Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Did We Come to This? Chapter 1: Casting the Characters


Once upon a time I promised I would tell what happened to The Old Goat at We Are Independent Trust, so having read since of others’ travails it is time to tell this tale.  I have to go back to the beginning, because it has the making of a movie or soap opera in how the characters came together in that same place that last September.  I will write this in installments.  If that was good enough for Stephen King's "Green Mile", it's good enough for me.
Back yon, when The Kid was on the cusp of forty and his transformation into The Old Goat, there was a staid institution called We Are Independent Trust Company, which for brevity sake we will often refer to as WAIT. It had been founded in ye olden days to accommodate the exploding fortunes of the kerBoom Family so dominate in that region in that time.
By The Kid and The Old Goat’s era, three-quarters century later, WAIT had made the Top Twenty on the Cashbox Hot One Hundred List, which gave it some gravitas in certain circles, but as a commercial bank it was simply stuck on stodgy. WAIT was but a quiet country conservative clod plodding along. It was as steady and exciting as a rock stuck in mud and so was its stock, which neither went up or down. WAIT was about as dynamic as a frog crocking on a lily pad. Well, perhaps it wasn’t quite that energetic. Income was dependable, but modest, totally an automatic function of the spread between rates. The Fed said, “Listen up toadies, today’s prime rate is what we now say”. WAIT’s Loan Officers would nod their heads, add a few basis points to that and put their feet back up on the desk and wait. WAIT in those days was not just a name; it was a business stratagem.
Then a-sudden there was the need for a new Bank President, as the old chief lifted a putter with a firm grip, declared this was his future and retired. The Board blinded by the sunlight reflecting from the golf club and dazed by the whole idea of change hired a dynamic gentleman named Benny Terrific from a financial establishment in Philadelphia. Thus a new morning dawned and from its first rays on We Are Independent Trust became a player in the financial whirlwinds of the eighties and nineties.
Around that time there was a young, pretty and ambitious file clerk named Lydia Metermaid, who took a flyer when the job of Assistant to the President was openly posted. Despite the ho-ho-ho derision of those who considered themselves her betters, being more educated and more experienced, and her own low station as folder filer, she applied and found favor in the eyes of Benny Terrific and got the job. There has remained much jealous gossip and snide rumor about this amazing career leap ever since.
In that same pivotal year, WAIT hired an accountant by the name of Cuddy Bear to head the Financial Division. Cuddy Bear reorganized the Division and some Financial Analyst jobs were created and advertised in newspapers far and wide.
The Kid had recently suffered nunification (a term which you will not understand and it is too long to explain and will be a subject another time, so to keep things simple, The Kid was unemployed) and was searching these very same newspapers daily seeking a job. Seeing an ad for Financial Analyst, and thinking he knew enough to fake…I mean fill the bill, he sent off his resume and much to his surprised was called to interview.
 The Kid interviewed, but the interviewing manager said Financial Analyst did not seem the proper position given The Kid’s background. But all hope was not dashed upon these rocks of reality. There was another position, a brand new job that no one really quite knew what it was or how it worked, but whatever it was The Kid seemed perfectly suited. That interviewing manager took him to meet Ross Rollins, Vice-President of the All Things Deposited Division.
There was an immediate feeling of synergy between Ross and The Kid. As a result, The Kid was hired for this strange new job that no one understood called Project Manager.
Best job The Old Goat was ever to have in his life. As he morphed in the next two decades from The Kid to The Old Goat he was to understand how his love of that job contained the seeds to his own version of Greek Tragedy. Like a December-May marriage the ultimate end is clear at the start, but one’s commitment to the relationship closes one’s eyes to that and they sometimes cling to what is when it would be in their best interest to let go and move elsewhere. But The Kid liked the job and he liked Ross so much he turned down opportunities to go elsewhere within WAIT. He ignored lessons he had learned years ago. Most of all he ignored the age gap between himself and Ross.

