Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 00:01 UK

City Diaries: 25 June

Man looking at a falling graph

This week our diarists reflect on the reality of working in the City during turbulent times and discuss the potential impact of tougher bank regulation.

These diaries are written by people who work in finance and have had a front row seat as their industry goes through the biggest changes in decades.

They give us regular insiders' updates on the mood in the City of London and the dramatic changes in the world of finance.


"Anthony" (not his real name) works for an investment bank in the City.

Cast from Personal Affairs
Anthony says life in the City is rather less glamorous than 'Personal Affairs' suggests

This City Diary is supposed to be an insider's view so before I go any further I cannot resist a few words on the BBC 3 new drama "Personal Affairs" which is set in a City investment bank. I can honestly say that it in no way, even remotely, reminds me of life in the City, except for those quick flashes between scenes of the Bank of England, the "Gherkin", the Royal Exchange and Leadenhall Market.

Before you all rush to apply for work in investment banks in the expectation that your beautiful PA will organise a helicopter to get you back from the South of France for a client meeting - please put it right out of your mind. It won't happen.

Instead, think of late nights in a cramped trading floor, with tight deadlines following one after another and a boss who does not suffer fools gladly, and then you will have a view of the City. And if you don't shape up there is no ceremony - you are out on the street. I know Personal Affairs is meant to be a satire, so enjoy it for what it is, but don't think it is what the City represents in any shape or form.

How tough should regulators get?

The world of financial regulation is drearier than Personal Affairs but unfortunately this is the concern of the moment. Exactly how tough the regulators should be is the big question. It is all very well increasing the banks' capital requirements but if you do too much you will stifle economic growth which will be bad for everybody.

The regulators in Europe, US and the UK are all just about singing from the same hymn sheet. The main areas of focus include making the banks hold more capital to absorb losses and more cash to avoid the possibility of another Northern Rock-style bank run. They want to see restrictions on the sale of loans off balance sheet which caused Lehman Brothers to fail and also restrictions on remuneration to stop those nasty bankers being paid too much.

On top of all this is a campaign to regulate more at an international level than before and have a go at Hedge Funds who are often and quite wrongly blamed for the mess we are in with their short selling of bank shares.

Bank of England
Just maybe the wisdom of the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is preferable to the young pretender the FSA

What does this mean? All of these areas of control will restrict banks growing. The knock on effect of this will be most keenly felt in mortgage markets where the likes of Northern Rock will not be able to fund the huge growth in their mortgage book which eventually was their downfall.

I can hear you say that we don't want another Northern Rock so that is a good thing but we also don't want property prices collapsing and businesses unable to get funding.

Getting the balance right is key so that the economic recovery is not stifled. The question is whether the FSA are up to the job. I must admit I felt some sympathy for Mervyn King when he raised the point at his recent Mansion House speech that the Bank needed more power. He said that without this the Bank could be likened to "a church whose congregation attends weddings and funerals but ignores the sermons in between".

The Bank warned about the banking crisis before it happened and was laughed at. The FSA did nothing. I also remember the days when the Bank in charge of supervision quietly and efficiently dealt with the collapse of Barings, Johnson Matthey and the various banks that were supported by the Bank of England "lifeboat" in the seventies.

Just maybe the wisdom of the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is preferable to the young pretender the FSA - who has yet to prove its worth.


"Laura" (not her real name) works for a commercial bank in London.

A wise man once said that there is nothing new in the world - a modern version of this is same rubbish different time. We may be a year into the financial disaster but nothing really seems to have changed.


It would be great if we could have some sort of financial messiah to pick us up and renew our passion for our profession but none seems to be on the horizon

Unfortunately, we have lost several colleagues along the way and trying to be in new business has been more akin to smacking your head against a wall but the revolution has never arrived.

Friends in private equity and law who have also gone through a bloodbath are also at an all time low. In times of crisis your fight mechanism keeps you going and keeps you together but now the adrenalin has subsided - mass depression is sinking in.

It would be great if we could have some sort of financial messiah to pick us up and renew our passion for our profession but none seems to be on the horizon.

What is the point of our jobs? What are we trying to do? Do we actually care anymore?

A midlife crisis normally occurs when you realise you are past middle age, and have suddenly aged - reflecting on all those things you could have done and normal involve a red sports car.

Currently there are several colleagues - and myself to a degree - going through a mid-Crunch crisis. What is holding us back from starting a commune or becoming a teacher?  The mortgage.

Looking into next year, the uncertainty over the regulatory and capital requirement future of the banking sector means that I don't think there will be much change in lending rates anytime soon.

We seem to be in a vicious holding pattern over our approach to the market and partly that's down to the regulators, partly down to the EU, and partly down to shareholder demands.

Double digit growth is not going to be returning soon.


"Mark" (not his real name) works for a stockbroker outside London.

Canary Wharf September 2008
It's the first time I have experienced such difficulties in my chosen profession. At times sleepless nights were common

It has been a turbulent time for anyone that has worked in financial services over the last year.

It's the first time I have experienced such difficulties in my chosen profession. At times sleepless nights were common. Six months ago it look liked I was heading down a dark tunnel - one with very little or no light at the end. I began to envy those that had pursued recession-proof jobs in medicine, teaching or police work.

I enjoy my job. My profession has afforded me a nice house, cars and holidays to exotic locations. I have met many people that have now become friends. But in the last six months I worried that I might not see out the recession with a roof still over my head.

A handful of colleagues left my office recently, all moving off to new careers. Some of their own choosing, others without a choice.

Losing your job can be a harrowing experience and with the economy in its current predicament, there is not always a ready supply of new jobs or careers. I recently met a former business contact who had been made redundant eight months ago. She had been fairly senior within her organisation but they had outsourced her function to cut costs. She ended up temping in a university admissions office to see her through. She has only now finally got herself back into the industry, although a level or two down from her previous position. She's strong-willed so she'll rise again. But it does knock your confidence when this happens.

I am not about to say my whole outlook on life has altered, but I have made small changes to my personal and professional life. I'm not quite keeping a diary of my spending but I have been a lot more prudent with my cash. Setanta was something I dropped quickly, as I watched it perhaps once a week. OK, £14 a month will not really pay my mortgage, but it was 'wasted' cash.

I'm also looking into getting more qualifications. A friend recently completed an NVQ in Business Administration. I have several professional qualifications, but a recruitment consultant friend pointed out he would prefer to pick someone with an NVQ as he actually knew what that was.  There is a fine line between being an expert in your field and employable outside of your chosen profession.

I don't think I have made the wrong decision being in financial services but maybe one day, I will leave it all behind.

Do you work in financial services? Have you had similar experiences? What is the mood like where you work? Send us your comments using the form below.

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