We're old, expensive and worn out. But once we were the future.
So, there's a last hurrah for bonuses - a rise of 15% to 20% expected this year to keep us bond traders and sales from defecting, while investment banking results are seemingly on the up. Good news, then - until the next round of technology gains makes us all obsolete, that is.
And let’s face it - a box with a machine whirring away inside it is a whole lot easier to manage than some whining salesman like me:
'Where have all the clients gone? Where are we going for lunch?'. Not to mention the pay, bonus, benefits, paid holidays, pension rights and the inevitable severance package.
City workers’ comp has fallen by 40% since the crisis of 2008/09. Banks are struggling with the lowest ever volatility, consistently low interest rates and a distinct lack of trading volume. We've given up praying for a crisis to create a few pieces of low hanging fruit - and some pressured decisions on the part of investors. It’s quite hard to get your teeth into anything tangible - and above all profitable.
Meanwhile the electronic competition steams on regardless. Market Axess, one of the most successful firms in the e-trading space, has seen its share price outperform the big four US firms by a factor of five since 2012. A guy I used to mentor was hired away there a few years ago. He was actually worried about leaving the 'real market' behind, and part of me felt the same way. Now he’s living the life - rolling around Europe, and all his clients see him as a partner, not as a potential thorn in the side like most bank sales people. That’s the future for the industry and it’s where the bonuses and goodies will be found - not at the over-regulated and non-profitable investment banks. Platform trading systems, though, are a young person’s game. No room in e-trading for old dinosaurs like me. Lunch anyone?
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