Page last updated at 23:36 GMT, Sunday, 13 September 2009 00:36 UK

Downfall of the banking 'masters'

This week is the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers - one of the stalwarts of Wall Street. In our aftershock series we get the thoughts and impressions of two people who worked for the company and see how they have made new lives for themselves.

Alistair Roberts

I worked on the Asian equity sales desk and over the weekend it was fairly obvious that the institution was in serious dire straits.

Alistair Roberts
"We were going to be some form of sacrificial lamb"

On the Monday morning I woke up at two o'clock and looked at my Blackberry. I saw an e-mail outlining that the US entity was in chapter 11 and clearly the knock-on effect would be that Lehman Brothers was going to be bankrupt by midday.

I went into work at the normal time and the security guards were handing out leaflets saying the bank should not commit itself in any shape or form in any investment business.

The story began there really, and chaos and pandemonium followed.

There was tremendous shock and disbelief that such an immense institution could fail and that it was allowed to fail.

We believed the US government would organise some sort of rescue or some form of takeover.

There had been a lot of names mooted over the weekend, Barclays, Bank of America, the Korea Development bank - but nothing happened.

BBC AFTERSHOCK SEASON
The BBC reports on the first anniversary of the credit crunch across radio, TV, and online.
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You just didn't feel that [the US treasury secretary] wanted to save the organisation, that it was going to be some form of sacrificial lamb in the wider financial services sense.

Some people were extremely upset, some went out for long lunches, some didn't even come into the office.

I went on a long holiday to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong - to think about life.

I came across an opportunity in Vietnam - a start-up stock brokerage in Ho Chi Minh City. It is very enthusing to come in every day and make a change and watch a country evolve at the same time.

Ebele Okeke

I worked for Lehman Brothers for six years and in my last role I was responsible for marketing commodity derivatives to invest for clients across Europe.

The week before Lehman Brothers went down I was doing a road show in the Netherlands.

I thought that Lehman Brothers was too big to fail and on Monday morning I remember getting up and not even looking at the news.

Ebele Okeke
"The bank had actually been throwing people overboard for some time"

Going to work as normal, I got a text from a colleague saying: "Have you seen the news, it's over."

The day it actually happened was complete disbelief.

The week before I'd been talking to customers, advising them on transactions and even reassuring some customers that things might not be as bad as the media was reporting.

I remember packing my stuff into a cardboard box and actually going out from the back because they had the press outside and people just came up to you and asked: "So what's going on?"

There were a lot of rumours around, how funds had been transferred, and suddenly there seemed to be a division between Lehman Brothers Europe and our colleagues in the US.

It was only days later that we actually understood what was going on and how the firm was being snapped up in pieces.

That's when you saw the emotions coming out.

I remember seeing a few people in tears, I remember seeing interviews on television with secretaries and the support staff who worked at Lehman Brothers, talking about the failure of the bank, and that's when you understood that this is really going to affect people's livelihoods.

The end of Lehmans was swift but the bank had actually been throwing people overboard for some time in a desperate but failed attempt to stop itself sinking.

Although having a Nigerian background, I was born in the UK and worked in Lehman Brothers straight from university.

After the demise of Lehmans I spent some time in Dubai and relocated to Nigeria to set up a commodity derivatives business.

My attitude to capitalism has not changed. When I moved to Lagos I came across a lot of people who worked for US banks who had relocated back to Africa to help develop the market.

We are trying to bring up the African market to the level of the rest of the world.



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