Santino "Sweet Talk" Laguardia (Jack of Clubs) (Investment Banking Analyst - Defense Strategies)
Santino Laguardia is one of the most successful associates within the Investment Banking division. He joined as an intern one year ago, but he’s been able to close a few decent deals already, and to start climbing the ladder. They call him Sweet Talk: he is able to have someone trust him over the phone, after a call. And it’s crucially important to be trusted by the people you lie to.
You will see him walking from one conference room to another at any time of the day and night, always on the phone, always smiling and confident. The few free hours he takes in a month are to get new, ever expensive suits that only his colleagues will see and not notice.
What is the key to his success? See, he was able to learn very quickly that in corporate governance everyone is everybody else’s enemy. The buyer is the seller’s enemy. But really, if you manage to zoom out, the enemy of your client is always receptive to one simple incentive: money. And this is a key concept: negotiate out money, in exchange for power.
Narcissa Montero (Queen of Clubs) (Investment Banking Managing Director - Corporate Finance)
Narcissa always walks slowly. She got beyond the frenzy of the younger analysts, always rushing to wherever they think they are going. And where she walks, with her head up and her eyes wide open, a hint of jazz and cold air lingers.
Being a woman in Investment Banking in 1982 is all but easy. You have to be, simply put, more ruthless than any man around you, because you start several feet behind them. You have to fight the prejudice and the harassment every single day. You have to gain the trust of bosses and clients. Narcissa did that by simply having the right answer to any question, and providing it confidently and without the shade of a doubt.
Now, she walks around slowly, and those who see her understand that she’s a big deal. Older than she looks, always dressed in black, manages to forget empathy entirely. She won’t esitate to pull the trigger and fire a hundred, if that will make the bottom line look better or raise the valuation of a client. And, in the end, isn’t that all that matters?
Achilles Moore (King of Clubs) (Partner and Head of Investment Banking - IPOs)
Achilles is sitting behind his enormous ebony desk, at the fifty-first floor of the building. His window looks down on Gold Street, an eerily quiet, narrow line smack in the heart of Manhattan.
Achilles has been working at the bank for a long time, making it all the way to the role of Head of the extremely competitive Investment Banking division. In his long career, he has assisted many companies in going public. All the deal toys take up a large part of his library, together with old evaluation and financial tomes, all without a speck of dust. In the air, always a light scent of cigar smoke.
He takes a look at the unhealthy amount of documents spread on his desk like playing cards. Many words are needed for the simplest deal. Mostly penned by underpaid, overworked interns. And a lot of numbers. Achilles is looking at them to make sure that they make sense: you can’t go to a client saying 10, to see the price go to 20 on the first day. They are ok with overpaying, not with selling their company too cheap.
Alexander (Jack of Hearts) (Junior Trader - Energy)
Alexander -nobody really knows his family name- is the rising star of the trading division of Lune Bank. He is a genius: used to count cards and is banned at most casinos in the country. Has a past as a professional poker player and a bookie at his college dorm. So, in a way, when he got offered a job within trading, he felt like he had the right background. After all, it is more of the same: expected value, probability. And gambling.
On a good day a trader seems like a god. The problem, however, is the bad days. The bad days make you feel really, really bad. Traders say they are detached from money and focusing on expected values, but they are not; Alexander is not. So naturally, on a bad day, he does what gamblers know they shouldn’t do: tries to cut his losses.
And to cut the losses, sometimes you have to play with the money of the bank. Extremely illegal, obviously, but does it matter? It’s just numbers and tickers on a screen. All that matters is that those numbers are green at the end of the month to get the bonus.
Victoria Mars (Queen of Hearts) (Vice President of the Trading Division)
Victoria works on the trading floor. Which means she screams trying to buy or to sell this or that stock, trying to communicate with gestures towards her teammates, trying to avoid dramatic mistakes. Hers is one of the most stressful jobs in finance, and comes with a very nice salary and many burnouts.
Usually, a VP wouldn’t deal with being on the floor, and would rather stay behind the greenish monitor of a computer. Victoria, however, prefers to stand the whole day, coordinating her team, right on the battlefield, like a an old time army general that refuses to hide in the control room and charges into the enemies on their horse.
This is why a VP wears the colorful jackets and makes funny signs together with a bunch of interns. Partly to make her trainees feel like she’s carrying her own weight, and mostly due to a huge trust issue. Anyways, if you manage to survive the trading floor’s chaos, screams, stress for over a couple of years -it is your natural environment.
Zenon Victor Harrelson (King of Hearts) (Partner)
Zenon is looking at the window above his monitor, but his mind is somewhere else. He has a way of speaking looking either straight in your eyes, or into a point about two feet above your head, depending on the day. And a complete lack of empathy, probably pathological. Which makes his colleagues very scared of him, even though he is one of the quietest people at the firm.
His focus and recipe for success, over time, has always been extremely distressed companies. And he is almost miracolous in making his calls. When everybody is short just waiting for Chapter 11 to be filed, the company finds new life and blossoms again.
Now, if you make this call right once, it may be dumb luck or great insight. If you get it right twenty times in a row, just when everybody was short, you are either a demi-god, you cook books or have great friends in audit companies. His colleagues gave the same likelihood to all three events, and eventually stopped wondering: he gets it right, they make bigger bonuses than they could dream.
