Ecclesiastes and the Modern Banker

I was interested to read this, from the June 27-28 edition of the Weekend Australian Financial Review, in an interview with banker Rob Whitfield:

After threatening to leave the bank to escape the bank bills, Whitfield was transferred to the Westpac dealing room. Over the next decade, he learned the inner workings of foreign exchange trading, derivatives and all manner of financial market products in Sydney, London and New York.

Being there distanced him from the fast-track promotions available in lending but it was a fortuitous move: he wasn’t working in those parts of the bank that blew up during the property bust of the early 1990s, such as AGC, Partnership Pacific and Westpac commercial lending.

“I do know it is an absolute fact,” he says, “that there was only myself and one other chief manager [Russell Armstrong] that was kept in the organisation after our 1992 near-death experience. We were both financial markets chief managers.”

Did his luck in being in the ‘right place at the right time’ do him any good?

Whitfield seriously contemplated several other job offers. The two most notable were CEO of a bank in the Middle East and head of the Asian operations of a UK bank. Why would he give up a secure career in banking paying at least $5 million a year for a public service position paying one fifth of that?

So he survives in the bank purely because of luck, and ends up with a position paying around $5 million per year, with an alternative position paying $1 million per year.

Not bad!

As Ecclesiastes said, in chapter 9, verse 11 of his book in the Old Testament:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of skill, nor yet favour to men of understanding, but time and chance happen to them all.

So, don’t feel so bad about your lot in life, or about people having more than you. It’s probably just due to dumb luck.




About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
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