Same job, different office

[This article was first published on 15 February 2009, on]

It strikes me that, in theory, being a stockbroker should have put me in much better stead for dealing with motherhood than mums to be of other career backgrounds. On close examination, there is a disarmingly alarming similarity in the required skill set and a shared goal of keeping the client (substitute baby) happy.

For starters, it’s forever pressed upon new mums that they will have to embrace early mornings as their new best friend (with a note of superior sympathy from those already with children and with a definite note of smug schadenfreude from those without). In reality, I now crawl out of bed at 07:00 most mornings, compared to the parallel world of my former existence, where I would be firmly ensconced at my desk by that time; feverishly tapping away at my computer, absorbing the overnight stock shocks and surprises, in preparation for the daily 07:30 morning meeting. Frankly, dealing with the pandemonium that is baby breakfast (regurgitated milk, extricating baby porridge from hair, mini temper tantrum etc) is really not so different from a morning of sifting through the stock market shifts.

Then there are the clients. If you’ve ever watched the film ‘Wall Street’, being a stockbroker is nothing like that. There might be plenty of wannabe Gordon Gekkos but for the vast majority it’s a desk job like any other – no overexcited hollering and fly by the seat of your pants unscrupulous ‘blue horse shoe’ trade making – that’s all pure artistic license Hollywood style. If anything, it’s the clients, higher up on the food chain, and on the other end of the phone, who make or break your day – and in a much more mundane way. These are the ones clutching the wallet and can choose to spend (or not) based on your stock recommendations (“Might I suggest, sir, that today Stock X is looking mighty cheap, earnings were jolly buoyant at last count, consolidation is rife in the sector so it might get a boost from an imminent takeover blah blah blah” – that sort of thing.) If they like it, you’ll get an order, and the corresponding commission, and so forth.

The key to being a good stockbroker (and mother) is to pre-empt and meet your clients’ (baby’s) needs, thereby keeping them happy and your commission (mental state) healthy. So, it might go something like this: Is their portfolio a tad scant and needing some additions? Feed them a stock (substitute, feed Baby-Bel a rusk, banana, rice cake or the like). Have they overloaded on risk and looking to scale back? Suggest they regurgitate a few stocks and help them deal with the mess (self explanatory). Are they feeling grouchy and overtired? Stop hassling them and let them sleep. And so on. You get the picture.

So the irony is that despite a seeming role reversal, nothing has really changed. It all boils down to wiping up someone else’s mess, dealing with attention-hungry clients, and recognising not to take it personally when faced with a ‘toys being thrown out of pram’ scenario. All bar the one difference that I am now notably without expense account to alleviate the task at hand.


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