Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Two Xers and a Y: a tale of three Macquarie Bank workers

(“Fine print” factual clarifications: The first worker is not technically an employee of Macquarie Bank, but the bulk of his labour is beneficially owned by it. The second worker may be about to land a job with Macquarie Bank (if it not Macquarie itself, his would-be employer is one of its ilk). The third worker was a Macquarie Bank employee between 1994 and 2000)

Xer one

Todd Russell, 35, has been “entombed” (as one report today unfortunately put it) 925 metres below Tasmania’s ground-soil for more than a week. His labour is beneficially majority-owned by Macquarie Bank, via a 2001 deal (which word, whenever Macquarie is involved, invariably means a borderline scam, or worse) that saw Macquarie buy a debt with a face-value of $77.4m for $300,000#. That is, at about a 99.5% discount. Without going into the complexities of this deal/scam, the essential feature to know is that Macquarie gets to be repaid the $77.4m (not only the $300,000), and is already well on the way to getting there, moreover ($27.5m# from the Beaconsfield Mine to date) (same URL).

But seemingly, this little magical money-pit has not been printing money fast enough for Macquarie Bank’s taste. Hence, it remains an open question whether the rock-fall which has trapped Todd Russell (and another) was ultimately triggered by a financial-pressure “detonator”. (Here, the cretinous-boomer-as-ever Kim Beazley has kindly thrown Macquarie Bank a media-distracting-device, in the form of inane suggestions about new employment legislation being a possible, indirect detonator. Sheesh, Kim – does Bob Carr chuck you a part-share of his Macquarie Bank payola?)

But back to Todd Russell. The reason I am singling him out is that he (and not also the other guy, AFAICT) has done the most excellent Xerly thing, in resigning from the Macquarie money-pit, while he is still trapped underground. While media reports of this are somewhat inconsistent, it appears that his resignation was definitely on the cards before the rock-fall. So what is so “Xerly” about his resigning, then?

I reckon that, apart from being good for his psychic health generally, Todd perfectly understands boomer-heavy Macquarie Bank’s (and its ilk) ruthlessness. Would they dock him for giving insufficient notice, should he summarily resign (with an angry flourish, one might expect) once he’s back above ground? You betcha. (No doubt, any boomer reading this would refuse to believe that, in the circumstances, even Macquarie Bank would/could be so callous. Conversely, I suspect that any Xer reading this would think that I was needlessly harping on an obvious point, viz that boomer-heavy employers never, ever pass up an opportunity to c*nt their Xer employees.)

Token Yer

Boomer academic Elspeth Probyn writes:

[I had a chat] with a guy in his very early 20s on a plane . . . [T]his tall, good-looking, curly-headed boy certainly ticked. He was on his way for a job interview in [Sydney] as a graduate analyst with one of the big banking companies.

It was to be his first real job and seemed to mark for him a line between youth and adulthood . . . His first salary was going to be $80,000 to $100,000 a year. My eyes popped, but he was nonchalant.

Like the young people I've interviewed recently, he seemed amazingly together . . . He was clear about his values. Big salary or not, he wasn't going to lie or kowtow for any job. In the future he wanted to end up with kids and be a stay-at-home father.

We parted and I wished him luck . . . Our conversation left me thinking. Does youth have too much? Is life too easy for them? When I was his age I was scraping a living in not very nice cocktail bars. I had little hope of any real job. I certainly never thought that I'd be paid what this young man seemed to think was normal.

Bizarre. I assume that Probyn’s current salary comfortably exceeds what this guy will (if he gets the job) be starting on – as it indeed should. But what’s with the “sheer looxury”** (said in a Yorkshire accent) meme, re Probyn’s comparative position at age 20 or 21? Working in “not very nice cocktail bars, [with] little hope of any real job”?? Leaving aside her careless North-Americanism (there is no such thing in Australia as a seedy-dive “cocktail bar”), her subsequent career surely deserves some elaboration, especially re how she escaped from her very own pit.

This is all the more so because, by transposing Yers-getting-it-on-a-platter vs (ostensibly) a by-their-bootstraps generation of boomers, Probyn is not only guilty of willfully understating her own age-cohort’s privilege, in tandem with overstating (because it is surely too soon to tell) generation Y’s ostensible privilege. Probyn’s real offence, of course, lies in her complete erasure of Xer experience.

By her logic, it seems we are meant to regard my generation was a middling-privileged one, at least when viewed through an early 20s, “graduation day” snapshot. Whatever. The trouble with such a comparative, tri-generational snapshot is that Xer downward mobility into middle-age is now a well-documented fact (as is, of course, boomer Xer upward mobility into middle-age (and well beyond, on present indications)).

That is, taking comparative snapshots at 40 would be a much more scientifically valid exercise – only for Probyn to do this simple comparison, say, between her and me at 40 would cause, I’m pretty sure, her head to spin 180 degrees and her mouth to spew forth green bile. No doubt I’m an extreme case within my generation, however, so let’s move on to1999’s “leading private banker” – who is 40 this year, as it happens.

Xer two

Private banker Tony Bates, 38 [in 2004], had a similar epiphany when [in 2000] he arrived home at 9pm after his usual 12-hour daily grind with Macquarie Bank to find his “wife and baby daughter fast asleep, the baby in her high chair with her face in her dessert, both waiting for me to come home” . . . When he worked from 1994 to 2000 as head [sic, see below] of the private banking division with Macquarie Bank (dubbed ‘the millionaires’ factory’), Bates was named in 1999 by the AFR as the leading private banker in Sydney. He says he remembered “saying to anyone who would listen that I would love to keep my job, work four days a week on 80 per cent of my pay. I had three levels of bosses above me, all baby boomers, none of whom had children . . . Today, he runs his own boutique financial planning business, Bluepoint Consulting, managing the wealth of private clients. He spaces his work across four days a week [making about 60 per cent of his former Macquarie Bank salary].* (emphasis added)

Nuff said, really: Xer Tony Bates appears to have got out of the MacBank boomer bottomless money-pit in a nick of time, at age 34. Let’s hope that Todd Russell and his workmate, on behalf of every Xer Macquarie Bank has also c*nted, now get the same happy ending.

* Fiona Carruthers, “Generation Xcluded” AFR Magazine 27 August 2004 (no URL)

** Hat-tip to Ken Parish for this phrase (no extant URL, however)

Update 4 May 2006

# The MacBank turning-300k-into-27m-on-the-way-to-77m figures may not be correct. While the conventional wisdom is that broadsheet newspapers (from one of which I obtained these figures) are to be trusted more the gossipy websites like Crikey, on this occasion, I consider Crikey’s (much lower) figures more likely to be accurate. The Crikey figures have MacBank turning-300k-into-3.3m-on-the-way-to-54m – still an amazingly high return, of ~1000% (so far) in 5 years.

Hat-tip: Larvatus Prodeo

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