During my last days on the trading floor, I'd pretty much lost the will to live

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I knew it was getting pretty boring sitting at the old desk twiddly my thumbs, but I never imagined that financial services would boast one of the highest levels of non-productivity in the land.

According to a survey undertaken by Healthiest Workplace, some 24.9 days of a banker's working year are spent not actually working at all. There are about 5 days of sickies - though bankers are not the worst offenders in that respect - but the other 18 days are spent doing nothing much at all: surfing the Internet, goggling out the window, idly chatting with colleagues about what you're going to do when they get made redundant, bitching about hopeless management, dealing with personal matters. These are all ways that bankers fill in the work day when it's a bit quiet. Oh, and I almost forgot - it's almost always quiet these days!

When I joined the financial markets in the 1980's, all business was conducted over the phone. So you had plenty of incoming calls. You were kept busy most of the time, including some hefty client lunches (remember them?). In fact, back then there was a degree of discipline in working client lists and fielding calls. Those days are gonzo, however, as so much traffic is done via email and chat boxes, the latter having conspired to kill any sense of meaningful client relationship.

We used to joke about the PCR (personal call ratio), daringly calculating the number of calls to girlfriends and mates, when we were meant to be cold calling or drumming up bond business. These days, it's all just one horrible electronic blur. And this leaves a lot of time to develop new business, and get motivated, doesn't it? Well not quite. As the survey shows, bankers are now presumably so depressed that they'd rather retreat to a world of day dreaming and time wasting than actually trying to alter their straightened circumstances. Certainly in my last days on the trading floor, I'd pretty much lost the will to live.

Anyway, with a non-productivity rate a clear 2 days higher than the public sector - that fabled land of nine to five, massive holidays and ladies with tea trolleys at 4 pm - it's perfectly obvious why banks are downsizing as fast as they can. Why do you need all these slackers and their fat salaries anyway? Machines can do most of the work just as effectively - without surfing the net and watching sporting highlights for half the working day. A mate who is a senior equity salesman tells me he has to get his sorry behind out of bed at 5.15am every morning to get to work for a 7am. meeting, only to have all dealing end by 10.30am. What's the point, he whines at me over a latte ? What's the point, indeed ?

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