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I’m a banker who voted leave and I’m being victimized

Banker who voted leave

This country has changed and so has sentiment in the City. That change doesn’t just apply to the future of London as a financial centre, but to the interaction between generations and nationalities in the office.

As a long time City professional (currently in my late-50s) working in a leading investment bank I am surrounded by many colleagues who are typically 20-30 years younger than I am. I am a so-called ‘Baby Boomer;’ many of my colleagues are members of the so-called ‘Millennial generation.’

When I confessed to being in the “out” camp before last week’s Brexit vote, those Millennial colleagues indulged me. I didn’t vote out for xenophobic reasons (although I do believe there are some real capacity issues with the infrastructure of this country) and nor did I vote out because I wanted the UK to trade with the “rest of the world” outside Europe. I vote out because I have long doubted the drive to increasing to political and fiscal union within the EU. In this context, I was skeptical about the UK’s real influence with other EU members. And I wanted change – and a leave vote seemed the only way of supporting this.

As the referendum approached, I shared my thoughts with my younger colleagues. I also expressed my feeling that prevailing social issues and widespread distrust in the establishment would, along with generational bias, made Brexit a real possibility.

Did they listen? No. I was smiled at and condescended to and considered to be misguided. In their eyes, the case for Remain was “strong and obvious.” That complacency was to bite back.

One week later, I’m very unhappy with my treatment at the hands of a good number of my fellow City workers. I’ve been accused of being “un-British,” and I’ve effectively been shunned. Many claim to be “so upset” that they won’t even talk about the result. Those that do speak are considering protesting and demanding another referendum because not enough of the younger generation voted!!! Is this how they want democracy to work? – Voting and re-voting until they get the answer they want?

Many of my colleagues seem to be experiencing something akin to a bereavement. By voting “selfishly based upon the past”, they feel that the, “older generation,” has stolen their birthright. Last week, they were all merrily complacent. This week they’re infused with a passion that was completely absent as the referendum approached. Like children, they’re stamping their feet and complaining about a toy which they previously took for granted being swapped for a different one. Yesterday, a colleague said, “The British do not discuss sex, religion or politics at the dinner table, so will you please refrain from discussing the Brexit vote with me.”

Maybe my younger co-workers should pay more attention to the wisdom that comes with experience? Instead of demanding another vote – or demanding that the older generation should be excluded from future referendums – consider that the older generation may have more perspective from which to judge a decision. Imagine the response if I suggested that anyone under 30 might not have sufficient experience to judge the outcome of their decision!

If you work in the City, you are living and working in a bubble within a bubble. The first is financial services, the second is London. You are an elite member of this society in terms of wages, wealth and opportunity. As such, you likely have a very gilded view of life. Now, believe me – the rest of the UK is very different, and if you live in London you are part of the UK.

My colleagues don’t seem to appreciate this. When I point out London’s exceptionalism, they simply shrug as if to say, “so what?” They might admit that they didn’t realize quite how disparate London is from the rest of the country, but they don’t want this to change. Instead, some of them are even suggesting that London seek “independence.” In this sense, they are simply looking out for themselves without even considering the interests of the nation as a whole – in other words, being as self-centered as those they accuse of voting against their interest.

I have been in the City for a long time, but today I am not proud of many colleagues. I have seen many ups and downs, good and bad behaviour, and whilst I’ve acknowledged the undesirable aspects of the City I’ve generally defended it and my fellow workers. Today, however, I feel distanced from my colleagues and uneasy in their presence. As someone with a ready opinion, I am having to hold my tongue when engaging with colleagues. This is not the brave and innovative world I want.

The UK needs change. I have no regrets about voting Brexit, but I do hope that the dust will settle soon and that the City will once again show itself at its best. Meanwhile, this younger generation of bankers needs to stop and take stock: don’t feed your critics by acting as petty minded, self interested, spoilt children of the Millennium.

Seamus James is the pseudonym of a senior finance professional who’s worked in infrastructure roles in the City since the late 1980s.

Comments (12)

Comments
  1. You generation, baby boomers, have done far more harm to the UK than the EU ever could. Baby boomers who happen to work in the City are the worst. Your generation has gorged itself on decades of City deregulation, exploited the many benefits of the EU single market in financial services, and enjoyed the most generous welfare system ever seen. What right do you have to remove these opportunities for the next generation while waltzing off into retirement?

  2. Although I am in my early 20s I feel similar to you. I am a funded PhD student at one of the best universities in the UK and I voted leave. I won’t discuss my reasoning in detail, but in short I have researched the pros and cons for both leaving and staying and after deliberation I made a decision to vote leave. Literally all of my colleagues voted to remain and for them it is completely incomprehensible how anyone could vote leave. The same can be said about the lecturers at my institution. The ironic thing is that some of the most educated people, the ones who are meant to be objective and neutral, do not even want to hear or consider any of the opposing arguments.

