Crunch Time for Soul-Searching

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When bankers got together they used to talk money, cars and houses. Nowadays, they talk about 'What If' they lost their jobs. Or is it more a matter of 'What When'?

When the number of people losing their jobs goes into the hundreds of thousands, it is not surprising that people in your immediate circle of friends, if not yourself, become affected.

Recently I was taking stock of how my friends fared, and concluded that almost two-thirds of my banking acquaintances had lost their jobs. Given that bad news and disastrous results in banking come out more often now than bad results for Tottenham Hotspurs, it is understandable that my fellow bankers, those who still have jobs, are nervous.

At recent birthday drinks with a finance friend in Canary Wharf, unsurprisingly, the No. 1 topic was the employment situation, the likelihood of more redundancies, and how people perceive the threat of themselves being in the firing line.

And since nobody - not even the boldest optimists - consider themselves safe, a lot of thought is spent on what to do when the pink slip finds its way to you.

After a quick poll, it's clear that very few of my friends are in banking because they love it. It has been an industry that paid over the odds in the past, and therefore attracted bright individuals by the mere fact that salaries were so much higher than anywhere outside of banking.

It is obvious that the banking world is becoming smaller and it will not accommodate as many as it used to. For all of us who never have done anything but, it yields the question of what else there is to do. And unfortunately, retirement is not an option since most of us joined the industry too late to have reaped in the big bucks.

Interestingly enough, I recently met a former banker who has set up a recruitment agency placing former bankers into other industries. Her USP was: "What do you really want to do?" Her argument was that if you ignore your bonus, other industries don't pay that badly in comparison.

If banking has never been one's passion and the absence of bonuses means that the pay gap is narrowing, that suddenly sounds like a decent proposition.

And with bonus season upon us, I suspect the soul searching will continue.