Investment bank research is seldom right, but in 2005 and 2006 Citigroup issued two now notorious reports, which they have since tried to "disappear", although you can find them online if you look hard enough. In them, author Ajay Kapur posited that the rich were about to take over the world, and gave recommendations to readers on how to invest this theme in order to become rich themselves. The irony was not lost on me.
Here’s the rub though: according to Kapur, the ways the rich Plutocrats spend their cash actually help reinvigorate economies. You could argue that this is a case of “turkeys not voting for Christmas” - why would a bank put its name on a report which trashes the super-wealthy? And yet maybe there's some truth in the idea: in my experience the super (or comparatively) wealthy are an important source of liquidity for those around them.
Well. There is the sibling whose first mortgage deposit I paid. The uncle who came to me, white as a sheet, wondering if his pension had been wiped out in 2008 (it hadn’t, but he had and has no clue about the financial sector, so I was the only person he could turn to for advice). The friend from university who, after bravely actually deciding to work for an engineering firm as opposed to getting a City job like the rest of us on the same course, asked me shyly to spot him some cash for his honeymoon.
Needless to say, bankers are vilified among the population at large. As the fuss about Stephen Hester’s paltry (for a CEO) bonus shows, a thick skin is a prerequisite to working in the financial sector these days. It’s nothing personal – print media is in long-term decline and has to do what it can to sell copy, and TV channels are just as ruthless.
However, I find it much harder to take criticism from my closest mates and my own family members. Especially when, not so long ago, they came to me, the “rich banker”, (there’s one in every family you know) cap in hand for cash. Frankly, it smacks of hypocrisy. The honeymoon subsidised-friend felt emboldened to play a game of one-upmanship, pointing out: “We engineers don’t earn half as much as you guys in finance, but at least we have social lives to speak of”.
It seems that they’ve all become so brainwashed by the media that they are starting to turn against me. I’m not alone; at a recent reunion of graduate joiners at the bank I joined out of university, I heard the same story, across the board.
Young people working in the City are earning far more than their parents ever earned and are even repaying their parents’ debts. Torn with guilt, we are aware that this is the opposite to our peers in other industries, who are borrowing more and more money from their baby-boomer parents for mortgage deposits etc. We are not the norm, and we are painfully aware of it. However, we work hard and mostly compensate for this by being good and generous people.
So, can someone call off the lynch mob of villagers with their pitch forks please?
The author work in asset management and is based in London.