Being laid off is nothing to be ashamed of.
This interview is a follow-up from my first interview with a happy banker here. It is two months later and we met in the heart of the Square Mile.
"I may have been on a mental high when doing the first interview with you. Perhaps I already sensed what was coming – maybe the decision had been made already by top management and I had unconsciously picked up on it? Maybe I was mentally preparing myself when talking to you the way I did.
"Looking back I may have fallen victim to the self-serving idea that we control our fate; as long as you're good nothing bad can happen to you, and since nothing bad has happened to me, it must mean I am good and therefore safe; that sort of thing. In the same way military men tell themselves that they can't die because they don't make mistakes. But the best soldier can drive over a land mine.
"You know how some recently divorced people can only talk about their ex? That's how it is for some who get made redundant. But it's nothing to be ashamed of. There are two flavours here, either you get made redundant, or your role does. When it's the latter it means you didn't fail, it was just that they have restructured the business. In hindsight it makes sense. There were several people of my rank for a shrinking number of positions. The others had more experience.
"Of course many of us have seen Margin Call, the film. Some elements were similar, but in the film they were doing the meetings on the same floor as where the bankers were working. That is unusual, I'm told they prefer to hold the meetings very close to security – in case someone goes ballistic. That's usually on the first floor.
"It went just as I expected it would. My boss called me on my desk and something was up with his voice; if I could come down to the first floor. It felt like I was walking up to the firing squad.
"There, I found my boss, his boss, plus someone from human resources. They gave me the bad news right away, just like I knew they would, using the time-tested formula of "it's not you, it's us". And they were immensely practical; outlining the procedure in clear steps and that was it. I think I am proud of how I held myself together. Taking it on the chin, not getting emotional, maintaining a professional approach. In fact my boss said: "When my time comes I hope I'll have the presence of mind to take the news like you have."
"Then it was back to my desk to pick up my stuff. I happened to have a big bag on me that day, so I didn't need one of those cardboard boxes. And since I had sensed that this might happen I was already working with a skeleton set of personal items. Everything else was already at home.
"I understand why they blocked my phone from the moment the meeting with HR started, as well as my email. I might go nuts and call clients, send off a string of crazy emails to them, or to the CEO… All the client contracts are lying in the office, their files… I can see why someone is immediately cordoned off when made redundant; his presence can only be disruptive.
"One colleague hadn't heard yet and came up to me for some business-related issue. So, I actually had to tell him: "Look, I've just been made redundant." Then he asked me for help on something; effectively a handover chat. It was all clumsiness on his part of course.
"So I understand why the redundancy process is the way it is, but let me tell you, it really is not pleasant leaving like that, with a security officer looking over your shoulder, colleagues all awkward. The way colleagues were looking at me, I suddenly knew what it was like to be a leper. The security officer had to escort me out all the way as my security pass had been blocked, too.
"Outside I called my wife, telling her what happened and what this meant for us financially. Only then did I become emotional, when I felt the impact this would have on my family. I went back into the office a few days later, to help a few people out with outstanding stuff, and I could tell they had had a pep-talk about having been spared. I remember those, after earlier waves.
"I am no longer in touch with colleagues, socially. Going out we'd mainly talk about work, so what would be the point? Also, there's this mercenary quality to life in an investment bank and given how tough things have got in the industry people are careful about bonding; it can be over in a minute.
"All in all, I must say that the idea of the redundancy process as 'being marched out of the building and that's it', does not do justice to what happened to me. I got rather good severance pay, which in the UK goes untaxed for the first £30k. Also, I had just had my bonus so I wasn't one of those people laid off to increase the size of the bonus pool for those remaining. I was given a redeployment officer called a "talent retainer". That's a hope-inspiring name, and I know they are actually incentivised to find me another job at the firm.
'You could tell they were well-trained to deal with people in my position. They will call you to ask how you are doing, and: 'What are you going to do today?' They also gave me a desk in a special 'job centre' here in the City for laid-off bankers from across the sector, and a number of courses to help me find a new job.
"To be realistic, the bank is doing all of this for legal reasons; to minimise the chances of losing a possible lawsuit and having to pay a fortune in compensation. And clearly the bank knows where the pain threshold lies for people. They set severance pay just at the level where they know you won't take them to court.
"The City is hurting, no doubt about it. The difference with five years ago is huge; there are just so many people out of a job. In the job centre many are interviewing for jobs far below what they used to do. The over-40s, especially, are in a tough spot. The more senior you get the harder it is to find something. I know colleagues who've been home for eight months. It gets progressively harder to get back into the game if you let that happen.
"One time shortly after it happened I joined a couple of friends for a drink. I came from home wearing jeans and I felt such an outsider. They were all working in the City, and there I was, standing out. I realised I must continue wearing a suit, I must continue going to the job centre every day, and I must not project an image of someone who's out of the game.
"I haven't taken a single day off yet. Once I find my next job I am taking a nice vacation. I am looking forward so much to that moment; to tell my old colleagues about my new job, to know I'm back and then thoroughly enjoy myself on a well-deserved holiday. I am actually getting goosebumps talking about it.
"I genuinely hope I can get back into a mega bank. I remember when I first started there. Having to walk on your toes all the time because literally everyone is smart. The status is very attractive too. I'd literally run three times as fast to keep up.
"It isn't all great. There is very little scope to develop your personality in a mega bank. The atmosphere is very much we're here to make money. Don't distract me with anecdotes or jokes or small talk, just interact with me on business-related issues only. Yes, investment bankers can be a bit boring, or one-dimensional.
"So, here you have your laboratory experiment. I just got made redundant and I still do not think investment banking is a terrible environment. It's not for everyone, sure, but it's my natural state. Compare animals in the wild with pets. Research shows that the life of a wild animal is mostly suffering; stress and fear and pain. Yet do we believe pets to be happier? For me the buzz that comes with the pressure for survival is attractive. I'd rather be the wild animal than the pet."
• If you would like to comment on this interview, please visit the accompanying blogpost
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Torpe