Abigail with attitude: Bankers deliver a sombre, sobering soliloquy
Meanwhile morale at investment banks is low, particularly among the working classes. By which I mean middle management and below. I recently rang a London-based contact at a big bank. “How are things?” I enquired genially. “Dreadful,” sighed Mole. “The weather is overcast and grey, so are the markets and so are the faces I see on the trading floor. I’m fed up and I’m not sure things are going to change any time soon.” I found this sombre soliloquy sobering. Mid-level bankers are worn down. They have lived through the crash of 2008, the phoenix-like rise of 2009, the heady days of 2010 and yet they have lost their bearings. In their hearts, they are no longer sure that they are masters of the universe and that their job is the best job in the world. I attribute this despondency to a lack of trust in the industry’s senior figures. If you were a mid-level banker in 2008, it must have been shocking to see what a hash of it senior management made. Initially in denial, they droned on about sub-prime being contained. When this view proved to be wrong, they scurried around to sovereign wealth funds trying to offload overpriced bank shares in order to shore up their irresponsibly over-leveraged balance sheets. Then, when bank share prices continued to fall and began trading at levels more normally associated with options, senior managers panicked and tried to engineer ill-fated mergers among themselves. Finally, in late 2008, they gave up, accepted that the bureaucrats knew best and limply agreed to take taxpayers’ money. In essence, most bank chiefs were heroes from zero and the crisis stripped them of their fig leaf of credibility.