If you're a man who works in a bank and you're attending a company Christmas party, be careful. This is the most dangerous event in your whole calendar.
In the past, banks' Christmas parties were sometimes wild. I know, I was there. In recent years, though, things have changed. I can't speak for global markets, but if you work in an investment banking division, the Christmas party is when you need to watch your back.
Most senior bankers get this. They understand the need to be stone cold sober and 100% in control at the office party. They know the risks.
The really big risk is the women. In particular, it's the PAs. At the Christmas party, the PAs on the team like to get drunk and not all can take their drink. They also like to take photos of the managing directors. The MDs understand that these photos could embarrass them for a long while. This is THE TIME to be on the soft drinks.
Outfits are also an issue. We have had PAs who have dressed very provocatively and made the other women here uncomfortable. It was the guys, however, who raised it as an issue with the boss. They are the ones with the most to lose.
It's taken a while, but male staff in banks now understand that they will always be the losers in any harassment allegations. Irrespective of what happened, they will be thrown under a bus by both compliance and legal. It is therefore simply not worth being in any situation that might lead to a misunderstanding. If you are a senior male banker you need to play it incredibly safe. This is the time to make sure that your team has fun (and to pull everyone together before paying them a bonus that's lower than they hoped for), but it's also a time to keep a respectful distance.
While senior bankers understand this about the Christmas parties, they're less cognizant of the risks of client entertainment. This is becoming the real issue. It's possible to avoid alcohol at the company party. It's less possible when you're out with a client. Here, you need to perfect the art of being drunk but not too drunk; in many cases it is up to you to bring the drunk client back to the base. This is easy enough when you're a male banker with a male client, but it's a recipe for big problems when the sexes are mixed.
Philippe Ersatz is the pseudonym of a senior equity capital markets banker, now retired
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