Remembering the deals of an investment banking career in London

Knut Ramel has written a no-holds-barred book on his 30 years as an investment banker, working for a number of the world’s biggest financial firms as their Nordic expert.

Knut Ramel is a name well known to those who have worked in the heart of Europe’s investment banking industry over the past three decades, but his book will serve to inform a wider audience about the industry through the experience of one of its better-known exponents.

Ramel started his working life with Swedish conglomerate Beijer in the late 1970s, only turning to banking in 1980, when he was hired by Credit Suisse First Boston in London. He did a 22-year stint at Merrill Lynch, leaving as managing director, before joining UBS in 2009 as vice chairman investment banking, and then doing a couple of years for the Swiss bank in an advisory role.

He finally retired in April 2011 aged 57, determined to “devote the rest of my life to completely different matters. Perhaps something important?”

A key theme running through the book is Ramel’s feeling that his work has made little real difference to the world or, more importantly, to him. “When I left work at 7pm in the evenings, my work ceased to exist,” he writes about his time in London.

However, between the covers there is a considerable amount of information about the fascinating and sometimes darker corners of a business world that is, ultimately, people-led and therefore suffers all too often from human weakness. Many pages detail stories of the vicious office politics that permeated life in all the organisations he worked for.

At times, this may seem less than edifying, but one of the benefits to the reader is that it throws up a virtual Who’s Who of the investment banking industry of the past three decades, as well as Ramel’s views of their abilities or, in many cases, inabilities. For example, when starting work at CSFB he describes his first meetings with the country desks. The Canadian desk was headed by someone who Ramel describes as being “25 going on 50” and whom he considered to be a “fake”. The French desk was headed by an Englishman who was a noted skier and Hollywood actor, before he turned his attention to investment banking. The English desk was under the direction of one whose chief claim, according to Ramel, was the fact that the Bank of England governor was his father-in-law.

Besides the people, Ramel also sheds light on how the industry grew fat off the development of activities such as loan syndication and securitisation, and just why derivatives-based solutions were so appealing for those interested in making money off clients, who were often dismissed as being “blind”.

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