinking the same thing: Slick
had not ordered his customary penne bolognese, tira misu, and two small bottles of San Pelegrino sparkling water. Things were
. Wings had shown up, but Big Man and Tubby were nowhere to be found. When Slick told Wings that he was leaving, I thought
Wings was going to cry.
“What?” Wings said. “You’re leaving me, man? Who will I eat dinner with every night? Tubby’s always too busy and Big Man’s
already out searching for the escape hatch. He’ll be gone within a couple of months. Ahhh, shit. This sucks.”
It was like watching two lovers part. Wings was brokenhearted.
. Wings had to leave. He told us, “I’d like to stay, but tomorrow I have to get up at five
. to catch a flight to Dallas. Another deal, another dollar. Good luck, Slick. I’ll talk to you later. Troobie and Rolfe,
nice to see you guys, and if I don’t see you sooner, I’ll see you at Troobie’s wedding. I gotta go. I’m tired as shit.”
Wings was always on the run, but I think he liked it that way.
“So,” Rolfe ventured to Slick after Wings took off, “do you figure that they’ll miss you as much as they missed Troobie and
I when we left?”
Slick looked at Rolfe like he was a three-eyed hyena. “Are you kidding? They’ll slot a couple of lateral hires from some second-tier
bank in on my deals. Maybe they’ll even pull some gung-ho first-year into one of
them. He’ll probably bust his ass and put me to shame. Don’t get any demented ideas about how much they missed you guys when
you left, either. It wasn’t like that.”
Rolfe looked confused and concerned. “You mean, it didn’t create any turmoil when we left? We didn’t leave a legacy? They
didn’t miss us at all?”
Slick laughed. “Don’t fool yourself, man. It was like taking a teaspoon of sand off the beaches in Rio. Nobody missed a beat.
We’re all commodities. Completely replaceable.”
I thought about it. Slick was right. DLJ and most of the other investment banks are big places. Everyone in the institution
is readily replaceable. We exited, and immediately a new, fresh-faced young banker replaced us and nobody missed a beat.
Rolfe, Slick, and I all sat back in our chairs and were quiet. The wine and the pasta had taken its toll. We were all full,
tipsy, and talked out. The silence was welcomed. I looked at Rolfe. Rolfe looked at Slick. Slick looked at me.
“You know what?” Rolfe asked.
“What?” Slick and I replied.
“I hope we know what the fuck we’re doing.”
“So do I,” I said. “So do I.”
When we originally entered the investment banking world we thought that we were standing on the edge of a desert. We believed
there was an oasis on the other side of the blistering sand, and if we were willing to withstand the heat we would eventually
be given the opportunity to drink from a magical spring. What we learned, though, was that investment banking wasn’t really
a desert. It
wasn’t what we thought it would be. Investment banking was a lot more like a jungle.
We learned that there wasn’t a straight shot across an arid landscape to reach the promised land. Instead, we found ourselves
in a big, confusing place with lots of tall trees, ferocious tigers, and big hairy jumping spiders that looked like they wanted
to bite us. The signs in the jungle were all pointing in different directions and we had no idea which way to go.
Eventually, though, we looked up into the canopy. High above in the lush foliage there were branches laden down with bananas,
mangoes, and plantains. We liked what we saw. So we learned, first, to climb, and then to swing on vines in order to grab
the fruit. We swung from vine to vine, all day and all night, and filled our arms with the tasty morsels. At first we had
a good time swinging around, but eventually we began to feel like we were moving in circles. Every day we saw the same vines
and the same trees. Every day we had the same dung beetles crawling up our legs and the same annoying baboons swinging behind
us barking orders. Ultimately, we realized that while we had an armload of fruit, we had no time to eat it and nothing much
else. The more we swung, the more the jungle seemed to expand. Our arms were tired.
And so, we decided to get out. We cut down a rubber tree and made ourselves a dugout canoe. We made some paddles out of warthog
horns. We navigated our canoe down the river and out of the jungle. We broke free.
There’s still a bunch of guys back there in the jungle swinging, arms full of fruit. Some of them like being swingers, but
we chose to plant our feet on the ground.
Sometimes we wonder if we should have continued swinging. When you leave something behind that you’ve poured so much of yourself
into, it’s tough not to second-guess your decision at times. Every once in a while, as we ponder the path we’ve taken, Rolfe
and I think about what we may have left behind. We wonder, are we missing out on something?
Our lives are a seesaw and what we strive for is some sort of equilibrium. When we were investment bankers, there was always
a fat, greasy angry guy on one end of the seesaw and a happy little wood fairy on the other end. The fat guy didn’t look like
he was going anywhere, and we didn’t see how we’d ever reach a balance.
Miss it? Like a cannibal misses a side order of vegetables.
grew up in the heart of Dixie. After stints at Virginia Tech and the University of Florida, he took a job doing broadcast
research in New York City, convinced that “if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” In 1993, after concluding that
Frank Sinatra had sold him a bill of goods, John entered the Wharton School of Business, where he edited
The Wharton Vulgarian
. Following his sentence with DLJ, he was a principal with a private investment organization. Currently, John is a freelance
man of sport and leisure, and is honing his panhandling skills for the next bear market.
grew up on the rough-and-tumble streets of Scarsdale, New York, and while in grade school starred in
James and the Giant Peach
. Peter attended Duke University, then worked for Kidder Peabody in New York City. In 1993 he entered the graduate program
at the Harvard Business School, where he edited the humor section in the
and wrote the “Kosher Korner” column. This made his mother proud. Peter is currently a partner with a private investment
organization and is anticipating many happy years there.
“Deadly accurate….appealing honesty…. [a]
no-holds-barred take on associate life. ”—
THEY HIT “THE STREET.”
Forget what you’ve read, forget what you’ve heard, forget what you’ve been taught. MONKEY BUSINESS pulls off Wall Street’s
suspenders and gives the reader the inside skinny on real life at an investment bank, where the promised land is always one
more twenty-hour workdays and another lap dance away.
“THE STREET” HIT BACK.
Fresh out of Wharton and Harvard business schools, John Rolfe and Peter Troob ran willingly into the open arms of investment
bank giant Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. They had signed on as foot soldiers in a white-collar army of overworked and frustrated
lemmings furiously trying to spin straw into gold. They escaped with the remnants of their sanity—and, ultimately, this book.
Uncensored, unsanitized, and uncut, it captures the chaotic essence of the Wall Street carnival and the outlandish personalities
that make it all hum….and it will become the smartest, most entertaining investment you’ll make this year.
“NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.”
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