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4.2 out of 5 stars
Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
As an ex banker, I can say that Rolfe and Troob are not exaggerating a damned thing. This is banking, unplugged.
A lot of people have decided to criticize the two for whining and not "sucking it up" as any hard-working professional needs to in his first years. Anybody who has said this has no idea what he's talking about. I guarantee you that there is no twentysomethings job in the business world that is even close to the difficulty of two years in banking. Unless you have worked 70-hour nonstop stretches under extreme pressure (think about it: working more in one sleepless stretch than most people do in a week), you cannot possibly understand what it means.
I've made my escape, like these two clowns and I'm glad of it, b/c I too realize that I was just a damned trained ape. Dress an ape up in a nice suit and put him in a fast car, he's still an ape. Most associates realize at some point that they'll never make MD. It's the bait that's dangled in front of you, but it is just like the top law firms. Up and out. If you don't have the rainmaking ability, you're outta there and no one will be missing you.
However, there were some troubling parts of this book from a non-banking view. If it bothers you, note that these guys are mildly racist and classist. The comments about homosexuals, Latinos, Asians, and the poor are somewhere on the maturity level of a sixteen-year-old snot punk at Andover, but then again, you can take this as another dose of Wall Street Reality; don't expect bigtime enlightenment from these wallstreet knuckledraggers.
All in all, it's worth a read.
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96 of 111 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Before going into my review, let me start with a caution. This book is the grossest, most vulgar business book I have ever read . . . by a very wide margin. This book would have been banned in Boston 50 years ago. If that sort of thing offends you, this book is a minus ten stars. Many women will feel this book is anti-female. On the other hand, if you happen to like your humor male, bold and brassy, this book will be one of the funniest you will ever read.
As someone who often works with investment bankers, the descriptions about how business is sold and delivered should be tempered a bit. This book describes pretty much every investment banker as shoddy, shallow, and manipulative. That has not been my typical experience. There are terrifically smart, talented, ethical and humane investment bankers. For example, one of my favorites never used a pitch book during his first meeting with a client. Pitch book preparation is one of the banes of the young investment banker's existence. But like all professions, investment bankers vary a lot. There are certainly some less capable ones, and I have seen their work too. I would describe it much like the authors do.
In terms of the working conditions, they are mostly a reflection of weak management in the industry. Investment banks reward doing deals, not being good managers of the deals. A fellow I know became CEO of a major investment bank, and made much less money after that than when he was just a deal-maker. He found little interest on the part of his colleagues in improving management, so it was pretty frustrating. It just doesn't pay to work on making life better for the investment bankers in training, compared to producing more business.
The book's main point is that many young people enter investment banking without knowing what it is like, and are overly impressed with the financial prospects. If your values really favor having time for yourself, your family, and developing your other interests, this is probably the wrong career for you. There are plenty of other ways to make lots of money. The richest people I know are entrepreneurs, not investment bankers.
The book's other main point is that you should take a look at close yourself before you compromise too many of your values. The authors should have never joined an investment bank. Having done so, they should have left much sooner.
CEOs and CFOs should read this book also, to know what to check out carefully in the work that investment bankers do. Most companies now develop their own ideas, and just hire the investment bankers for implementation. In that role, fewer problems will occur of the sort described here. Perhaps the most dangerous role is having an investment banker help you select and pursue an acquisition. Many expensive mistakes follow under those circumstances. Caveat emptor!
You will probably find the monkey drawings in the book add to the humor. The text frequently refers to monkey-see, monkey-do type examples, and the whole story is seen more usefully as a bunch of monkeys playing in a gilded cage. That takes some of the sting out of the gratuitous grossness.
If you liked the put-downs of investment bankers in Liar's Poker, this book will be irresistible to you.
After you have had a good laugh, take a look at your current job and see how well it fits your values and life goals. Chances are that it doesn't. Be prepared to figure that out, and move onward and upward out of whatever gilded (or not-so-gilded) cage you are in today into the freedom of self-actualization.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a MBA student at a top B-School, the lure of the investment banking siren rings loud every day. I hear how much my friends are getting offered in banking and think, "What can be so bad?" Thanks to this book, I now realize why the big bucks are there!
If you are considering going into banking, this book is an absolute "must read". The book is entertaining, easy to read, yet full of content. You feel like you are sitting at the desks with them, getting screamed at. I found myself actually feeling stressed over the routine I saw these guys doing.
This book is great for anyone in B-school, banking, or business in general. However, if you are not a capitalist, you should probably save your money.
