Tuesday, April 09, 2019

"Host of Memories", by Peter Lighte

This book by a former banking colleague was published in 2015, but I only recently became aware of it here.  His first short book of essays, Pieces of China, from 2009, was entertaining, informative, and offbeat.  This second book is a series of personal vignettes, from childhood through college and eventually to that banking career.  The sequencing of the varied stories is not exact, which simply means that it leads to interesting overlaps.  "Host of Memories", subtitled "Tales of Inevitable Happenstance", maintains the same qualities as his first, but has only a few sustained pieces that could be referred to as an article or an essay.  For the most part, what is written here could be called pieces of a puzzle that is eventually solved.

Much of the book revolves around a somewhat eccentric extended Jewish family from the Bronx.  That was interesting as it turns into a history of what was experienced in the boomer years by all, as seen from a very New York perspective.  Particularly of interest here was the years that Peter spent at the bank.  We joined Manufacturers Hanover within months of each other and overlapped in training programs.  It was an era of rapid bank growth in international business aspirations, and hiring of older recruits with that interest was not uncommon.  Peter was among several hires either with or working on PhD's in area studies that were hired.  My masters degree from the fortunately overrated Thunderbird landed me there at the age of 31, a few years younger than Peter and a few other of the PhD guys like Chris, Chip, others as well.

As "Host of Memories" develops there are mentions of people that were known, people that I worked with, or people much more senior.  An important aspect of this is that Peter had what at the time might have been called an alternative lifestyle that, while not hidden, was not exactly open in business circles.  Peter mentions the "formidable John McCarthy", a big guy who as a Senior Vice President ruled over my first division in the bank from a large corner office.  Outwardly stern, when he walked through the floor to his office everyone generally sat up straight and looked busy.  Taking a proposal into his office for approval was approached by most with trepidation.  My boss was intimidated by him.  That was 1982.  I took a proposal in without waiting for my boss and found an intelligent person who was completely encouraging, and approved my loan extension  McCarthy soon after move to a major position in the London office.  He was part of a group unknown to me at the time.

In the book most full names of bankers are not used, but it was fascinating to learn that one the most senior leaders of the overall bank was part of this group, a tall Brit with a unique sense of humor who was an excellent public speaker.  Other bankers are mentioned, straight or not, some that were borderline nitwits and others that were smart but freeloaders on the company's less than stellar cost controls at that time.  It was interesting reading, and how it would seem to those not familiar with the company at that time can't be known.

Following up on Peter now, I of course went to Google and found that he has a website.  There I was shocked and pleased to find that in a short section about his first book, a portion of my commentary about it here on eyesnotsold was quoted.  There was my name.  It made me remember that he knew Kathy as well from her international HR job, and when he became aware of our relationship he referred to her as "a good egg".  That was his type of language.

Peter retired from JPM a few years ago as Chairman of the bank in China, maybe some other title as well.  This was great reading here of course.  There are multiple reasons that others could find it of interest.


Post a Comment

<< Home