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Opinion

Abigail with attitude: Investment banking loses its sex appeal

"Your e-mail on all these once-upon-a-time masters of the universe, crammed into a first-class cabin, made me laugh. It’s like a rock band who are now a bit past their prime but still want to be loved."

A friend of mine is a successful banker. She is not happy at her current institution and went to discuss her career options with a senior banker who used to be her boss. The senior banker listened to her catalogue of woes: the under-investment in the business, the ubiquitous presence of fire-breathing regulators, and the shrivelling bonus pot – not to mention claw-backs and anorexic cash payments. The senior banker, an American Wasp, who had once worked for a top Wall Street firm, tilted his head to one side, peered at my friend from beneath bushy eyebrows and drawled: "It is true that the sex has gone out of the game." My friend was both amused and shocked that a seasoned professional could be so politically incorrect. Nevertheless, we both agreed that he had summarized the state of the financial services industry perfectly.

Banking is no longer a growth sector. Nor is it an aspirational sector anymore. Puffed-up parents do not purr: "My son is an investment banker at Goldman Sachs." A mole muttered: "The regulators are back in control, but not in a good way." Sometimes it’s hard for a financier to know the rules of the game.

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