The language is fairly rough, but I felt it was important because it gave you a good feel for the atmosphere. The limited audience appeal dropped the overall rating a little, so I gave the book 4 stars. If you are interested in this subject, it is a full 5.
I must admit, the money sounds great, and I may in fact fall in the snare, but I go in with my eyes wide open! Thanks guys!
john.grounds@sirjohnathon.com
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Anyone who thinks this book is untrue or is in any way an exaggeration obviously has not gone through the experience of being a junior investment banker. I have spent the past two years as an analyst (pre-MBA) at an investment bank and can honestly say that this book is an accurate representation of what goes on in investment banking. When the book came out, many junior bankers (analysts and associates) immediately picked up copies of the book and thoroughly enjoyed it as it summed up what makes banking such an awful work environment in a fast reading format. The book gave comfort to us bankers as it demonstrated that the type of things that happens at DLJ happens at other banks as well. Investment banking is truly a dysfunctional place to be with senior bankers having absolutely no concern for what happens to the junior bankers. I would highly recommend this book as it is very entertaining and very accurate and I would also recommend anyone thinking of working at an investment bank to do something else, as the money is really not worth all of the (...) you have to deal with on a daily basis.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
First, a confession. Another reviewer posted a scathing review of this book and said it was so bad he would send it for free to anyone who wanted it. I took him up on his offer and promised to write a similar review if I felt the same way. The problem is... I really liked this book!
I wanted to read Monkey Business as I used to consider investment banking as a career and wondered if the tremendous investment of time and money was worth it. The answer, according to authors Rolfe and Troob, is a resounding "NO." You will probably make a lot of money once you do get in. But ultimately it's not worth it, not by a long shot.
Written during the height of dot-com mania, the authors pull no punches in proceeding to lambaste almost every aspect of the house of money formerly known as Donaldson, Lufkin, and Jenrette, as well as the entire investment banking industry. It's an episode of "Behind the Music - Wall Street", that strips away the Hollywood notion of the wealthy, jet-setting investment banker and exposes the underbelly of tedious boredom, bureaucracy, posturing, and incompetence that make up this awful work environment. The book is so strong in its criticisms that I'm surprised Rolfe and Troob weren't sued for libel. Given all the Wall Street scandals making the headlines lately, they'd probably get their money back.
Colorful language is an understatement. By the end of the book, the guys are doing calculations to determine the "expected value" of attempting to bed a banking assistant at the holiday party versus the "present value" of a sure thing at the local strip club. The chauvanism, vulgarity, racism and anecdotes comparing co-workers and bosses to everything from dung beetles to excrement might lead you to believe they're exaggerating just to trash their former employer. However, the numerous reviews on this site exclaiming, "Yes! This IS life at (-insert investment bank here-)" could indicate they may not be far from the truth.
Ironically, my latest read, Frank Partnoy's F.I.A.S.C.O., describes the investment banking division (IBD) as follows: "In IBD, young associates spent twenty-four hour days preparing 'books,' the bound presentations senior bankers flipped through during meetings with corporate executives. You took a job there at your peril. After several years preparing these flip books, you would either be fired or promoted, assuming you were still alive. After several more years you would be allowed to carry the books to meetings, and at some point you might even be permitted to speak... I wanted to steer clear of IBD."
Ultimately, I believe the authors succeeded in writing a book that provides an honest account of the business. Those in the industry are sure to get a good laugh out of it and those considering this career should definitely read this book first.
Hope the review helped.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
A lot of people compare this book to Liar's Poker, and with good reason. Both tell the tales of young MBAs and their experiences at invesment banks. The big difference here, is that this book answers the question of what it's like to be a junior investment banker in your first year. Liar's Poker is more of a book about the climate on Wall Street in the Reagan years, spliced with personal stories. Monkey Business is ALL personal stories, most of them quite funny, about what you can expect if you're considering being a junior investment banker at a bulge-bracket firm.

Of all the Wall Street books I've read (I've read several) this one offers the least insight into the financial climate of the times, what kind of business was being done, etc. It's basically a diary of two guys, one who worked on Wall Street and should have known better, and one rookie to the world of I-banking, from enrolling in top-tier MBA programs to their last frustrating days as co-workers at DLJ. Because of this, it's a quick read and highly relatable.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Written by John Rolfe and Peter Troob, the book recounts their journey from MBA school (Wharton and HBS) to Wall Street. Rolfe is the career switcher jumping to investment banking and Troob is the former Kidder Peabody analyst returning because he didn't want to be a consultant and couldn't get a job in private equity. While their interview processes were divergent, their lives ultimately converge with their summer intership at Donaldson Lufkin Jenrette (now merged with Credit Suisse First Boston), securing a full-time job offer, and finally finding redemption in the world of hedge funds.

