Friday, March 27, 2009

Message In A Bottle

While sharing a bottle of wine today the complexity of the banking industry sunk in, let me explain...
I found myself sitting at the bar at a small bistro, snacking on food but focused on wine. Rather than drinking glass after glass I cut to the chase and ordered a bottle. Next to me sat a well dressed man, who after a offer to share some wine, felt compelled to share his story. He was winding down a 30+ year carrier in banking. A journey that began when he was fresh back for our nations last tragic war, Vietnam. With a young family just beginning, he needed a job that would be stable, reliable and allow him to make decent money. Bank seemed to fit the bill, and for the majority of his life he was right. By working hard, not taking risks and conservatively investing his disposable income he was able to build a small fortune. As retirement approach he saw his net worth reach beyond 5 million dollars. It seemed that soon he and his wife would be able to relax into the sunset as the regal grand parents always financially able help a family member in need or spoil the grand kids when they wanted. As the son of immigrants he felt like he'd achieved the "American Dream". The dream that drew his parents to risk everything many years ago. Hope in the future of their child, this banker, was all they had to go on. No guarantees.

But now this man, who still wears a suit to work everyday (while the rest of us get away with jeans) was sitting next to me at the bar, with hope the only thing left in his eyes. Work for him is so slow that no one noticed that when he chose not to return from lunch. His bank, like many banks around the country is in trouble. So bad in fact that he may not have a job in a few weeks, much less a retirement. Additionally, his investments in the market have evaporated. This one time multi-millionaire now has a few hundred thousand in the bank. Just enough I figured to last out his uncertainty but no longer the empire he thought he'd created. His honest hard-work was now gone all because others were rewarded when they took shortcuts.

Still as we talked I felt no bitterness in his voice, only sadness. Sadness not for himself, but sadness for those around us. Unable, unwilling, unsure how to share their story. Tough times are ahead, tough times for us all. But as we sat and shared our wine I found hope in our talk. Together we'll find a way to get by...

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