Archive for April, 2006

‘A Virgin Market’

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

Afghanistan is open for business.


KABUL, Afghanistan–The recent Yale graduate I was chatting with at a party here spoke Chinese and had lived in China, the seeming epicenter of all things capitalist. “Why did you decide to come to Afghanistan?” I asked. He stared at me. “This is the largest rebuilding and development effort in the history of the world. Who wouldn’t want to be here?”

After decades of conflict and the crippling legacies of communism and fundamentalism, Afghanistan is finally open for business. The signs are everywhere, from Kabul’s traffic jams to Mazar-i-Sharif’s building boom; from the opening of a Coca-Cola bottling plant to the country’s first private university, the American University of Afghanistan, offering programs in business administration and information technology.

Faux-Shame Game: Men Who Mumble About Their Work

Sunday, April 9th, 2006

There is only one profession in Manhattan that is shyly professed, with downcast eyes. Those who practice it often issue a disclaimer: “Oh, me? You don’t want to know—I do something that’s not so interesting.”

They are not sex workers, or undertakers, or even criminals.

They are in finance. The higher their real or perceived income, the greater their bashfulness. Commercial bankers admit it outright; investment bankers lower their voices. And those in private equity or hedge funds are the most reticent.

“Well, I work on Wall Street. Finance.” (Nervous laugh.) “It’s boring.”


“Oh, it’s a small place—you wouldn’t have heard of it. Private equity.”

In my 25 years’ experience of New York life, there’s always been a bit of this profession evasion—but as the incomes of Wall Streeters have soared, bashfulness has too. For 18 months in 1980 to ’82, I worked as a lowly analyst in corporate finance at a second-tier investment bank. When I met other people in banking, there might have been a bit of mutual hesitation to ’fess up. But less than now. It’s possible that this was because, at that time, I still hung out mainly with other recent Harvard grads, who tended to go into banking, law or medicine. (more…)