So my time at First City Trust came to an end. It was another classic misstep in managing my career. In order to get a job, I took on a task that was probably doomed to failure from the outset. It was a great idea, but difficult to execute. Taking a position without ensuring adequate support is always a recipe for disaster from a career perspective. Learnings were limited and yet again I would be forced to make a lateral move.
After First City Trust
I had hedged my bets while at First City Trust. I wanted to be sure that there was something after First City Trust since in my estimation there was the limited likelihood of success. So I stayed in contact with one of my co-workers from Chemical Bank days who had landed in a senior position at Chemical Bank in New York. After some wrangling, I was offered a position at the National Westminster Bank of Canada. The timing was perfect, I didn’t miss a beat. But from a work perspective, it was the same old, same old. I was to build a business where one didn’t exist before. the platform for delivering interest rate and currency swaps needed to be developed. There was yet again a blank sheet of paper. It was my turn to once again try to make something from nothing.
Throughout all this, the one lesson that I didn’t learn was the one about “baby steps”. Things need to be broken down into simple components to execute them. This creates an opportunity for feedback as well forces you to plan out what you are going to do. Most of my career was spent trying to accomplish quantum leaps. I tried to get ahead by jumping over the valley rather than going through it and learning as I went along. Big mistake. I should have paid attention to Dr. Leo Marvin in the rather sound advice that he gave in this very funny movie.
National Westminster Bank of Canada (NatWest) was yet again another impending disaster. You have to understand what was going on in the background – bills and financial instability. My contract at First City Trust was about to run out. Labor market conditions were not great as interest rates were at the time at ridiculous levels. If I had to renew my mortgage at commercial rates, I would have been dead.
Due diligence was the key. What were my chances of success? What did I need to succeed? I didn’t scope out the lay of the land prior to joining. Let me give you an example. In order to execute a transaction, two things must be in place: a credit approval and a document. At NatWest, there was virtually nothing in place that would allow me to execute a transaction. The account relationship managers were the ones that needed to establish credit facilities and clear the decks for a document. The problem was, that there was no way of compensating them for the effort. In order words, they would have to do quite a bit of work for the “team”. Most of you reading this know that this is a non-starter. No one likes to utilize their resources for the good of the firm if they are not getting paid.
So it becomes a tug of war. It’s like pulling teeth. The institution could not align itself internally to accomplish what it wanted to do externally because of “clan” warfare. The situation was becoming increasingly intolerable. Other things were going on in New York at the same time where I reported (change of leadership, realigning the deck chairs on the Titanic. The whole thing began to crash as key staff started to leave. A mess. Looking for a new job one more time.