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Double decker bus and Bank station London Underground sign, City of London
Image: picture-alliance/Jane Legate/Robert Harding

London's ex-bankers

Stephen Beard / nh
November 5, 2012

London's banks have made many employees redundant. How are these former big swinging doyens of finance faring in the real world with its lower rates of pay? DW has followed the fortunes of three of the City's ex-bankers.


Pity the poor investment bankers! They are being laid off in their droves. Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and UBS have all launched big redundancy programs in recent weeks, thinning the ranks of a once pampered and massively overpaid breed.

But say what you like about them - investment bankers are usually fast on their feet. That's also true in a beginners' class at DanceBuzz, a dance school born out of the financial crisis. "One, two, three; one, two, three. Forward. Side. Together. Back. Side." Nataliya Grigorova is counting to the sounds of tango music.

She set up the school after she quit her banking job. She jumped before she was pushed, she says. "They were ringing people on the phone and telling them to go to the fifth floor. And they never returned from the fifth floor." Grigorova admits that setting up her school has been a struggle. She makes less money now. But at least she feels she's doing something socially useful - something, she laughs, that cannot be said about investment banking.

A city worker passes a Barclays bank branch in Canary Wharf, east London (photo: Olivia Harris / Reuters)
Investment bankers are heavily affected by job cuts in the CityImage: Reuters

Much more satisfying

More than 100,000 people have left London's financial centre since the crisis began - many of them bankers. Andy Moffat used to be a eurozone government bond trader. These days, he provides London with a different kind of liquidity.

"Every time we brew, we can make around 3,000 pints. Typically, we brew about four times a week, so we make about twelve to fifteen thousand pints a week," he says. 

In a small industrial unit in North London, Moffat has set up the "Redemption Micro-Brewery." so named, he says, because the enterprise is saving his life.

He wanted to run his own business to feel like he had control over his life. "It was about trying to get more of a balance about life, in doing something happy in life that gave us a real future."

Canary Wharf (Photo: EPA/ANDY RAIN +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++)
The City of London is undergoing major changesImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Moffat makes significantly less money now, but claims that he has a much more satisfying life as a brewer, by building a brand and making something real.

Ex-bankers like Anil Stocker deplore some of the products peddled by their old industry. "Synthetic products," says the 28 year-old. "Instruments that traders trade with each other that are so removed from daily business that they seem to serve no social function."

Stocker also jumped ship. With a couple of like-minded colleagues he set up a finance company - but a very small one. They are also making less money than they made as hotshot bankers. "A lot less", says Stocker, "less than half of what we earned when we were in investment banking."

"Worthwhile service"

But he is not complaining. Instead, Stocker set up a company called 'MarketInvoice' together with his friends. The company uses the internet to bring finance to small and medium-sized enterprises. Far from peddling complex and socially useless instruments, Stocker says, he now feels he's providing a worthwhile service.

"What we like about our company is that we help a business, we see them recruit people, and we see them deliver products overseas. And we can say we're really helping."

Logo of Swiss bank UBS (photo: Alessandro Della Bella/AP/dapd)
Swiss bank UBS will cut some 9,000 jobs by 2015 worldwideImage: dapd

Dancing, brewing, supporting small businesses - in financial terms, the former high flyers have come down to earth with a bit of a bump. They don't regret their former careers. They all say that high finance furnished them with invaluable experience. But now at least they don't have the social embarrassment of admitting they're bankers.

"Being an ex-banker makes me look good in people's eyes," says investment banker-come-tango instructor Nataliya Grigorova back at her school DanceBuzz. "I've left that terrible place that banking is." And that - many like her would argue - is a real bonus.

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