I'd like to wish all our readers the best for 2009 - even though we all know that next year is shaping up to be the most horibillus annus of them all! But let's leave it at that.
Here Is The City's august publisher has asked me for my impressions of 2008 - highs and lows, you know the thing. So here goes:
1. Personal investments.
Absolute nightmare. Whether you were in blue chip stocks like Lloyds TSB or Bank of America, or AIM listed start-ups, you got hosed on anything this year. Even trading colleagues who were spread betting on the FTSE mostly lost their shirt. The safest place for your capital this year was under the mattress.
2. UK Tax.
Yaaaay! It's going up to 45%. Isn't that nice ? Whenever Gordon Brown talks about 'hard working families' I just know he is not referring to the likes of us. No, people in the City are there to pay for the mess they helped to create. A cruel kharma.
3. Clients going bust.
It's a tough world to be a financial market professional - especially when your best clients close down, can't fund themselves or get caught in the leverage trap (or all three!). You miss the chit-chat, the golf days, the lunches, and the deals (but mostly the golf-days).
4. Firms going bust, or needing to be rescued.
Lehman, Bear, WaMu, AIG, Merrill, Wachovia - the list goes on and on. It makes you think if it's your place next!
5. Obama getting elected.
An almost spiritual experience. It has to be one of life's great ironies, however, that this inspirational man should have inherited the biggest mess ever. Can he do anything about it? Yes he can! (But then again....)
6. Madoff and all the other hedge funds that lost money.
Personally I think they all stink. They don't play by the rules - because there are none. I hope their days and numbers are numbered.
7. Friends and colleagues getting fired.
The emotional roller-coaster of the job market. What strikes you now is that there is a certain finality about it all. Vast lines of businesses are now defunct, and will never come back.
8. The demise of the structured markets.
That's good news (at least in my opinion). I never once felt comfortable with all that nonsense, where everyone ends up believing their own hype and a 'principal guarantee' from a bank such as Lehman isn't worth the paper it's written on. Structurers came up with sub-prime and the CDO markets too - the straws that broke the camel's back.
9. The end of investment banking as a profession.
Who can say that they have the same pride or sense of career in our industry any more ? Our world is clearly peopled by get-rich-quick merchants, and they have left us all with a terrible legacy. Would I recommend it my kids ? Never.
10. The end of the bonus culture.
Only time will tell how relatively poorly investment professionals will be paid out at future year-ends. But doubtless semi- state employees will not be the kings of lucre they once were.
11. People being nicer.
Well, there is certainly less silly talk about property values, expensive ski trips and safaris. And people appear to be less arrogant. Enjoy it while you can - it won't last!
12. A new career plan.
After a lot of thought, I've decided I have enough money and vocational feelings to become a French prep school master. I like kids. I like long holidays. And I am not frightened at all at the thought of earning $40,000 per annum. Trouble is, I can't speak French! Then again, a lack of knowledge never stopped me doing well in an investment bank.
Yo ho ho!
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