The Law Of Unexpected Consequences

The London Paper  –  28 Jan 2008

The ‘law of unexpected consequences’ is alive and well and currently thriving in the Square Mile. Recent stock market weakness should theoretically result in we stockbrokers working even harder in order to make our clients some money and to ensure that we don’t lose our jobs. In reality, quite a few sensible Cityboys are using it as an opportunity to review their career choice. I know I am…

All stockbrokers know full well that the commission we make is correlated to stock market performance. We also know that we can do little other than stare at our screens like a rabbit in the headlights when market dynamics are playing against us. When share prices start tanking this early in the year and the reasons for their decline seem so fundamental (e.g. a possible global recession) you can bet your bottom dollar that this year’s bonuses are going to be about as impressive as Jade Goody’s grasp of the English language. Our problem is exacerbated further by the fact that all our 2008 commission targets were set last month when the stock market’s prospects looked vaguely acceptable. Frankly, Brian Belo has a higher chance of being named ‘Brain of Britain’ than I have of hitting my preposterously demanding objectives.

Therefore, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that some of us are questioning whether it really is worth continuing to work 70+ hour weeks only to receive a bonus at the end of the year that would hardly cover her indoors’ Jimmy Choo habit.

Of course, the only people who are laughing are those lucky buggers with guaranteed bonuses. These comedians, who recently joined my firm and other banks across the City, are walking around the trading floor barely containing their joy, knowing that no matter what happens they’ll be giggling all the way to the bank come ‘b-day’ next year. They gather together in small groups causing bitter resentment as they look on with pity at the poor drones around them slaving away for what’s likely to be diddly squat. I think I may have even heard the group at my bank sing a little chorus of ‘no-one likes us and we don’t care’ the other day though that could have been a few bottles of lunchtime Sancerre playing havoc with my tiny brain (yes, my ‘dry January’ plan has, once again, failed).

I’m going to find out my bonus in lieu of 2007 tomorrow – it should be OK (I’ll keep you informed) … but it’s the one this time next year that seems destined to be a total joke e.g. perhaps no more than seven times the average Londoner’s annual salary. As far as I can see, losers like me who face potentially pony bonuses next year have got two possible choices: we can try to move bank and so secure ourselves a decent guaranteed bonus or we can dust off those long-held dreams of setting up that scuba diving school in Thailand. As the rain gets heavier I think I know which option is becoming ever more attractive …

Thoughts ?

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