Bankers winter

Posted on November 10, 2011


The slow motion train crash that is the Eurozone is happening before us.  Berlusconi is finally gone – but is he really gone?  Greece is trying to hold it together, while Germany holds out on measures which might pull them all out of a hole. The EU has dramatically reduced growth projections but was that news to anyone?

In the UK James Murdoch is answering questions again about the News of the World scandal.  Somehow it seems surreal.  Three months ago the scandal nearly brought the government down, but now it is a sideshow to the economic crisis – a crisis which is far more likely to bring down governments right across Europe.

And in the midst of all this bad news, London is still an exciting place.  The Christmas markets are not far off and marquees are going up for the winter ice-rinks.  People are still jolly: the pubs are full, the streets are crowded.  And amazingly, there are Italian and Spanish tourists everywhere.

I met with a friend a few nights ago.  She gave me an interesting insight into why, a place like Canary Wharf which is full of bankers boozing on in the evenings, is still buzzing.  Why isn’t the financial news putting a dent into the celebratory feel for these financial workers? My friend is working with a whole bunch of financial wonks and it’s given her a birdseye view into how the markets structures work.  She told me that so many of these bankers are still dining out on long-term deals they did years ago.  Deals which lock parties in to paying agreed annuities over 5, 10, 15, 20 years.  Firms and individuals are still living on the long tail of these deals.  In a sense the renewed crisis is yet to reach them. How irritating!

When ordinary workers are facing cuts to pensions, salaries that haven’t seen CPI increases in years, and steep rises in the cost of food and utilities, it is so deeply annoying that the people who have been so intimately involved in sending the economy down the tubes should be so inured from its impact.

Still, while those bankers are supping on their ill-gotten gains, we can at least be grateful for their input into the local hospitality economy.

Me?  I am going to enjoy the night-markets, the fire-works and all the wintry things that London does well, and hope that the train finds its brakes before it’s too late.