Final days come rarely. Or at least they come rarely for the likes of me – perhaps serial job-hoppers get addicted to this feeling.
Do those other people resign every couple of years simply for the buzz of that last day in the office? That sensation of what could have been, what would have been and what should have been? The faux-friendly conversations with people whose names haven’t registered since the introduction on their first day? The over-priced flavourless cakes? All of the above?
My final day at Integrity Asset Management – yes, I know it’s now called Swiss Heritage, but it will always be Integrity to me – has been quiet so far.
We had the team lunch a couple of days ago – it was a jolly affair, and kicked on well into the afternoon as Andreas and Kim had to leave early for a client meeting. My early cheer about this soon turned to despair when, as the most senior remaining guy, I had to pick up the tab. At my own leaving lunch! It was never like this back in the good old days.
Earlier today we went through the ignominious hand-back ritual of security passes, remote log-in dongle, desk keys and laptop. They even wanted my BlackBerry. My BlackBerry! How am I supposed to function without that? Staying in touch with key contacts, 24-hour office connectivity, never forgetting an appointment, flirting with cute girls on bbm, inciting a riot – Mr RIM sure excelled himself coming up with that gadget.
For the whole day, well, for the whole afternoon, well, since about 3:45pm, people have been stopping by my desk to pay their respects. They tend to come armed with their mobile phones, primed and ready to enter my number. “I’ll phone you so you’ve got my number too,” they say. That’s not much use to me when I don’t even know your name, I think.
At least I have left on my own accord, and so don’t get the dreaded sympathy. I’ve told everyone I’ve got a great new job in Singapore; for most people that’s enough to know. For all they care, I might as well be the next mayor of Lagos. So with an awkward handshake, off they go.
Packing up the desk, finding stuff that’s been there untouched for years. No self-respecting salesman keeps a clear desk – it’s imperative to have stacks of papers sitting around, even on the floor surrounding the desk. It gives the impression of importance, of business and of being a multi-tasker.
I’ve found project plans from way back in ’08, finals pitches from that first round of SSF outsourcing, Powerpoints for that 130/30 Eastern European equity strategy which never got off the ground, even an audacious expense claim from the night I spent at the Four Seasons with an unnamed consultant! I’m filled with pride at my achievements here, and pick a few highlights to keep.
It has often been said that my name is my biggest asset – actually, my rolodex is the money-spinner. I stayed old-school and never migrated to soft e-cards. I’m not going to get all American Psycho on you, but I can tell a lot about a man from his business card. I have been shipping this valuable cargo home piece-by-piece over the past week or so, paranoid that transporting them all en-masse would be like the entire royal family travelling on one plane.
I had expected e-mails to be pouring in from around the world, given I have worked with so many varied people from around the firm. I sent out my farewell e-mail to my non-Asian colleagues yesterday, in order to give them time to reply. So far, I’ve had one reply, and that was from the least likely person.
How can it be that only Troy Sexhammer wants to wish me well, out of the hundreds of people whose funds I have sold, who I’ve entertained on their trips here and for whom I have been the point-person for this entire region? Only Troy Sexhammer? Jeez, I hate that guy.
Which brings me to The Goodbye E-mail. I set out to type this final missive.
Subject: Adios Amigos
Hmmm, this is tough. I want to convey superiority, but also not burn my bridges. I want to be witty, warm and memorable, but not sound like I’m trying too hard. Like everyone else, I’ve laughed at others’ attempts at this tricky communiqué: the typical schoolboy error of careering into insincerity with ‘I truly treasure all the times spent learning and sharing with senior colleagues’, the over-the-top corporate flattery of ‘I’m sure I will regret leaving such an incredible company, run by such inspirational leaders’, and finally the flatly dumb ‘Maybe I will return to the firm after experiencing life on the outside’.
No, I need to set the tone right from the start – this is about me, not them.
The time has come for me to spread my wings and fly. I leave a very different firm to the one I joined a few years ago, and think I have played a big part in that development (or at least in the good bits anyway). I know many of you will miss having me around, but I urge you to consider what’s right for the firm and carry on my good work after I have moved on to greener pastures.
Feel free to connect me on LinkedIn, to see my updates from wherever in the world my career takes me, and in case I’m hiring. (I’ll always look favourably on ex-colleagues.)
William T. Fitzgerald
Hit send and we’re done. Kim has just called to ask me into his office. I expect there’ll be some kind of embarrassing presentation, maybe a small party. I look around at the suspiciously quiet office – they must all be gathered in the boardroom, lights out, ready to ‘surprise me’ with a final touching gesture. No doubt some tears will spill from the more 'vulnerable' ladies in the office.
I close Kim's office door gently behind me and take a seat. “I guess this is it,” I say, ready to offer a conciliatory handshake after all the water under the bridge between the two of us. “Not quite,” comes the reply, freeing things up for the inevitable festivities next door. “IT told me you refused to return your BlackBerry. I’m going to need that now.”
I head back to my desk, feeling like a chastised kid. Just enough time to rattle off a few final messages, and delete those sensitive photos, before handing it over.
“That'll be all, thanks, Will,” says Kim. “Have a nice life.”
No party, no presentation, no kisses from the girls. I hit ‘G’ on the elevator console, the doors slide together and I am alone.
This concludes RFP Diary. William T. Fitzgerald is a work of fiction, as are all other companies and individuals named in RFP Diary. Any resemblance to the living or to real companies is purely coincidental.