A Bank Employee, a Property Purchase and a Tragic Death

by Aktive Learning on March 3, 2014

By Property Soul (guest contributor)

On 18 February 2014, a 33-year-old employee of JPMorgan Chase jumped to his death from the rooftop of the company’s 30-storey office building in Hong Kong. This was the third suicide in three weeks for the financial institution.

In January, a 39-year-old Vice President of Corporate and Investment Banking Technology plunged to his death at the bank’s 33-storey London office. He joined the company since 2004.

Earlier this month, the body of a 37-year-old Executive Director of the Global Equities Group in the New York office was found in his suburban home. The Harvard graduate had been working in the company for the last 14 years.

The sad story of the victim

For the latest suicide, the victim studied in Canada and had been working in Hong Kong for a few years. In August 2011, he joined JPMorgan Chase and became an Associate in Asia Investment Banking Billing Liaison last year.

Friends told the media that he was a cheerful person but had been complaining lately about stress at work. His colleagues believed that he was informed about his retrenchment right before his suicide. He had bought a unit in a luxurious condominium just two years ago. He wouldn’t have imagined that his company would fire him when he was paying the mortgage on his single income.

Being employed by the biggest bank in the US may have given him a taste of career success. Joining the circle of well-paid bankers may have misled him into buying a home at an unaffordably high price at the peak of the property market. But he certainly doesn’t deserve to end his life at such a young age for this common mistake that many others make.

On the same day of his death, by coincidence, CNN Money published an article titled “Making 6 figures on Wall Street, but life stinks”, highlighting the problems of young executives in investment banking – long working hours, a stressful environment, job uncertainty and a guilty conscience. This is a far cry from what we see in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, with the privileged few making big money, driving fast cars, dating sexy girls and taking drugs.

To what extent is the bank responsible?

With new technologies displacing manpower, JPMorgan Chase has announced its plans to cut 4,000 jobs in its consumer banking division. In addition, the plan to lay off 15,000 employees in the mortgage division has been brought forward earlier than scheduled. The bank now tops the list of the top ten job-cutting companies by trimming the most headcount in the US.

Streamlining its workforce seems inevitable with the Department of Justice asking the bank to pay $13 billion as the settlement over mortgage bond sales that went bad. It is also facing the breach of antitrust together with five other international banks and preparing to pay another astronomical sum for the penalty.

Ironically, JPMorgan Chase has just given its CEO a 74 percent raise or a whopping $20 million for his 2013 compensation. This phenomenon in the banking industry is best summarized in that CNN Money article: “Financial firms hold the power to write rules that disproportionately benefit a rich minority.”

That is why 46 percent of the world’s wealth is controlled by the richest one percent of the world’s population. That is what makes life so unfair.

The metaphor of snails

That evening I went for a walk in my neighborhood. A few children formed a circle around a big snail. At first they did an experiment to see how the snail would react after they touched it. Feeling threatened, it withdrew its whole body into its coiled shell. After a few rounds, they intensified the game by stamping and kicking it.

“Get out of your shell and run away silly,” cried one child.

“No, it can’t. It moves everywhere with that bulky thing on its back. Snails die with their shells.” Another child explained.

The rest continued their bullying game. The poor thing was unable to defend itself except hiding inside its shell which was close to being smashed.

I was taken by a sudden sadness. We need a roof over our head like snails need their shells. The moment we take up a housing mortgage we are carrying the financial burden on our back wherever we go, and no matter what happens.

We toil day and night, endure any hardship at work, accept our boss’ unreasonable demand, and do everything we can just to be able to keep that shell house on our back. But even if we compromise, we may still have to sacrifice at the end. Some of us simply can’t escape our fate when the time comes. All because the rules of this world are written by the ‘rich minority’ who ‘hold the power’.

The life of a snail is miserable. Given a choice, I would rather be a cicada. It may not own a shell, but at least it can shed off its skin at the most critical moment to survive any foreseeable crises or unforeseen circumstances. Above all, it has the freedom to fly wherever it wants.

What do you choose to be? A snail or a cicada?

By guest contributor Property Soul, a successful property investor and enthusiast who shares her experiences and knowledge on her blog. Posted courtesy of www.Propwise.sg, a Singapore property blog dedicated to helping you understand the real estate market and make better decisions. Click here to get your free Property Beginner’s and Buyer’s Guide.

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