You're a 30-something banker working below a 50-something boss who has a long-established reputation as a god in his area of business. You want a promotion, but the seat above you is very clearly filled. What do you do?
This appears to have been the conundrum facing the subordinate of Tony Shiret, the so-called “godfather of retail", and a former managing director and head of retail research at Credit Suisse in London. In November 2011, Shiret was made redundant from Credit Suisse. The Times reports that part of his role was taken by a deputy who, 'according to emails was threatening to resign and had been offered a job at a German bank.'
The Times doesn't name Shiret's deputy, but the Evening Standard yesterday cited Shiret as saying that, “It is apparent that I was targeted for redundancy whilst my younger subordinate was given some form of assurance that he would progress in his career."
Shiret did not immediately respond to a request to comment for this article. Credit Suisse declined to comment. However, headhunters said securing an alternative job offer and then threatening to resign is still a great route to securing your position in the City.
"Providing that you add value to the business, the best way to get a quick promotion and a pay rise is to go back to your current boss with a counteroffer from another firm we worked on a deal recently where a guy got a 30% salary increase this way, it has happened for many years and is unlikely to stop," said Oliver Rolfe at search firm the Spartan Partnership.
Shiret is now suing Credit Suisse for ageism. His case is pinned on an email sent by one of his bosses in which it was suggested that Shiret should be offered early retirement.
The tribunal heard yesterday that a large proportion of the people made redundant at Credit Suisse in 2011 were aged 50 plus. 47 year old Chris Carpmael, who was formerly Shiret's boss and is now the CFO for EMEA at the Swiss Bank, told the court that employing a small number of 50 year olds is simply the "nature of the industry" in banking.
Ronnie Fox, an employment lawyer at City law firm Fox, told us that age discrimination in the financial services industry has become more covert since the UK outlawed ageism in 2006. "Banks used to be very upfront and would tell people they needed to make way for the younger generation," said Fox. "Now it's a more subtle - I saw a 50 year old man the other day who'd been asked to change his area of responsibility as part of a restructuring process. But basically the bank just wanted someone younger."
Fox said a lot of the ageism he sees in the City takes place when a new boss is appointed: "The new boss wants someone who is younger, more flexible and more compliant than the senior banker who's been there sometime."
A threatened resignation may be good way to secure your future if you have a few years' experience, but senior bankers are advised against trying it. Once you're too senior and too expensive, a threatened resignation will simply be seen as a way of getting rid of you cheaply, warned headhunters.
"Around 70% of the 30-somethings whom I come across get counteroffers when they threaten to resign," said Rolfe. "But when you're older, it's a much more risky business - if you want a counteroffer and you're very senior, you'll need to have strong internal support. I've seen senior people who've gone in expecting a counteroffer, only to be forced out."
After being made redundant from Credit Suisse Shiret went on to work at RBS, from which he was made redundant again when the bank closed its equities business in early 2012.