LONDON, England - UK banks are reporting better-than-expected half-year profits. The pound is up strongly against the U.S. dollar. Stocks appear to have restarted the slow but sure summer bump up. So, why shouldn’t London’s financial sector be in a better mood?
Square Mile Magazine celebrated its 50th issue by throwing an annual big party for bankers on Wednesday night in the heart of the Financial District, known as the City.
“We do these parties to give something back to our readers,” Editor Martin Deeson told me as a jazz band set up. “Bankers have had a tough couple of years, more unpopular than journalists the past couple of years. We want to make them feel good about themselves.”
More than 2,000 were expected on the night; to play a big of poker, to look at the latest Jaguar cars, have two free drinks (before having to pay their own way) or even get their picture taken on a pricey bed between two lively lingerie models.
So, is it a good time to be seen having fun again? Why not? The financial sector is something like 12 percent of Britain’s GDP. This is not just rich bankers spending their bonuses. These include insurance, private equity, law firms, management consultants, accountancy firms and yes all us journalists who cover all this.
To be fair, the people invited to the party were having a good time but it was not a $100 a bottle champagne night.
“It's better to keep a low profile, but a lot of people realize we work really hard, but this new tax that takes away 50 percent of our bonuses hits us quite hard,” argued Michael Bergman, a lawyer at Mint Equities. “People here, they work hard, there is a high stress level, there is a high burn out level in the City and I don't see why people who stick with it shouldn't be well rewarded.”
I have to say the feeling from the thousand or so people there was cautious optimism about the economy, and I heard time and time again that the banks were hiring again. Still, it may be years before things "get back to normal."
Deeson said: "I think everyone knows that things have changed. It will be a long time before we go back to the boom time, massive bonuses, buying two Porsches, that kind of thing.”
Should it ever get back to those times again?
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