Over the years as The Kid morphed into the Old Goat, his duties and responsibilities expanded and he had a great variety of interesting things to do beside oversee mere projects. He introduced new concepts in employee-employer relationships based on a management fad called Quality Circles. (This was the day of the great anything Japanese Management Style must be God inspired.) Oh, he altered some of these concept, did some things the masterminds of management said you could never do, but in the end the program worked. As a result The Kid was contacted by the American Institute of Banking (AIB) to design an educational program in employee involvement programs, which he did.
He created and edited the divisional newsletter, introduced a training program called "Lunchtime Videos", even coordinated the move of operations from the downtown headquarters to a brand spanking new Operations Center in a suburban corporate mall.
He initiated and created an innovative cost system in his division based not on units, but on activities. He had been annoyed WAIT had no real costing system, and was told costing systems weren’t suitable for banking functions, so he invented his own. He had never heard of what he was putting together, but in his mind he thought it would work, so he created it using Excel and then introduced it and it worked. (Several years later WAIT paid big bucks to an outside consulting firm to install what? Why this innovative new system called Activity-Based Costing of course.)
He introduced and promoted (actually fought tooth and nail for) PCs as a tool. The Titans of Technology laughed and told The Kid PCs might be fine for home use, but were impractical for business, that the mainframe would ever be king of banking information manipulation. Uh huh, and The Kid became one of the very first in WAIT to have a PC on his desk. He introduced and promoted image technology. And now years after The Kid became a project manager, a job no one knew how it should be done, The Old Goat was a recognized pioneer of project management in banking as the industry as a whole became interested in the concept; he was even asked to speak on Project Management at a BAI productivity conference in New Orleans.
The Kid/Old Goat’s efforts brought him grade level promotions and eventually he was made an Officer of the Bank.
There is another important character we need to introduce at this time.
WAIT began an Intern program. This was made up of fresh-faced college graduates looking for the fast track. The first such group contained ten such people, mostly white males.  They would go to each area of the bank for training over the course of one year. They were paid a low salary for their time with no guarantee of a job at the end.
The training of these Bigwigs-in-Waiting in his Division fell to The Kid. He designed the training and supervised it. He wrote a guidebook for their use and even developed a final exam that they had to take at the end. He and all the other divisional managers had to rate each Intern after the program (this was required by Human Resources).
Within that group was a brash young man named Flip Wineberry. The Kid found him aptly named, he was flip, disruptive and inattentive. He would come late to meetings and then have the gull to hold everyone up while he made phone calls. He received the worst rating of all from the divisional managers. He also scored the lowest on the final exam.
After the end of the training two Interns were hired, one of whom was Flip Wineberry.
About the same time that this initial group of Interns was winding down their training, changes were made to the Marketing Division. Benny Terrific never really liked Marketing as it was constituted when he arrived, so he reorganized it. At that time Marketing was part of the Administration Department. It had a division manager, named Jack Inboxx, who was forced to the outbox. Benny named a new Marketing Division Manager -- one Lydia Metermaid.  Soon most of the Marketing Staff packed up their poster paint and  story boards and left the bank in protest, for what could a former file clerk like Lydia possibly know about Marketing, and soon more speculative and snide rumors were circulating.
Since Benny, who was now not only President, but had also been crowned Chairman of tAll he Surveyed, needed a new Assistant to replace Lydia, he turned around three times, put a hand over his eyes and plunged the dart of fate into (you guessed it) Flip Wineberry.
At about this time a new committee was created sponsored by then Vice-President of All Branches and Vaults, Hobart Wazza Goodguy. This committee was necessitated by that fleeing mob of Marketing people who resigned when Lydia was named their manager.  It had the charter to oversee advertising, design new products and services and give guidance to Marketing during the chaos of change. The Kid/Old Goat was named Chairman of this New Product Committee, a seat he warmed for the next ten years.
And now our play is set with the necessary characters needed for its end some years yet down the road. 

Photo is still from the 1927 German film, Metropolis.

1 comment:

Ron said...

A lot of non de plumes here Lar. I think I know whereof which bank ye speak of. Did you read in the newspaper that TARP took back the chief muckey muck's bonus? Couple mil I hear. Tsk, tsk. Those bonuses seem to roll in no matter what eh? And I remember a time when financial insitutions had a reputation for stability and honesty. Is nothing sacred anymore?