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Language barrier too much for old dogs

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By Taipan
14 Jun 2018

It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when I see young minds eager to get into investment banking (they obviously have no idea what they are letting themselves in for, but still). Even so, what often takes me by surprise is how multi-talented some of them are.

When I landed an offer back in the good old days, the only language I knew was English. Admittedly, I was a maverick investment banker, and still managed to use just my charm and knowledge to win over clients.

But today, if you are not fluent in 25 different languages, you are probably not even going to get a call back from banks.

The need to serve a wide array of clients from around the globe these days is so real that even the old dogs are trying to learn some new tricks. Two DCM bankers I know decided to polish up their language skills recently, and not by just learning more swear words. One is a native Cantonese speaker and the other Mandarin but with each having only a basic understanding of the other’s language.

So they figured out what they thought was the ideal system: they would no longer communicate in English. Instead, the Cantonese speaker was only allowed to speak Mandarin, while the Mandarin speaker would reply only in Cantonese. Like real gentlemen, they shook on it.

So far, so perfect. The only flaw in their master plan? They couldn’t keep it up. They ended up avoiding each other for two weeks.

By Taipan
14 Jun 2018