Thursday, 15 October 2009

In defence of bankers

This blogsite likes to give the 'other guy' the chance to defend himself. In the 'court of public opinion', everyone is allowed a say. Yesterday, a beleaguered lawyer asked us to see his point of view in relation to the Guardian/Trafigura injunction. And it has to be said that his argument struck a chord with many. Today it appears that the backlash against bankers is growing after it was revealed that bonuses this year are going to be substantial. It is only right therefore to allow a senior investment banker to defend himself on this site. Again he has asked for his name and employer's name to be withheld.

"Once upon a time it seems like we were the good guys. The sun shone out of our proverbial butts. You people in 'Main Street' truly admired us, wanted to be among our number. You worshipped the Italian silk suits, the Porsches, the penthouse flats, the jet-setting lifestyles. Even when that comedian Oliver Stone created the heartless Gordon Gecko, with his 'greed is good' ethic, you lapped it up. You loved it, admit it.

Well, I can tell you, I worked hard to get where I am. I have two degrees, one from MIT and one from your beloved Oxford University. From my first day on the trading floor I was working all the hours God sent me. Up at half five in the morning, at work by seven, not home till nine or ten at night. And the in-between bit was a jungle, that's for sure. A screaming, frantic hell-hole of a jungle. This was the rat race ten times worse than any of you guys have ever seen it, I can tell you.

So we guys are generating the wealth in your City of London that pays most of your taxes, that allows London to become the second greatest city in the world. And suddenly you discover that this wealth is also having a knock-on effect on your property prices, making you richer as well. And you're thinking, let's not have just one house but two houses or three or five or ten. You can get rich that way. You too can drive Porsches, and wear the designer suits. And before you know it, bang! You guys living your sleepy suburban lives become millionaires. You feel that you have become one of us. You are actually one of us, discovering for yourselves that, hey, actually greed isn't all that bad.

And then it all falls apart. The credit crunch arrives. There is crisis, there is meltdown, there is ruin, the fear of a second Great Depression. And the government has to step in, has to prop up the financial system with your taxes, boo hoo! Why boo hoo? Because its also propping up that property bubble, that consumer bubble, that lifestyle bubble that you had come to know and love. It is propping the whole infrastructure of exchange that supported those bubbles.

So we guys, whom you so kindly propped up back then, are now starting to generate wealth again. We are generating the wealth that your Gordon Brown needs to get this country recapitalised. We are generating the money that is going to pay you guys, the taxpayers, back. And do you know why that is? It is because, yes, we have returned to our old ways. But this time it's different. We are not carting around the toxic waste they call credit derivatives, or CDOs. So you guys don't need to worry anymore. We are trading only safe stuff, making real, tangible profits.

But, and this is the big but. Your Gordon Brown must realise, probably does realise that incentivisation must continue if we are to achieve the profits that we are achieving. We still need the stimulus, the nourishment, the drug, if you like, that feeds our enthusiasm to make, make, make. So he, Gordon, must know, and this is what you should also know: That if we guys in the banks are going to pay back you guys, the taxpayer, and pay you back quick, what we need is quick results, quick profits, and most important, quick incentives. We need our bonuses, quick!

So bonuses are not just back, but they need to be back. Bonuses, incentives, the wealth they generate, they are the way that we can get this country back on its feet again. And maybe, just maybe, you will all one day be able to share in that wealth again, and make your fortunes, and just possibly have the chance to live like investment bankers, just as you've always wanted. Because, let's face it: We can all do shadenfreude from time to time. We can all hate the other guy who 'caused' the crisis, but in the end he is really just a scapegoat, your whipping boy. But when things turn round, when things pick up, when the wealth returns, you guys will all long to be stars once more. You guys will want to get rich.

And maybe then, those sad and sorry events of 2008 will seem a distant memory. Yes, a bad memory perhaps, but one that you, that we, that your politicians, that everyone around will have learnt from, so that when the next crisis comes along, as of course it will, we'll all be much, much wiser, and, most important of all, we'll know how to handle things better.

So remember, when you hear people ask you whether greed is good, or greed is bad, just think: Greed is the only thing that will get us out of this mess. And if you don't get that, then guys like me will simply up sticks and take our business to Switzerland."