Novelist, entrepreneur, hedge funder and chief investment officer.


Andreas Clenow | Dec. 17, 2021, 10:49 a.m.

The Style of A Most Private Bank

My new book may very well provide you with much more valuable understanding of finance than any of my previous three. At least for those willing to pay attention, to read between the lines and to absorb what's being explained to you.

A Most Private Bank is a work of fiction. At the same time, it is very much true. The story takes place in the financial center of Zurich, Switzerland and it plays out over a single week. This world is one that I know well, perhaps too well. It follows characters and personalities that I know equally well. 

As outlandish as the story and setting may seem to outsiders, it is nothing of the kind to me. Not to anyone who has lived and breathed this world. There are some really brilliant books written about the financial world, about the hidden subcultures and the kind of individuals it produces. Among the very best are of course Bonfire of the Vanities, American Psycho and Buy Side. Sure, those are three very different types of books by very different type of authors, but all three tell important tales of what high finance does to people.

Aspiring to reach the levels of literary quality of Tom Wolfe and Bret Easton Ellis would be like aspiring to outrun Bolt. There's ambition and there's irrational arrogance. Ellis was a teenager when he wrote Less than Zero, and I find that both impressive and depressing at the same time.  I find that most people in finance have read American Psycho, but for some reason they missed out on Less than Zero. If you enjoyed his later book, go pick up his first. It's brilliant, even thought it made me realize that I could never achieve was this guy did as a teenager.

Both Wolfe and Ellis formed part of my inspiration for writing a novel, but I didn't want to come to close to their style. In terms of style, I found inspiration in quite a different genre of books, which I hope shines through on the cover design. I'm a big fan of the classic hard boiled detective stories and in particular Hammett and Chandler

What I wanted to accomplish, was to tell important stories about the financial industry, about the secretive world of hidden money, but also to do it in a stylized fashion. I wanted to create my own take on the Hard Boiled genre, a modern take that pays homage to the old masters. As a literary genre, I was drawn to this very unique style. 

Each genre has its own rules. Many rules are shared across multiple genres, such as the character arcs and the hero's journey. What appealed to me, and my dislike of conformity, was that most of these rules simply do not apply to the hard boiled genre.

Traditionally this genre has an actual detective in the lead. But I figured that there's nothing stopping me from having a jaded finance guy being forced to take on the role of a detective.