On 2 PM meetings

I had been writing on serious stuff lately. Guns, revolutions, Fauré, explosions, or poetry and heartaches. Rejoice dear reader, for I will indulge in a lighter subject today, on fintech for a bit of fun, as always, and more precisely, on an everyday life black hole, a trap you cannot avoid if you work in French fintech:

The 2 PM meeting.

Photo by Jackman Chiu

2 PM meetings in fintech are a rite of passage into professional adulthood. A universal norm, a rule to abide by. An inevitable plague. More. A law of nature. Like the 2nd law of thermodynamics or Newton’s universal gravitation. The entropy of a system always increases. Apples always fall to the ground. Meetings always fall on 2 PM. The ones you cannot avoid anyway.

Here’s how the typical scenario unfolds. You are just back from lunch. All your resources – blood, energy, brain capacity – have been diverted to the central reactor – that’s your stomach – to avoid a core meltdown – that’s a steak-frites or a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches, unless it is chicken curry in which case you are in real trouble. You are not yourself anymore and your higher cognitive functions amount to idle. Everything else is in use by higher priority processes in your body. You spot an illusive lifeboat: a much needed caffeine dose you try to grab on your way to the meeting room in auto pilot mode. Trying to cross the Pacific on a raft.

The meeting starts. If luck is on your side, you will see it through without anyone soliciting your input. You might even get away with a quick nap, or a power nap to stay in the corporate lexical field. You try to convince yourself that fortune favors the bold, and you might be close to succeeding but the thing is, the bold is not you right now.

At this stage, odds are against you and the best you can hope for is a boss or colleagues who have been there before, or with a solid sense of humor perhaps, or past heroic feats to your credit which plead for mercy on your behalf.

Minutes slowly go by, and then you start counting the seconds. Still, you fight to keep your eyes open, to no avail…

And Sleep, the universal vanquisher,
Sets free the captives he enchained, at last

… because everything has an end thank God, even 2 PM meetings in French fintech companies.

Let the board sound


On FinTech and a bit of fun in a post for once

Or how to explain what you do as a fintech professional to people who have no clue about technology and/or financial institutions, without quoting The Wolf of Wall Street.

Photo by Timisu

The average tentative involves you saying that you work in fintech (that’s financial technology) and having then to explain that your clients are mostly banks which rely on complex technologies and heavy computing power to operate, which will not make sense to most people because, well, why would you want a data center and cutting edge software to track the account balances of your customers and run your accounting, there’s Excel for that, but heeey, nooo, it’s investment banks and funds we’re talking about, not retail banks, you know, the type of banks which trade complex financial products which require heavy math and intensive computation to be valued and processed, and it goes sideways from there on because, well, you find yourself compelled to provide an example, so you try to explain what an option is, a contract which conveys its owner the right to buy or sell an underlying asset or instrument like an Amazon stock at a specified strike price prior to or on a specified date, and that the math to value it was only developed in the 70’s by Black, Scholes and Morton, which sparked a boom in the trading of options which has not waned ever since, and by the time you start explaining the Black-Scholes equation and the fact that it relies on the volatility of the price of the underlying, what underlying? Well the Amazon stock remember? No? That’s exactly my point: they are either completely lost or completely bored. At this point, you can always try to rely on your wingman, the Wolf of Wall Street, because that’s the closest most people will ever get to a trading floor and I do not blame them for not trying harder, it is an acquired taste.

If this long explanation still sounds obscure to you dear reader and possibly fintech professional, just know that a retail bank is the one you go to to open a bank account and get a credit card and it caters mostly for individuals whereas an investment bank is the place where options and other financial instruments are traded, on a trading floor. 

And for those who have never seen one, a trading floor can look and sound like a high-tech fish market, a bit toned down maybe, no fish smell, less decibels, but a fish market still. People selling stuff to other people, trying to agree on a price, managing their stock while keeping an eye on the market and the competition. There you go. It might not be entirely accurate, but it has the merit of demystifying the place. 

At this point of the reading, you might want to realize that we have still not explained what it is that a fintech professional actually does. I personally work in delivery, that’s implementing complex financial software solutions at investment banks and hedge or mutual funds. But it is not about me, it is about you dear reader/possibly fintech professional.

So the next time they ask you about your job, and unless it is alright because you like the way it hurts, swallow your pride, give The Wolf of Wall Street a break and say you work in IT, full stop. 

And point them to this post.

Let the board sound