COMMENT: The art of entertaining uncouth clients from the buy-side

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When you work in a bank there is one acronym that you will come across all the time: KYC, Know Your Client.

To the uninitiated this means making sure that your client isn't laundering money or running an insider trading shop. To the initiated, it means knowing where to entertain them. - Buy-side clients are incredibly demanding. They can also be some of the most uncivilised specimens of humanity on the planet. 

The fundamental problem is that buy-side clients - who generally think far too highly of themselves, have unreasonably elevated expectations about their nights out. They typically expect to be taken to top restaurants and to be lavished with food and wine, especially if they've been in this industry a while and have become used to such treatment. However, lavish entertainment no longer fits in a world where most banks have substantially reduced their entertainment budgets.

When you're a poor sellsider trying to keep a pack of buy-side types happy, this expectational mismatch can cost you dearly. There have been several occasions when I've had to subsidise a night out from own pocket at a cost of several hundred pounds per night.

I have learned from this. Before I go anywhere with clients, I now gauge which category they fall into: uncouth and uncivilised, or couth and civilised. The manner in which I entertain them will depend upon where they fall.  

Couth and civilised clients will not try to maximise their personal gain on our night out, irrespective of the cost to me. These are clients who understand that they can't order the most expensive things in a restaurant, who won't choose the most expensive wines, and who won't expect to move onto a club once the meal is over.

By comparison, uncivilised clients wll always go for the most expensive steak on the menu and the most costly bottle of wine. This is because they are brutes and only understand monetary value as a measure of taste. 

When you are entertaining an uncivilised client, therefore, you need to keep them well away from anything too expensive. Ideally you need to order for them. You also need to talk to the waiter before you arrive and to ensure that only the set menu is made available. - These clients absolutely must not have access to specials or to the a la carte selection. 

The following are the restaurants where I entertain my civilised, temperate clients:

● Nobu - This is a quintessential London restaurant, part-owned by Robert De Niro. Only to be used for clients who truly appreciate good food.

● Zuma - Similar to Nobu, but more trendy. You will probably want to go to the bar (it's the place to be seen), which means that the wrong type of client can lead to a costly night. Ensure you arrive only shortly before your table is ready and avoid the expensive cocktails. Staple tuna and salmon sushi are actually quite reasonable. Avoid the expensive fatty tuna and caviar.

● Amaya - I’m not a fan of Indian fusion, but Amaya is impressive. This is a good place for an early dinner when your clients live around Belgravia.

Hakkasan - This is similar to Nobu and Zuma, but you absolutely need to make sure that you’re the one ordering here.

These are the eateries I frequent with clients in the uncivilised category:

● Goodmans - Go straight for the steaks, order sides for everyone to share and some wine. My less civilised clients find this place very impressive, mostly because of the old school Wall Street trading vibe and the fact that they think they're Michael Douglas.

● Hawksmoor - Here, I will usually inform waiters not to talk about the specials menu. The uncouth clients must absolutely avoid the Wagyus and the special cuts from the U.S.; if so much as one person orders these my budget for the entire night will be blown.

● Le Relais De Venise - This has a Parisian-atmosphere which my less couth clients love because it makes them feel European.  There is only one thing on the menu, steak with sauce and fries. This gives the clients an excuse to eat chips. Relais De Venise isn't the place for vegetarians, but uncouth clients are usually carnivores anywyay.

● A local curry house (with a visit to a pub before and after) - Initially this may not make your clients feel special, but it is almost always a success.  This can be a fun night out with lots of beer, chicken masala, kormas, kebabs and more beer. Just make sure they don't vomit on your shoes. 

Toby Wilcox is a pseudonym 

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