In my last post, I wrote that I had left Chemical Bank of Canada. My next step was to move over to a Canadian Chartered Bank. The move was arranged through a head hunter that used the demise of Chemical Bank in Canada as a source of “new product” for her clients. It was still boom time in financial services, so moving was still pretty easy.
Keep in mind that I was still plowing the wrong field – derivatives, interest rate and cross-currency swaps. If you have read my other posts, you know how this is going to end.
Career mismanagement and the wrong culture
A couple of us moved over to The Bank of Nova Scotia (they subsequently changed their operational name to Scotiabank). It was difficult maintaining my salary as the Canadian banks were generally not as generous as the US-based financial institutions. I was about to bump into a cultural wall!
We arrived and started to settle in. Keep in mind, that my interest in being involved in a transactional based business was zero. But the good news here was that I was able to dodge a bullet – the de facto closure of Chemical Bank of Canada. So I had a relatively senior position in the Capital Markets Group as it was then called.
Time passed, and my continuing abhorrence for derivatives shone through. I managed to dodge a couple bullets because of my sales skills, but my transactions were few and far between. I hated the work, and could not get myself to settle in.
The place was quite political, as Canadian chartered banks were at the time (I suspect that it hasn’t changed). I tried to avoid the politics but got sucked in. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I managed to get on the wrong side of my boss for a number of rather stupid reasons. I was extremely naive. I should have gotten into the politics game but refused to do so. In addition, there was a cultural difference that newly hired staff had to adjust to. Canadian banks are more collegial than US banks. Being part of the group was important and sucking up to your boss was mandatory. I was Alice looking through the looking glass.
During the time that I was there, we had the financial markets crash of October 1987. The entire landscape of the Canadian financial services industry changed. To make a long story short, I would not survive it. Towards the end of 1989, I was fired, probably justifiably so. In those days getting fired was a big deal. I was devastated.
The Bank was not kind by any stretch of the imagination. I remember having a staff mortgage with a preferential interest rate. When you are terminated, they take away your staff benefits after a certain period of time. Interest rates in the late 1980s were at all time highs. I remember that my mortgage rate was about to change to almost 12%. This would have created financial hardship, but my ex-employer could have cared less.
In dealing with your employer, it’s always important to remember that they will not pay any attention to your personal circumstances if you are terminated. They will follow the letter of the law, some being more generous, others being less generous. At that point, you have no bargaining power.
So when you make your day to day career decisions, keep this in mind. We have a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of our employer but don’t get carried away. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.
Now I was swelling the ranks of the unemployed. It was a truly terrifying experience that I would repeat. But like most things in life, the first time is the worst. I remember leaving the office in the middle of the day, riding the subway home. And how was I going to spend my time? How would we pay the bills? Why did this happen to me?