I typically make selections for the Color of Money Book Club on topics such as retirement saving or long-term care insurance. You know, important but not very sexy stuff.
I’m venturing out of the box this month, recommending “Bond Girl’’ by Erin Duffy (William Morrow, $24.99), a former Wall Street worker who has written an engaging novel about a young woman’s entree into what’s still largely a man’s world. Duffy graduated from Georgetown University in 2000 with a B.A. in English and spent about 12 years working for Wall Street firms.
In her first novel, Duffy, who started at Merrill Lynch right out of college, personalizes the people many Americans have come to loathe.
In Duffy’s novel we meet Alex Garrett, a recent college graduate who has just landed a position on the bond sales desk at the fictitious brokerage firm Cromwell Pierce. This is the Wall Street version of Lauren Weisberger’s bestseller “The Devil Wears Prada.’’ Just replace the focus on clothes and shoes with stocks and bonds. It’s chick lit with a financial services backdrop.
“The hierarchy in most Wall Street firms is clearly delineated,’’ Alex muses. “You spend your first few years as an analyst, responsible for learning as much as you can, and making sure the rest of ‘the team’ gets their lunch orders picked up from the lobby in a timely fashion.’’
We learn that if you aren’t bringing in money, you aren’t worth much. As Alex’s boss says on her first day: “You will not ask for anything. The way I see it, you don’t deserve anything. No one knows you, you haven’t done one productive thing to help this group make money, and until you do, you should just thank God every day that you’re able to clear the turnstiles in the lobby.’’
There is a fair amount of harassment and debasing of women that is a subplot in this tale. Alex’s co-workers call her “Girlie.’’ And yet the character puts up with everything because she wants to play with the boys, who get big checks at the end of the year that make up for the ugly part of the business. Alex gets $20,000 her first year.
You are nearly done with the novel before the recession hits the firm and the employees start to panic, not about what’s happening to the public but that their hefty paydays are in jeopardy.
“It was getting to the point where I was afraid to tell people what I did for a living,’’ Alex says. “Where I once felt pride I now felt fear.’’
Duffy was laid off from Merrill Lynch in 2008. She then worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and the Bank of Nova Scotia, respectively. She resigned from the industry in January.
From the occasional financial material to the treatment of women, an office romance that goes very bad, to the impending doom you know is coming, Duffy crafts a witty and very racy narrative. Trust me, you won’t be bored with this Wall Street story.