“The City is full of fluff. Layoffs are long overdue - they’re all overpaid, and under-talented.” Harsh words echoed from a hard-hitting Lehman MD I dated several months back.
And despite his being furious with me for not sleeping with him (a fate I managed to narrowly avoid, but which most other unsuspecting girls didn’t) we kept running into each other at bars, parties, and through mutual banker-friends the City proliferates. Awkward, yes. But only for his ego.
So imagine my astonishment last Sunday when I saw him carrying a binder down King’s Road. It was full of CVs. Mr Influential, Mr Well-Connected, now ate his words. He had been fluffed out of his job. Of course, Lehman’s demise wasn’t his fault, as none of us could have predicted six months ago that such a City fixture like Lehman could vanish like a ghost. What astonished me was his motivation. At 43, should he not give it a rest?
By all accounts, this guy’s made it. I had seen his ridiculous £2m Chelsea pad, ridden in his Ferrari. Hell, I had even seen his Chateau on the Riviera. “I’m broke,” he mumbled to me. Yeah, sure you are. “Why don’t you just go sell one of your houses or something?” I injected a dose of much-needed common sense. Even in his 'broke' state, he had more worldly possessions than 99% of us could ever imagine.
But I could see through his panicked eyes: retirement was not an option. In his head, six months back, he was worth £50 million. His stock options had bubbled over the years to a tidy sum that inspired fantasies of vacations, cars and women. Today, those same stock options were worthless.
And for this Big City Player, without kids, without a wife, money was the only wealth he had. He was married to his job. Weeknights were spent with 'friends' (bank clients), weekends with 'family' (bank co-workers), and as I scrutinized my 'broke' acquaintance, my shock intensified: his money, houses and cars would never fill the emptiness of his Leh-vorce.
True wealth really is relative. Sometimes when I see my overdraft dip deeper and deeper, I starve in self-pity. But when I ran into this City Hitter last week, it killed my materialistic dreams for the first time. It was the last lesson I’d ever expected to learn working in the City: money can’t make you happy.
I felt so bad for this millionaire that he actually managed to convince ME to buy HIM a drink.
Perhaps this salesman’s City career wasn’t over after all.