If you find a senior investment banker sleeping rough on the streets of London, the chances are they’ve had a big fall from grace. Take Kevin Browne, the investment banker who started sleeping in a Croydon Park in 2012, having previously headed up his own boutique in New York and lived in plush districts of London.
Browne is an example of how it’s easy to slide from relative riches to poverty: “The crash comes and the deals dry up but the expenses don’t dry up, so you then put your own money in, and then you’re hoping that things will turn round, even though in your heart you can’t see any vague sign that they will,” he told BBC’s Panorama in 2012.
Michael Kemp, meanwhile, was formerly head of Credit Suisse’s FX business in Singapore returned to the UK with £20 in his pocket after his investments sank during the Asian property crash and needed to sleep in a homeless shelter, before accepting the lifeline of a one-bedroom council home for his family of four.
Amanda Stavely, the deal-maker who secured Barclays’ £3.5bn bailout from the Abu Dhabi government in 2008, spent a few nights wrapped in a Burberry coat in the doorway of a bank in the City of London. “I thought I must be the only person with a Burberry coat who doesn’t have a roof over my head,” she told the Evening Standard in February.
For most earning six-figure salaries in the financial sector, the prospect of sleeping rough is a distant one. However, for one night only Matthew Ponsonby, chief operating officer at Barclays investment bank, will be rolling his sleeping bag out in front of the London Stock Exchange – along with a host of other senior UK executives.
It’s a charity event in aid of Action for Children to raise awareness of young homeless people’s plight in the UK. Ponsonby will be doing this of his own volition and – bearing another late cold snap – in the decidedly more clement climate of the British spring time.
This is the first CEO Sleepout event arranged by Action for Children, but not the first time senior bankers have slept rough for charity. A Standard Chartered executive slept out in Old Spitalfields Market in order to raise money for homeless charity Centrepoint in 2009.