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Nomi Prins is a journalist, author and senior fellow at Demos. Her most recent book is, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to[…]

For some, the thrill of a deal can bring about a long-awaited sense of fulfillment and a lifetime of pleasure; for others it’s always tinged with a sense of emptiness.

Question: Why is closing a deal thrilling for some people?

Nomi Prins: I think the thrill or joy has some sort of a connection to just the idea of accomplishing something that is set out to do and on Wall Street, that happens to be a big trade or a big deal. It could be creating a beautiful painting if you’re an artist or a lovely ceramic if you’re that kind of an artist, or you’re a sculptor. And on Wall Street, the measure of sort of accomplishment and achievement, aside from the bonus and the money that is attached to it, is all those little transactions that happen along the way. And so there’s a real connection of talking to a client, discussing a particular trade or a particular type of transaction that they should do, going back and forth on meetings, going back and forth on phone calls, going back and forth on numbers, and then like coming out of that with achieving this goal of closing that deal because there’s also a lot of competition. So when one team from one company is trying to, like a Morgan Stanley or a Goldman Sachs or a JP Morgan is talking to a corporation, say a Coca Cola or an Alcoa or whatever, everyone is competing. It’s not like Goldman is the only company talking to, say, Coca Cola or whatever, on any given day. There’s a lot of teams and there’s a lot of competition.

So what comes out of that for people involved is the idea of having somehow accomplished the deal and sort of beaten out the competition. So it’s all very, that’s why it’s such a very hyper competitive environment. And some people really continue to get a thrill out of that forever, throughout their full career and stay for a long time and go up the high chain and keep going, and some people then, and I was one of them, think that’s, you know, also quite empty because you’re not actually creating anything. You’re accomplishing a close of a deal, perhaps, but you’re not actually creating anything real or contributing anything real and there’s a real emptiness to that. So it goes both ways depending on, really, I think the person.

Recorded on: October 8, 2009