Above: beautiful Charolais cows in France. Livestock photo by the author.
During my furtive job search in 1985, Brown Brothers Harriman was obviously not the place where yours truly got closest to the Finest Escape from an injurious job situation. That distinction belongs to an interesting entity called the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company (“MHT”), otherwise known as “Manny Hanny.” A storied bank that had grown on the back of multiple acquisitions, by the mid-1980s it was one of the largest in New York City (and the world, for that matter).
However come 1992, it was no more. Kaput.
But in its day, one of its core strengths lay in its international banking operations, which was my particular interest. Plunging my contact list, I came to visit the headquarters numerous times at 270 Park Avenue. Astute readers may recognize that very same address from previous posts as Manny Hanny had purchased it from none other than Union Carbide. This was the very same building that Dad had dragged me to when he went trolling for secretaries in the 1960s, see my post “THE BIGGER IDEA (AND ME AS WINGBOY).”
It was the locale of the big score in my family, in other words, hallowed ground. Maybe it would be the same for me, personally.
I buzzed right through multiple interviews in that section of the bank over the course of the summer, each one better than the last. Which meant that I was working my way up the food chain, laying the groundwork for what I hoped would be an offer to join the bank.
Manny Hanny’s snazzy logo at the time.
While out for drinks with my new friends at Manny Hanny, I was privileged to hear some of the insider gossip, particularly as concerns one Senior Executive Vice President of my prospective division named Nicholas Sánchez¹.
Legend had it that some South American young lady came into the main banking hall one day, all dolled up in a short skirt, high heels, lipstick, overflowing chest, shopping bags from Tiffany, dangling jet black curls, the works. Apparently, there was some kind of irregularity with her attempted personal check cashing. Perhaps her Argentinian bank was not a correspondent bank of MHT? She dutifully called for the floor manager, and then his manager after that. After extended discussion, the matter remained sadly unresolved. Met with polite refusals, the floozy became more and more animated.
Eventually, she began to curse loudly in both Spanish and English. The banking hall echoed with proclamations that she knew “Meestir Neek-oh-las Sanchezzzzz, ee’s ze Prezeedent of the Bahhnnnnk!” Meaning, she was going to take her problem to the highest level. All you morons were going to get toasted!
On that note, she was given a kind of bum’s rush out of the building. Cashing checks in foreign countries was always full of peril.
This image of two shrimp platters provided for illustrative purposes only. A potential customer for banking services?
Tongues will wag and soon enough this lobby-broadcasted declaration made it all the way up to the top floor, where the reorganized corporate hierarchy was news to the CEO in fact, one Mr. John F. McGillicuddy². Big John was said to have actually picked up his phone to ring up the aforementioned Mr. Sánchez to let him know a couple of things. One, apparently one of his BFFs had visited the banking hall earlier that morning, making quite a racket. And two, if he wouldn’t mind refraining from overstating his title and position to colleagues and “friends” alike. Thank you very much. Click.
No one ever heard from the woman in question again. Dark deeds are better performed with the lights off, I imagine. And with as few words as possible.
After a few more interview rounds, I was informed that I was to meet the top executives for a final stamp of approval before getting an offer. This was to be my moment to shine, my own greatest escape, deliverance, and break-out. Everything was looking good, I was told; my meeting was less of an interview and more of a formality. To be clear, I was not meeting with Sánchez himself – new hires did not need to get approval from CEOs, Presidents, Executive Vice Presidents, or heavy hitters from correspondent banks in South America. Sánchez had more important meetings to deal with. But I was meeting two Senior Vice Presidents just below him.
The big day came for my meeting and with much excitement, I came to 270 Park, marveling at how I had first come here some twenty years previous to be subjected to the squealing of secretaries. I ascended to one of the executive floors in elevators still controlled by peculiar heat sensor buttons (see above photo). On arrival, I was led into a large sunny office festooned with sumptuous couches. Two men in shirt sleeves received me. We exchanged pleasantries for a few moments.
Then an incredible thing happened. The conversation turned to the family business. Why would you want to leave? Of course, I was well-prepared for this question. You never denigrate a current or previous boss for fear of making yourself look bad. (Thereby leaving a lot of bad bosses unidentified, unfortunately.) Rather, I talked about the opportunities at Manufacturers Hanover and how it better matched my academic interests. I had some experience in international business and felt that, from my point of view, the fit was good. And so on and so forth.
But what about your father? I was pressed. I couched my explanation of wanting leave Olcott International in terms of weird family politics. After all, everyone understands that office politics can get a little crazy at times, and that this can be exacerbated in family concerns. Besides, my Dad would do just fine without me. I was proud of my answer.
However, one of the Vice Presidents nodded in a super-knowing fashion, as if he just found the goods. He started off by stating that he appreciated my candor. But he went on to say that he thought it conceivable that I might join Manny Hanny not just to work there – but only to “graze” for a few years while awaiting the chance to return to the family business.
The plausibility of his speculation stunned me. “Well,” I responded, “as to the future there are no guarantees. I don’t see myself spending so much time and energy to leave the family business only to return to it.”
I laid it on thicker, “For example, I could really enjoy working with you and then for unrelated reasons you yourself could leave the bank after a few years. Leaving me here.”
While he admitted as much, the ensuing discussion could not move him off his point. I was only a potential grazer. Moooooo. Once convinced of their own ideas, some people are not to be dissuaded otherwise.
Bitches should have hired me. How is Manny Hanny today, by the way? But I digress.
¹ – Not his real name.
² – In this case, Big John was his real name.