Ever since the childhood days, I am a die-hard fan of popular Telugu fiction writers, Yandamoori Virendranath and Malladi Venkata Krishna Moorthy. What fascinated me about them is the way they meticulously organized interesting information around their storyline which makes novel reading enriching rather than simply being entertaining. And a further interesting fact about them is that both of them earlier worked as bankers.
As I continued my reading of fiction, I noticed similarity of the banking background for most of the fiction writers. I am not sure how many would know that Jules Verne (popular author of scientific fiction books like Around the World in Eighty Days, A Journey To The Center Of The Earth) had some inside prior experience in the working of finance. Most of us will be surprised to know that Britain's historically famous bank, Barings Bank, which Nick Leeson brought to closure in 1995, first figured a century earlier in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, as the protagonist approaches the same bank for deposit of the stake money as a part of the deal in the story of the book.
Needless to mention, the phenomenon of fiction writers from banking industry is further evidenced in India through Chetan Bhagat and Ravi Subramanian. Both of them were working for reputed foreign banks in India at the time of writing of their first fiction. Fiction writers from banking industry becoming popular internationally is also seen during the recent financial crisis with the release of a lot of fiction novels using the crisis as the backdrop.
Does banking really breed best selling fiction writers? Further, why is it so that banking as a genre always fascinates some fiction writers? These are the questions which I am going to reflect upon in this article.
My concluding thoughts on this aspect led to the formation of a theory what I funnily term as the '5-C framework of Banking in the world of Fiction Writing'. 5 – C framework for credit analysis (Character, Capacity, Collateral, Capital and Conditions) used in banking. I just can not help it – after all, I am also basically a banker.
The first postulate of the theory is "Banking requires Creativity". To understand this postulate, just read Satyajit Das's (investment banker cum author) book Traders, Guns and Money, which will help people appreciate what goes on with their money in the curious and creative world of financial products called derivatives. First released in 2006 and subsequently reviewed and modified in 2008, it outlines the creative aspect of derivatives in the world of finance in a witty format. This interesting book helps people new to banking in appreciating the root cause of recent crisis in international markets.
Secondly, it is true that "Creativity produces Currency". The fact that creativity in banking is a most sought after skill for high performing bankers is also echoed through the huge pay packages of Wall Street Investment Bankers, just before the crisis. And why not cash on what went right or wrong with creativity in banking? Nick Leeson just did that, at the time when he is completely broke and is behind bars for Barings Collapse. With his book Rogue Trader he went on to cash the catastrophe of his life that resulted from his ultra creativity to boost the profits of his trading desk of Barings Bank in Singapore. The book is also made into a movie which is shown as a learning case study for bankers in particular and finance students in general, even today.
Thirdly, one will not dispute with me when I say "Currency promotions Charisma". If you need far more evidence on how creativity, currency and charisma compacts the perfect storyline for a fictional account, you can pick up the recent fiction titled "How I Caused the Credit Crunch" by a former Japanese investment banker, Tetsuya Ishikawa. It is an entertaining tale of how a young Oxford graduate quickly finds himself in command of vast sums of other people's money; how a novice to the mysteries of hedge funds, sub-prime mortgages and Collateral Debt Obligations (CDOs) can fix complex deals for billions of dollars in the exclusive bars, brothls and trading floors of London, New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo, and reap the benefits in a colossal annual bonus and an international charismatic lifestyle.
Fourth postulate of my theory is "Charisma Influences Conduct". Pick up Ravi Subramanian's "If God was a Banker" for a support of this postulate. It's a story of two young management graduates, who had nothing similar in family backgrounds and temperament and join an International Bank on the same day and take two entirely different routes to success. The racy narrative set in the high-pressure milieu of competitive banking carries the undercurrent of a clash of values, in the pursuit of charisma and success in the personal and professional life of bankers.
Finally, it all boils down to the fifth postulate "Conduct seduces Crimeinality". It implies that any sort of misconduct in a creative banking world, lured by currency pay packages and charismatic success, breeds criminality – which is an all time favorite baseline for fiction stories. And there are a plethora of books that support this perspective, a case in example being Nest of Vipers by Linda Davies. It is a story of a brilliant and beautiful foreign exchange dealer, who becomes an undercover agent to investigate an apparently straightforward case of insider trading and gets caught up in a much wider international financial conspiracy affecting operations of central banks of the G7 nations.
Banking, therefore, forms an interesting mixture of basic raw materials – Creativity, Currency, Charisma, Conduct and Crimein – necessary for a fiction storyline. No wonder why bankers need not turn to other industries when set to write fiction. Their own world offers them enough examples and story lines, which breeds best selling plots for their books. Unlike scientific fiction, that requires basic understanding of deeper academic principals, banking fiction plays on people's basic expectation from a storyline, basic elements that excite anyone irrespective of their background.
As I conclude, I would like to use words of RBI Governor Dr. Duvvuri Subba Rao, who, in his recent speech on lazy banking, stated that the days of 3-6-3 banking (taking deposit @ 3%, lending @ 6% and going home @ 3 pm) are gone and exciting days are still ahead for bankers even after the recent crisis.
And as the world of banking is set to become more complex and more intriguing, more dominating and more promising, more challenging and more influential, especially after the recent financial crisis, this trend is only going to increase – a rise in the number of fiction writers from banking industry – not a bad enough reason for most of us bankers to cheer during the current period of downturn and recovery.