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Swimming with Sharks

Joris Luyendijk

A journey into the dark heart of haute finance and shows us why we have every reason to fear another crash.

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Joris Luyendijk, an investigative journalist, knew as much about banking as the average person: almost nothing. Bankers, he thought, were ruthless, competitive, bonus-obsessed sharks, irrelevant to his life. And then he was assigned to investigate the financial sector.

Joris immersed himself in the City for a few years, speaking to over 200 people – from the competitive investment bankers and elite hedge-fund managers to downtrodden back-office staff, reviled HR managers and those made redundant in the regular ‘culls’. Breaking the strictly imposed code of secrecy and silence, these insiders talked to Joris about what they actually do all day, how they see themselves and what makes them tick. They opened up about the toxic hiring and firing culture. They confessed to being overwhelmed by technological and mathematical opacity. They admitted that when Lehman Brothers went down in 2008 they hoarded food, put their money in gold and prepared to evacuate their children to the countryside. They agreed that nothing has changed since the crash.

Joris had a chilling realisation. What if the bankers themselves aren’t the real enemy? What if the truth about global finance is more sinister than that?

This is a gripping work of reportage about the time bomb at the heart of our society.

Critic Reviews

An exploration of the inner workings of banking that's both enormously entertaining and utterly terrifying. Proceeding in his fair-minded, unsensationalist way, Joris Luyendijk ends up showing how the financial system has evolved to offer all the wrong psychological rewards for all the worst behaviour - and how we may be teetering on the brink of a greater crisis than those we've already seen. It's not (mainly) that bankers are bad people. It's far scarier than that.

Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote
Critic Reviews

Joris Luyendijk dives deep into the most important social pocket in the world: among the elite financiers who nearly killed the world economy a few years ago - and who are right now carrying on as before in a system that's as shaky as ever. All this is described not with spleen, but with an attentive empathy - and the book is all the more terrifying for it.

Aditya Chakrabortty, Guardian
Critic Reviews

The most entertaining book on banking since Liar's Poker.

Simon Kuper, Financial Times

Joris Luyendijk was born in Amsterdam. He is a writer, journalist and author of Hello Everybody!: One Journalist’s Search for Truth in the Middle East.In 2011 Luyendijk was as ignorant of a ‘CDO’ or any other maddening financial acronym as you or I. The Guardian asked him to look at the world of finance from a beginner’s perspective and chart…

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