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Pity the poor bankers — or not

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Investment bankers seem like an endangered species, hunted to the brink of extinction, culled in ever-increasing numbers. 

Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, UBS and Credit Suisse have all launched big layoff programs in recent weeks,  thinning the ranks of this once-pampered and richly paid breed. London’s  financial center has shed more than 100,000 workers since  2008 — many of them bankers.

But these former  big swinging doyens of finance are proving a resilient bunch; they are adapting fast to their new environment with its lower rates of pay. And they do not seem to miss their previous occupations. Far from it.

Take, former eurozone government bond trader Andy Moffat. He now runs a microbrewery in north London called Redemption. He chose the name because he believes the business is saving his soul.

“I wanted to run my own business,” says Moffat, “and feel like I had control over my life. In financial markets, you are often at the mercy of events beyond your control.” He makes less money now but finds brewing far more satisfying than banking and much more secure.

Nataliya Grigorova feels the same about her new business, a dance school called Dancebuzz. When she was an emerging market specialist with a major investment bank, Grigorova says, the mood became desperate as the bank began to lay off staff.

“They were ringing people on the phone and telling them to go to the fifth floor,” she recalls. “And they never returned from the fifth floor. So this is how it was happening. It’s not one of the best feelings in the world.” Grigorova jumped before she was pushed.

Anil Stocker is another investment banker who jumped ship and set up his own business. Marketinvoice provides finance to small and medium-sized enterprises. Stocker believes he is now providing a useful service and he is not so sure that was always the case in his former career.

“Often investment banks seem to peddle synthetic products,” Stocker says. “You know, instruments that traders trade with each other that are so removed from daily business that they seem to serve no social function.”

Although he earns much less than half what he made as a hotshot banker, Stocker isn’t complaining. “What we like about our  company is that we help a business, we see them recruit people, we see them deliver products overseas.  And we can say we’re really helping.”

Stocker, Moffat and Grigorova all say they gained valuable experience in their former careers. But they no longer have the social embarassment of admitting they’re bankers.

“Now I’m an ex-banker,” says Grigorova. “That makes me look good in people’s eyes. I’ve left that terrible place that banking is.” And that, she argues, is a real bonus.

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