Most firms cancelled their plans to celebrate Christmas in 2008, as they found that cash was in short supply. The year ended with huge asset writedowns, big losses, and largescale layoffs.
Things are a lot different, of course, this year. There's money's a-plenty now to pay for staff parties, but most firms are sensibly cancelling Christmas again this year, as they don't want to be seen celebrating their good fortune at a time when many on Main Street, already angry that firms have benefited by the bail-out of the financial system, are still experiencing hard times themselves.
One banker told Here Is The City: 'Most of the general public think that it's Christmas every day for the people who work in our industry anyway. We need to be in tune with the public mood more than ever this year. It's not the right time for boozy bankers to be blowing big bonuses on wine, women and song. There's needs to be some humility this year, given the economic climate. And most firms have picked up on this'.
The majority of firms will not be having largescale corporate Christmas parties this year, and some will even prohibit their staff from doing their own thing in small groups. Where 'team' parties do take place, however, they will mostly be funded by the employees themselves, who will be under strict orders to keep things under control and to avoid excessive behaviour. Our industry has had enough bad headlines this year, and no firm want to be the one that makes the news this Christmas for staff behaving badly. This year, probably more than ever before, employees will be under the microscope at Christmas.
Given all this, it's strange that, according to The Daily Telegraph, senior executives over at bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland has apparently applied for a licence for alcohol to be served from 7am each day, and to hold Karaoke events, on all storeys of the firm's Bishopsgate offices over the Christmas period. The bank is either preparing the mother of all Christmas celebrations (which may include entertaining clients), or it's all part of CEO Stephen Hester's cunning plan to return the firm to profitability by finding alternative sources of revenue! One wag told Here Is The City, however: 'Oh, it's just RBS singing for its supper (again)!'.
And Commerzbank is said to be having a 'Glam Rocks' Christmas Party in London on 7th December. Bearing in mind that the firm saved a mint on Dresdner Kleinwort bonuses this year, I guess we'll forgive them that.