Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Today was spent at a company-wide event in Earls Court, designed to give individuals a bit of insight into what the rest of the organisation does. As if it makes any difference to me working in IT - I already know that IT is roundly ignored by every business unit - but whatever, I'm out of the office and there was a seemingly endless supply of delicious, mini-lemon tarts.

The event began with a stunning visual and oratorical performance from our divisional head that would have made any Reichschancellor proud. He's a great speaker, but his image projected onto a 50 foot TV screen above his head was a slightly sinister touch. After that came the opportunity to network with various bits of the company - most of whom have no interest in talking to me because I can't pass any business their way, nor am I particularly interested in them, unless they can tell how much bandwidth I'll need to run Malaysia's email from Switzerland.

Anyway, I did the dutiful corporate citizen bit and had a wander around, observed and engaged, sat patiently through presentations and generally busied myself until the school bell rang. Have I learnt anything interesting about how all the different business units work? Well in a way I have, but perhaps my conclusions have been strongly influenced by becoming more jaded with corporate life in general. And my conclusion? We're not so different. All we're after is making money, and that's the only thing that counts around here. Whether you're talking about offshore structured investment vehicles, syndicated lending, retail banking or leasing cars, it's all about the green.

I don't think this should come as much of a shock to anyone, and I would wager that most big businesses are the same. Making money is number one above all else and I doubt this will ever change. Here I'm going to make a perhaps slightly unsuitable parallel to drug dealing and organised crime - did Tony Montana reduce his drive to make more money when he quite clearly had enough? No of course not, the more he had the more he wanted. As is the way with so much in life. Then he got a flash of social responsibility and was rewarded by being turned into a colander by angry Colombians.

Which takes me neatly onto a couple of interesting bits of the day. I had a good chat with our new 'green' team - tasked with promoting energy efficiency, reducing waste and other environmental initiatives. It's refreshing to hear that they're making progress, but their remit and team is small, so they can only deliver by 'selling' the green agenda to the business. A couple of years ago I made a suggestion via our staff suggestion scheme that perhaps we ought to consider carbon-offsetting our flights. All I got in return was some bumf on how good we are at corporate social responsibility and thanks for your idea but no thanks.

I also got a chance to meet with some representatives from Opportunity International, who are actually my own business unit's charitable partner. I didn't know a great deal before about what they do but essentially they provide banking services in regions and to individuals who otherwise wouldn't have access. So we're talking a £140 loan to set up a school in rural Africa, or just somewhere safe to keep their money. Now this is stuff that we should be doing as a company and I just don't see why we don't. Let's put back some of the billions of pounds we made last year into these kind of projects and we're not even talking about zero returns - these are loans and OI boasts a 98% repayment rate. Now that's an awful lot better than from some of the economies in which we invest.

So there we have it, some good news but I left generally feeling a bit depressed about the company I work for. That's why I've put my name down for skills-sharing in Malawi - just in case they need some IT expertise. It's a long shot, but I'm not going anywhere. Yet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wish I had the energy to say something more detailed, but still wanted to say - yes.