This is a must-read for anyone seriously thinking about investment banking as a career. This book will help job candidates understand the process for getting hired (e.g. culture and fit) and the mascochism that is involved once employed (e.g. late nights, no social life unless strip clubs count) for what is ultimately "monkey work". Associates are paid ridiculous amounts for that does not require reason and/or creativity and for the heaps of abuse piled on from the vice presidents and managing directors. While this book obviously focuses on life at DLJ in the 90s, this book is in my opinion a fairly accurate portrayal of life at all investment banks no matter what insiders at other firms may say...
Stylistically, the authors take turn writing about their experiences and though with different fonts allowing the reader to easily differentiate the author's thoughts. This is useful in helping you understand which author is offer his thoughts. Overall, it is written in the colloquial manner typical of a men's locker room conversation. Expect numerous references to bodily functions (e.g. farting, defecation) and sex...
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I just read this book over the weekend. It is absolutely dead-on. And about the other reviews posted here that say otherwise - just look at the cities they're posting from. These people claim that they're also "real life investment bankers". Please, places like Shorewood, Wisconsin don't do big-time deals and don't have the talent and egos that exist in New York. Read the comments from the guys in NYC.
I worked as an analyst at a bulge bracket firm in NYC for two years before going on to greener pastures after grad school. This book is absolutely on-point. In fact, I've got even worse stories of torture than these guys wrote about.
A must read for anyone thinking about a career in i-banking.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Monkey Business is great! The book is well written and extremely entertaining. The story is lively and the overall cadence of the book makes it easy and fast to read. Rolfe and Troob have a nice style of writing and are two authors that the reader really likes. They seem like good guys. What I really like about the book is that it is not about deals. I was worried that when I picked it up to read that it would be about boring deals. It is just the opposite. It is a joy to read and I think I learned something in the process.
I have lots of friends who are bankers and I never understood why they never seemed happy. They made lots of money, but always seemed nervous and jumpy. This book allows the reader to "jump on board" and experience what junior investment bankers do. The stories are great and the characters are unforgettable. This book is not just for men. Monkey Business is a great read for anyone who wants to understand banking and laugh while reading and learning. It is perfect for a plane trip or while on vacation. It is lots of fun.
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47 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
I don't normally write bad reviews, but felt compelled after I saw the gushing praise on this site, many from young people who say they were considering a career in investment banking but decided against it after reading this book.
Well, I am a senior investment banker in my tenth year at one of the bulge bracket firms - one of a group that the authors like to make fun of - and I feel compelled to say that this book gives a twisted, exaggerated, and very shallow view. This is not surprising given that the authors only stuck around for 2 years, hardly enough time to understand what investment banking is. Their inexperience shows in this pathetic attempt to emulate Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker.
Yes, investment banking is grueling much of the time, there are jerks above you, and the atmosphere can wear you down. But think about it: you could say the same about being a medical intern, and I don't see many interns trashing the medical profession.
The fact of the matter is, no company or organization is going to give you glamorous, intriguing work straight out of college or any graduate school. FRESH GRADUATES OF ANY DISCIPLINE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THIS. This is especially true of the professions (law, architecture, medicine, and I would include investment banking as a profession) where you have to pay a price early on to really master the in-depth knowledge and know-how that the profession demands.
I went through the same disillusioning process that these authors did. I went to law school, and during my summer internships at law firms I was given drudgery to do, which is why I decided to go into investment banking instead. But, alas, I realized the hard way that the life of a junior investment banker is equally painful. But unless you are a rock star or a star athlete, is anything at the junior level terribly exciting? No, all jobs will have their share of tedium, stupid politics, and exasperating colleagues, especially at the junior levels. Yes, investment banking has more of these pains than your regular corporate jobs, but you also get to learn more and make more money in the process.
That's not to say that investment banking is for everyone - you do have to sacrifice more in terms of personal life. Moreover, investment banks have dysfunctional management philosophies, where the managers' solution to most problems and dissatisfactions that bankers have with the organization is to throw more money at them.
If you want to learn how to be a leader and learn how great organizations are run, then stay away from investment banks and join GE or P&G instead. But if you like challenges, problem solving, understanding how businesses work (other than management) and, yes, making lots of money, then investment banking can be rewarding. But of course, if you stick with it for a year or two, you may think it is stupid too, though I think you learn quite a lot in those two years. And I bet that the authors of this book will admit, when they are alone and don't have to try to be so cute or glib, that it was a good learning experience.
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