  3. He seems not to realise that the reason his colleagues don’t want to talk to him is that it would not be possible for them to resist berating him for his stupid decision, and they are trying to spare him that.
    I really don’t understand this writer’s reasoning. He calls his colleagues complacent for believing the case for remain “strong and obvious”, but is that case not stronger and more obvious now than ever before?!
    It was not complacent to consider him misguided, it was just plain, old right.
    Of course Leave voters will not admit their mistake. It’s hard to admit that something you’ve argued for 10, 20, 30 years is wrong. But it was wrong and he was too stupid to see it. Not wrong because the EU is great, or even that good, but because voting to Leave creates exactly the type of chaos we’re now seeing, and voting to Leave and then forcing the country out of the single market is economic suicide.

  4. They have as much right as the millennials – UK is a democracy. You could just as well argue that millennials didn’t care about staying in the EU, and last week’s referendum, simply because many did not vote.

  5. I just love those people who use exclamation marks.

  6. I’m a millennial, work in the City and embarrassed about the behaviour of my age group. I feel sorry for you Seamus, you should not be chastised for having the courage to voice your opinion.

    This arrogance and entitlement is damning of our generation. Given how many of us have degrees, it is shocking to see that on both sides of the argument we were so easily indoctrinated by the scare tactics.

    Yes we wanted to remain, but get a grip, move on and work to make this decision the right one!

  7. Your colleagues are correct. Your reason for voting out sounds weak. There’s one of you where I work, we all keep away from him too. Including the over 30’s!

    What_they_said Reply
     
  8. Those who are referring to democracy when defending the Leave result of the EU referendum need to realise that the campaign to leave was essentially based on lies and misguidance. Both Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have resigned since without any real culpability, or even remorse, about the uncertainty they have campaigned for. How have they campaigned? They have essentially exploited the fears of the working class by giving it a name: immigration. Then they bulked up their “recommendation” with lies and misinformation about over-ambitious predictions of how they will use the money that the UK will “save”. It is not democracy if you lie to the people who vote for your cause. It’s dishonest and shameful.

  9. Seamus: will you still be as vocal, when you meet younger colleagues who will have lost their job when their bank lose their EU passport ? I hope it doesn’t happen to you (or may be you feel you’re close to retirement and don’t mind).

  10. Seamus, sounds like you’re trying to justify yourself really hard, as you can’t bear the crude reality that you have been fooled by cunning politicians – like all the other Leave voters. It hurts to feel like that, but the sooner you face it, the quicker you’ll get over it. Perhaps the harder part is to recognise that the future is not going to be any rosier for those “poor excluded people outside of London” – and more importantly, that you were a decisive part of it.

  11. Many words in which you, like everyone who voted leave, fail to explain the facts supporting your vote. Leaving is a risky gamble where the factual downside is clear (recession and less tax revenues, uncertainty therefore less investments from abroad, increased costs of borrowing, downgrades).
    If someone has nothing to lose, fine, I understand, they have rolled the dice and hope for the best. But for everyone else?
    The politicians in this country are responsible for spreading a campaign of misinformation on Europe to cover what they have not done to help develop the poorer areas of this country. It is good to have someone else to blame for your own mistakes. After the out vote, the leave camp have found that they can still complain on how the EU is threatening them to take a hard like in negotiations, and they will play this game for years to shift the blame of what is to come again on the EU.
    Margaret Thatcher managed to reinvent this country and save it – temporarily – from an inevitable secular decline. Even she would have never voted leave in this referendum because she would have seen what today selfish politicians don’t and you, working in the City, should see as well: you are complacent if you take a big risk without the facts supporting an appropriately big return.

  12. I can be identified as a millennial, in finance as well, and EU citizen.
    It is a good initiative to share your opinion with this young generation. At least it gives them the opportunity to speak openly about their convictions, and let them know that some Brexiters can have good arguments.
    Unfortunately I don’t recognize myself belong this generation : they think they are so right they don’t even need to bother discussing about their arguments on Remain. They became totally intolerant and hysterical towards people who don’t have the opinion as them until denying democracy.
    Most them just shared tweets or videos on social medias about voters giving dumb arguments for choosing Leave. Yes that’s right, some of them voted for bad reasons. You always find a person voting for irrational reasons in a democracy.
    The Remain camp also had good arguments, but I had the impression none of them was taken by my age group for a proper debate. Most of their arguments were either soppy or silly, trying to explain you that EU is all about love and a Brexit would lead to a fascist state where you will never find again French wine in the supermarkets.
    As you said, 36% of the 18-24 went to the vote. Either it was crocodile tears or they thoughts were overrepresented in the medias.

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