Is the fall of Wall Street akin to the death of a loved one? For many bankers, traders and brokers, it very clearly is. The Barclehsians still pout when they speak about their bank being allowed to fail. The newly laid off have looks of disbelief. And many of those who still have their jobs are in deep denial that they could be at risk.
In Page Six magazine over the weekend, Josh David Stein laid out the “5 Stages of Wall Street Grief” in terms borrowed from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ classic tome about the stages of grief, On Death and Dying.
Here’s how he explains the stages:
- Denial. Apparently this has a lot to do with drinking.
- Anger. The recurrent fantasies of punching of Dick Fuld are a good example.
- Bargaining. Take the job in Jersey or Philadelphia.
- Depression. The women aren’t impressed by your I-banker credentials anymore.
“The final stage of mourning is acceptance and moving on,” Stein writes. He explains what this could mean for Wall Street.
“Acceptance,” warns Kübler-Ross, “should not be mistaken for a happy stage.” And yet, for many fired workers, their career situation has forced them to reevaluate—and in some cases, reinvent—their lives.
Since Bear Stearns rescinded her job offer in March, Nina Cheng joined a New York City poetry collective called the Poetry Brothel, moved to Williamsburg and began writing a play about, what else, the greed of Wall Street. After he left Bear last spring, Bill Bamber went climbing and kite surfing in British Columbia, skiing in Chile and windsurfing on Easter Island. Then he wrote a book about the mess of his career. He called it Bear Trap.
Some laid-off brokers, meanwhile, are trading in the hell of the street for the heat of the kitchen. According to Wendy Knight, who reps the French Culinary Institute in Soho, enrollment is up 41 per cent in 2008, and the school is seeing the number of applications from ex-financial workers rise faster than a soufflé—or, for that matter, a bubble. “As [bankers] are laid off, they’re deciding to follow their passion and invest in themselves,” she says. Mindy Nguyen, a pretty, confident 28-year-old, used to be an analyst in wealth management at Goldman Sachs until she quit in 2007. Now she can be found at the Culinary Institute, teaching courses on molecular cuisine. “The pay cut was vast,” she says chirpily. “My current salary is less than my Goldman bonus.” Still, Mindy adds, “I’m much happier.” Though she chose to leave Goldman on her own, she has some advice for her ex-colleagues. “Money is not everything. Happiness can be a priority and even in these crazy economic times, you can find a way to live.”
In the immortal words of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, “death does not exist.” Similarly, for Wall Streeters, quitting is not an option.