Joris Luyendijk

Author, Swimming with Sharks

A journey into the world and culture of banking and finance

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Biography

Joris Luyendijk is a regular contributor to the Guardian. After half a decade in the Middle East as a correspondent, he was brought by the Guardian to London to investigate the culture of the city. Breaking the code of silence dominating the city, he found over 200 bankers and banking staff ready to talk freely about all the taboo subjects — the first investigation of the city of its kind.

The resulting book was a sensation in his native Netherlands, selling over three hundred thousand copies in under a year while the English edition of Swimming with Sharks met with high praise from, among others, the Financial Times. Translations are due for fifteen more countries, including China, Japan, the United States and France.

He is a writer who is unafraid to spend years researching a topic, for instance, by learning Arabic in order to study youth culture among poor Egyptian students in Cairo. An anthropologist by training, he is widely praised for his ability to render complex subjects accessible to a wide audience without dumbing down, and to bring his irreverent humour to even the most controversial and complex issues.

Lately his focus has been on morality and finance, the culture in big banks, the political response to the financial crash of 2008 and the danger for regulators, academics and journalists of being 'captured' by the industry they are assigned to. However he has retained a keen interest in the Middle East and Islam, particularly their representation in Western mass media — the subject of an earlier book.

Having worked in journalism himself for almost twenty years and building on the sociological law that 'perceptions are real in their consequences' he has written extensively on how media shape our understanding of the world we live in. This applies to the Middle East and Islam as much as to the world of finance or the EU — another area of interest.

Joris was invited to give evidence to the parliamentary committee on banking standards set up after the Libor scandal. Other forums he has appeared include:
OECD (Paris, France)
Kilkenomics (Kilkenny, Ireland)
The European Parliament (Brussels, Belgium)

Apart from his work for the Guardian, he has published in The Observer, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Welt, Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung and a wide range of Dutch and Flemish newspapers and magazines. He has extensive television experience and has appeared on MSNBC, BBC, Al-Mustaqbal and a wide range of national broadcasters across Europe.

Blunt and mischievous as only the Dutch can be, thorough yet with a light touch and forever open to the possibility that he is wrong — these are the hallmarks of Joris' writing and speaking. Bringing a unique anthropological approach to his subjects he offers insights and analyses that are as unusual as they are enlightening.

Books

Swimming With Sharks

My Journey into the World of the Bankers

Joris Luyendijk

AN EVENING STANDARD BOOK OF THE YEAR 2015

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.

Guardian Faber Publishing; Main edition (17 Sept. 2015)

Review

'Swimming with Sharks'Financial Times
The Jaws of Finance — International Monetary Fund

Hello Everybody!

One Journalist's Search for Truth in the Middle East

Joris Luyendijk

In Hello Everybody! a bestseller in his native Holland, Joris Luyendijk tells the story of his five years as a reporter in the Middle East. Young and inexperienced but fluent in Arabic, he speaks to stone throwers and soldiers, taxi drivers and professors, victims and aggressors chronicling first-hand experiences of dictatorship, occupation and war. But the more he witnesses, the less he understands and he becomes increasingly aware of the yawning gap between what he sees on the ground and what is later reported in the media. As a correspondent he is privy to the multitude of narratives with conflicting implications, yet again and again the media favours those stories that will confirm and reinforce the oversimplified beliefs of the West. Hello Everybody! is a story of disillusionment and enlightenment, by turns hilarious and despairing, but most importantly it is a powerful wake up call to the way the media gives us a filtered and manipulated version of reality in the Middle East.

Profile Books (27 May 2010)

People Like Us

Misrepresenting the Middle East

Joris Luyendijk

In People Like Us, which became a bestseller in Holland, Joris Luyendijk tells the story of his five years as a correspondent in the Middle East. Extremely young for a correspondent but fluent in Arabic, he spoke with stone throwers and terrorists, taxi drivers and professors, victims and aggressors, and all of their families. He chronicles first-hand experiences of dictatorship, occupation, terror, and war. His stories cast light on a number of major crises, from the Iraq War to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with less-reported issues such as underage orphan trash-collectors in Cairo.

