So We Meet Again - Suzanne Park Page 0,1

his sunglasses so he could peer at me. “Well, if you didn’t get the invite, then looks like you’ll be staying, and maybe you’ll get my job. Or Sammy’s—he left last week. Oooh, a big promotion opportunity for Jessie when Wise ol’ Wyatt gets the boot.”

Deadweight Wyatt, actually.

He checked his watch. “Oh, my meeting starts at one thirty and I’ll need a coffee and a good seat. Good luck with the Beauchamp deal. See ya around Wall Street, kid!”

Kid. I rolled my eyes as he swaggered down the hall to the executive conference room, joining the stream of ten or so other people, all of them more senior than me. Presumably all deadweights too. But Deadweight Wyatt was right: when people left the firm or groups restructured, that left opportunities for moving up. And without a doubt, I could do Wyatt’s job. Even without half days of self-care. I’d expected a promotion with my last review two months ago, but maybe they knew this time was coming. Maybe now, when the company trimmed its fat, I’d be brought in to lead my group. My stomach turned flips thinking about the promotion bonus.


A new meeting request popped up in my calendar for 1:30 P.M. A Zoom link sent by HR accompanied the email along with the meeting description “The Future of Hamilton Cooper, Founded 1984. Virtual Attendance Required.” Not the type of meeting I’d hoped to see. While I looked in Wyatt’s shared drive to find the Beauchamp spreadsheets, which were a mess of hard-coded numbers, I put in my earbuds and clicked on the Zoom link, expecting a companywide all-hands meeting. The company had transitioned to more online meetings for company events, mainly so they wouldn’t have to pay for a venue, or for catering. So many cost conservation initiatives at this bulge-bracket bank known for big deals and fat bonuses. Ridiculous.

On the call was a smallish group of maybe a dozen junior-level analysts and associates, all probably expecting to mute their audio and video and multitask while some executive talking head shared his screen to pontificate about the state of the industry and the vision for our company using a boring PowerPoint deck. Blah blah blah who cares, we had a ton of work to do. There was a small chance that this could be a group promotion call, with the layoffs happening in the other conference room—what better way to have people step up to take on more work than with a pep talk and maybe some public promotions in an intimate, albeit online, setting?

Come to think of it, something was amiss.

The head of HR appeared on the screen, one of many in the sea of faces in the video conference, unnerving me with her stern demeanor. Why wasn’t she in the other executive room, laying off Wyatt and the other do-nothings?

She began. “Hamilton Cooper hires the best and the brightest from all over the world, and we compete with esteemed employers such as JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and companies outside of banking like McKinsey and Google. We appreciate you. After all, you were the top recruits from your entering class, and the hard work and dedication you’ve put in over the years has had significant impact on our firm. You make Hamilton Cooper who we are—the world’s best diversified financial services company engaged in investment banking and capital markets, asset management, and direct investing.”

She should have been smiling with the spouting of this brochure jargon and praise. Alarm bells rang in my head as she continued her rehearsed speech. “After extensive work with our third-party organizational consulting firm Rowling and Associates, with the preceding two years of flat growth, we regret to inform you that the company will be rolling out a reorganization plan for the deal, equity, debt, and high-yield groups. As a result, your positions have all been eliminated. No additional head count will be added and we will be offering generous severance packages based on tenure and performance.” She added robotically, “You are, however, welcome to apply for any openings, but do note that all of the open positions are entry-level.”

My sushi lunch traveled up and I had to swallow hard to push it back down. Was this for real? It didn’t seem like some kind of elaborate joke. Was this actually happening? Was I getting laid off on a goddamn Zoom call?

She continued speaking while hands shot up. We were all muted by the presenter and she was not yielding the floor.