Human resources

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People Anatomy

A spotter’s guide to the men and women of finance.

Dramatis personae: CEO | CFO | Client | Employees: Divers · Excuse pre-loaders · Survivors · Contractors · The Muppet Show | Middle management: COO · Consultant · MBA | Controllers: Financial reporting | Risk | Credit | Operations | IT | Legal: GC · Inhouse counsel · Docs unit · Litigator · Tax lawyer · US attorney Lawyer | Front office: Trading | Structuring | Sales |

The Jolly Contrarian’s Glossary

The snippy guide to financial services lingo.™
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If a name change is the best way to “reboot the franchise,” odds are the basics of the business are suspect. For better or worse, sales will forever be sales; trading resolutely trading, and even dear old legal will always be legal [1] —even marketing, of all people, tend to stick with “marketing” — but the good people of personnel can't help re-branding themselves.

In the heady days before investment banking become an embarrassing career choice they were “human capital management”; as the dogma of automation began to bite they became “human resources”; as that fad, inshall’ah, blew itself out, they reinvented themselves once more as some kind “directorate of talent acquisition”. Have no doubt, the most fantastical LinkedIn job descriptions will be claimed by lifers from personnel.

Some say human resources departments are some kind of extended phenotype — an adaptation on the rest of us depend for our continued survival. The better view is that we are an extended phenotype of theirs (in the same way that wheat domesticated homo sapiens[2] and not vice versa).

In any case, a good portion of the bullshittery and pretty much all of the tedious virtue-signalling that is now such a feature of modern corporate life can be laid at the security controlled access to the HR department. For the same people who modishly spend hundreds of thousands on back-to-work schemes for those who took career breaks to have kids — many of whom were from the HR department, naturally — are the same ones who spent the intervening period systematically laying off swathes of those poor buggers — blokes, mostly, but who cares about that — who had no choice but to stay on and hold the fort.

And who do you think is most (for which read “only”) enthusiastic proponent of the 360° performance appraisal? It, and the dives and constructive dismissal claims it so brazenly solicits, keeps scores of HR folk employed every year.

As a policy stance, HR will publicly deny but privately insist upon forced ranking. It will demand the hardest of disciplinary lines for those poor souls shunted into the bottom bucket — all of this in the interests of fairness and transparency and to minimise claims for constructive dismissal, you understand — but will then decline to permit the consequences (ie firing the poor sod) because of the risk of procedural unfairness in doing so.




  1. Office of the General Counsel notwithstanding.
  2. Insight courtesy of Yuval Harari.