January 02, 2012

Occupying banking

If someone had told me half a year ago that I would be working for a bank fulltime and loving it, I would have been completely incredulous. For all my principles of keeping an open mind and trying not to judge, banking was among the things I could hardly imagine myself doing. To have money as the content of my work, to worry about interest rates, capital, credit lines, wasn't a very romantic or fulfilling picture.

And it wasn't very likely either. Mind you that in my education I haven't put great emphasis on the kind of skills commonly associated with banks. Sure, I know a little bit about industrial accounting, have completed a two-year round in a big company as an apprentice, but first and foremost I have spent the last years of my life as a social science student at university doing scholarly things like reading, traveling, hearing lectures, and learning a bunch of languages. Also, sociologists around here have a reputation of being somewhat to the left of the political spectrum, while the future bankers - your clichée economics majors - are generally deemed a lot more conservative.

So if life were a straight line I would probably be protesting with the occupy movement now or writing about what is wrong with our financial and political system today (I still might, just wait *g*). Instead I am sitting at a desk 40 hours a week working for a financial institute associated with one of the biggest banks in Germany. And I'm happy with it!

A huge part of my fun at work is owed to my position in the company. I am a trainee in the business development department and thus the topics I am concerned with have a lot to do with societal, economic and technological trends. Yes, the angle is financial, and the products I constantly learn more about are deposits, exchange tradeable funds, and credit cards, but I enjoy the complexities of this new and unknown field. I am surrounded by intelligent and fun people who enjoy what they are doing. They do not comply with any of the stereotypes that the news proliferate, when they report about the debt crisis and wall street execs. Those people exist somewhere, I am sure, but my definition of banking and bankers has become a lot more concrete in the last three months and I have gained respect for the people making a living with it.

Of course understanding the financial industry is not the same as saying it is all good. There are a lot of things that need improvement. More transparency is probably the biggest change I would wish for and possibly also the one the financial industry is most afraid of, because money is earned every time customers do not fully understand a product. A lot of the revenue is justified however, because banks are in the risk management business and taking a risk off people's hands should be rewarded. But in the long run, we might all be better off, if kick-backs from selling expensive and complex products were replaced by annual fees for bank advisory services. My knowledge of the matter is still thin of course and tomorrow another piece of the puzzle might come to me that changes my outlook. But that's part of the beauty of a new job, so much to learn!

2012 will bring many new things to my life and I will keep shifting activities for a while to come. One of them is blogging and it remains something I truly enjoy. I modestly hope to contribute something to your life as well as my own. I hope you are all doing well and have started 2012 with good energy. Take this smile and have a great week :)