The more he witnessed, the less he understood, and he became increasingly aware of the yawning gap between what he saw on the ground and what was later reported in the media. As a correspondent, he was privy to a multitude of narratives with conflicting implications, and he saw over and over again that the media favored the stories that would be sure to confirm the popularly held, oversimplified beliefs of westerners. In People Like Us, Luyendijk deploys powerful examples, leavened with humor, to demonstrate the ways in which the media gives us a filtered, altered, and manipulated image of reality in the Middle East.

Shoemaker & Hoard; Original edition (15 Oct. 2009)

Review

People Like UsFinancial Times

Praise

In his commanding debut, Dutch journalist Luyendijk describes the curious five years he spent as a correspondent in the Middle East, stationed out of Cairo. Sent traipsing around the Middle East, Luyendijk struggles to find newsworthy (and trustworthy) stories, usually involving bribery and less-than-honest people. Luyendijk also delivers example after example of oppression and brainwashing techniques used by dictatorships on their citizens, which comes through clearly in his conversations with ordinary people like cab drivers, as well as with high-profile public figures. Sent to the Middle East not for his journalism skills but for his ability to speak Arabic, Luyendijk had to learn on the job, an all-too-literal trial by fire. He takes advantage of his outsider position to break down the myths of war journalism and the very real limitations reporters face outside the Western bubble of free speech. The author also weighs in on 9/11 and Saddam Hussein's regime, making this an eye-opening account with special relevance for American readers.
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Topics

Joris tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

An outsider's perspective on the world of finance

Few sectors in society are more important than finance, and few are as badly understood. A complete outsider himself, Joris immersed himself in the world of banking, interviewing over 200 bankers and banking staff in the City of London, Europe's financial center. The good news is that bankers are not evil. But there is also bad news...

Morality in the Corporate World

After the diesel emissions scandal, the Panama Papers and the series of scandals to hit the global financial sector, the issue of ethics has made a long deserved come-back. Joris has interviewed no less than 200 bankers and banking staff on morality in finance: why do some organizations lose their moral compass? Is it enough to obey the rules? Is it possible to go beyond in today's corporate environment? Why does society make such conflicting demands of banks, insisting on profits on the one hand but blaming bankers for acting on incentives on the other - even when bankers stay within the law?

Making Sense of Islam

Having studied Arabic and Islamic studies, Joris lived in the Middle East for six years. Drawing on his own experiences he seeks to answer the question that has been on everyone's mind for the past fifteen years at least: how to make sense of the world' fastest growing religion: Islam. Is this a religion of peace, a religion of war, or is the truth far more interesting than that?

The Media

Can we still trust the news media? Having worked as correspondent in the Middle East for five years, Joris talks about his own lively and sometimes life threatening experiences around dictators, stone throwers, occupiers and terrorists to explain why there is such a gap between reality as you find it on the ground, and the way reality is represented in the mass media. The problem in today's media is not just fake-news. Far more important yet hardly discussed in accessible form is the need to use of frames to render the world comprehensible. These frames are, however, inevitably biased, skewed and very easy to manipulate by parties on the ground.

Innovation in Journalism

For well over a decade now Joris has been at the forefront of innovation in journalism. He is the author of the renowned Guardian Bankingblog where banking insiders conducted a two year long online conversation with other insiders as well as ordinary readers. Joris believes strongly in the power of information and the natural thirst for knowledge among most ordinary people. What Joris does not believe is that classical news media do a good job in meeting that demand for insight rather than just facts. He has very clear ideas on where to go next and loves to share them.

Populism

The 2016 word of the year was 'post-truth politics'. Arguing that the populists and the liberal elites have far more in common than either likes to admit, Joris has been doing a lot of work on populists and all the good reasons people vote for them. He has also done a lot of work on the very good reasons never to vote for them. Currently Joris is conducting an online experiment in the Netherlands to bring populist voters in conversation with people from the so-called 'liberal bubble'. Joris' book about the experiment is due out across Europe in the Spring of 2017.

Videos

Populism and the Fate of the West | RSA

A panel discussion featuring Bill Emmott, Edward Luce and Joris Luyendijk

Swimming with Sharks | Bonnier GRID

Share your learning curve | TEDx Amsterdam 2011