Today I write that as much as this columnist might come across to Martin Place’s mandarins as arrogant, supercilious, callous and any other adjectives that describe megalomaniacal fund managers, one of my greatest passions is, in fact, engaging with, and trying to understand, people. These interactions do, after all, define our human experience. I often tell the 22 executives who work for me that they’re “family”. If the typical Aussie toiler works a 12-hour day and sleeps six hours, then they spend almost half their waking life with their teammates. If these folks are not akin to family, you are probably with the wrong tribe. As Stevie Cohen might quip, we live to work, not work to live, right? Tell that to an entitled millennial! Click here to read the full column or AFR subs can click here. Excerpt enclosed:
The vagaries of the human condition, consciousness, origin and reasons for being are endlessly fascinating. One recent example was a lunch I had while traversing between the north and south coasts of Sydney after Christmas. Although discretion prevents dissemination of too much detail, suffice it to say it was like watching my own episode of the hit TV series Billions. The interlocutor was until recently the biggest hedge fund manager on earth and straight from central casting.
One enduring impression was how clearly our life’s work actively shapes brain function – or more specifically, our mosaic of inter-neuronal connections. This guy has been a short-term trader his entire life and speaking to him was similar to conversations with another “tape-reading” buddy of mine. Both come across like they've been strapped to Xboxes for the last 25 years, sublime yet raw processors of real-time information with the consequence that they are very good reflexive decision-makers. It does not, however, necessarily mean that every engagement is an especially pleasant or, for that matter, tactful experience!
Human interactions are treated like a sequence of trades with a staccato and binary yes/no pattern. They are so conditioned to having to make rapid-fire, black-and-white decisions that this style inevitably bleeds into their non-work behaviours. You are always right or wrong with few shades of grey.
It is difficult for these characters not to provide an ostensibly strong opinion on any subject because that is precisely what they are forced to do every second of the day. And yet that view can flip 180 degrees, with the past position instantly erased from memory if new contradictory data emerges.
Naturally, the marketing folks try to iron this out. I could see that ephemeral influence on this billionaire as he struggled to suppress his more explosive expressions. But it was a physical battle to keep that tongue in check.
Lunch was a pit stop as I fled the many sharks on land, and the modest beasts lurking beneath the waves, at that “racer-chasing” enclave known as Palm Beach.