James McRae (Jack of Spades) (Former Intern in Quantitative Analytics)
Some engineers make their way into finance. They mostly end up in Quantitative Analytics, and James is one of them. Was one of them.
Working as a quant means basically knowing Math. Most people at the bank have just a minor understanding of numbers, and not much beyond sums and products. Quants fill in for the rest, being greatly underestimated for what they give to the bank.
As James walks down the office hugging his box, feeling the looks of his colleagues, he can easily guess what they are thinking: too bad for him, good for them. They normalize performance and have a percentage of interns to fire within the first two months. James also happens to be one of the few to actually know what normalize means.
James cannot avoid to ask himself what he coud have done differently. He felt like his pricing model for oil was strong, that it explained price fluctuation significantly. It probably was beyond the understanding of his boss. As he leaves the building, he feels oddly relieved.
Mary Beth Sue (Queen of Spades) (Manager - Pricing Specialist)
Mary Beth is one of the brightest minds at Lune Bank. A PhD in Physics, she decided to apply it to the study of Options pricing, and especially trying to model the time value decay. Reducing this value to a function would mean billions of dollars in expected value, and it implies not only looking into Nature for inspiration and patterns, but also account for human psychology and macro variables.
Of course, to most colleagues she’s simply a nerd, running around the office with stacks of books and her walkman always on. People gave up a long time ago on understanding what she does, and stopped asking her. The only division whose respect she earned is trading: they know that she knows. And they are often at her desk, asking for advice, with stacks of graphs where they drew trendlines, tops and bottoms.
She helps everybody, does not care about keeping what she understands secret as most would do. She is not in it for the money, just for the challenge.
Godric Hellgate (King of Spades) (Partner - Quantitative Analysis)
Godric hangs up the phone, nervous as always, and starts pacing around his office. The space is not much anymore, covered in piles of books, journals and analysis he did over the last few decades.
He looked at the wall, on which he scribbled endless formulas. His job? To apply his PhD in Mathematics to understand and model the ideal portfolio for the bank’s clients.
To most he is a shaman, throwing leaves and ashes without a reason into a pot and stirring. Most definitely, he is a charlatan to Wealth Management. This is the price he has to pay for being a partner: fighting every day with people who try to nudge him another way. And explaining why his portfolio only returned 9%, where another one would have yielded a gazillion percent in hindsight.
Godric is fed up with his job, and has been for a long time. He thought about quitting once a day since he started working at Lune Bank, over three decades ago. But how would he pay for his lifestyle with a normal salary?
Konstantin Van der Berg (Jack of Diamonds) (Sales Trainee OTC Securities)
Konstantin is a salesman. He sells. Anything, pretty much: they will put a name and a description on his desk, and he will sell it to anybody like it’s all they need. Penny stocks, mostly, stuff that is worth nothing. Pretty sure he was involved in several pump and dump schemes, but if you don’t know for sure you’re not guilty, right?
Konstantin is a trainee, which means he mostly cold calls average Joes who might be able to put a few bucks together. He then proceeds to drop on them his carefully crafted pitch, making sure they don’t get a single word in, except for some “yes” and “ah-ha”.
This is basically his day, mostly spent in an open space. He dreams of having his own cubicle, so to not constantly hear dozens of interns screaming on their phone, begging their target to buy what they sell. It shouldn’t be too long: James is definitely getting fired soon, and Jason and Richard will be next. Konstantin knows he just has to keep pushing a bit longer, and he’ll get there. The good thing: selling penny stocks gives insane commissions.
Bertha Kovalski (Queen of Diamonds) (Vice President of Sales)
Bertha is the living proof: if you cold call enough people, if you are good enough at selling crap, you make a lot of money. This is why most trainees don’t make it to Associate, let alone to VP and above. They don’t care enough about money.
Being a VP in Sales gives good perks; mostly, huge bonuses. To the extent that Bertha does not really know why she gets a specific check: she stopped asking. Most of it, probably, is the cut of the cut of trainees whose name she does not know.
The positive side of being a VP is also that you don’t cold call anymore; that is for others to do. You are handed sure things, very hot leads that just need a confident explanation and are ready to fall. And when you have your own office, sitting behind your own desk with someone bringing you coffee in the morning (and afternoon and night), you almost start to appreciate the quiet. More importantly: you can finally lash out on trainees, the exact way your boss did when you were sitting in that open space screaming into a phone.
Aurelius Marcel Belrose (King of Diamonds) (Director of Sales)
Aurelius Marcel is the living proof that Law goes easier on the rich. As a Director, he has been involved in several dubious investments recommendation. More specifically, companies that did not really do anything besides existing on paper. He had been caught. Three times. And all the times, after a few days in jail, he was let out.
When Aurelius walked into the office, earlier this morning, the entire trainee army raised and started clapping their hands. Aurelius has that kind of charm that makes you like him, makes you want to be like him, even if you know he’s a criminal. Which he is.
This time, his lawyers managed to convince the judge to use a new surveillance device that is supposed to be strapped to your ankle. Aurelius then proceeded to remove it from his ankle to come into work. Sitting behind his huge desk, he is now drawing arrows from one company name to another. His pet snake, Edwin, climbs on the extremely expensive black shirt that a French boutique makes for him and sends across the Ocean.