In the future, children will sit down in history lessons and be taught about the dramatic global events of last year. 2011 will be regarded as the year when the globe exploded in a cacophony of famine, revolution and recession. As tents and banners appear in the centre of Nottingham, it is clear that the voices of protest and revolt have been blown on to our doorsteps.
The masses have turned on the world’s elite and those who have attracted the most blame are the bankers. Indeed, the current global recession has been called the fault of an unregulated and corrupt banking world and the Occupy Movement has manifested the frustrations of many with what they perceive to be an egregious system, perpetuated by the greed of ‘city boys’.
At the heart of this debacle is one man who shed light on the world of banking and the insidiousness and corruption of it all. Following his retirement as a utilities sector analyst, Geraint Anderson revealed all about the girls, drugs and debauchery of the banking industry in his whistle-blowing novel, City Boy.
Upon meeting him, there was a sense that his hedonistic lifestyle had not yet fully abated, as he greeted me with blurred eyes and in a largely dishevelled guise. But even with the effects of last night still on his breath, he did not express any guilt at his chosen career path or the lifestyle associated with it.
“I don’t believe in regrets… what it did was provide me with a lot of money in a short amount of time… I made a decision that I wanted to retire at thirty-five and still be young enough to have fun,” he explained. “It was kind of a pact with the devil, so to speak. I was supposed to just do it for five years, but after five years I was earning £300,000 a year and it was very hard to give that up. It was the boom times”.
Given his abundant retirement package and his lifestyle as a trader, it was difficult to see why he struggled to get out of the business. But he added: “When you start mentioning the money, the champagne, the cocaine, the strippers, the Michelin star meals and the expense accounts, to some extent I was saying this is terrible, don’t do what I’ve done but there is a part of me that says, ‘God I had a good f*cking time’”.
Throughout his book, we see the gradual progression from a self-professed leftish hippy to a young man who had helplessly fallen in love with the glitz, glamour and allure of the City. Given the attractive perks of the job, one can easily see how the world of banking can transform the most authentic of men. And yet he assured me, “I never saw a correlation in the City between how rich people were and how happy they were. Having said that, it’s always the people who have got a bit of money who say that money is not important”.
However, despite the warnings littered throughout City Boy, Anderson was still willing to give advice to students hoping to go into the banking industry: “If you can, you have to get yourself an internship in the summer; exploit any friends or family to get some unpaid work experience. When you send the application form off as well, just make sure you know what you are talking about, and you know the company you are going for, what it’s done and who the chief executives are. But it’s a really tough time to go into banking at the moment”.
Despite his criticisms of the City and the evils bankers impose upon the UK, there was still no question in his mind of the industry’s importance. “We are f*cked without the City. Say what you like about it; in 2007 alone, it gave us around £24 billion in corporation and income tax”.
His beliefs on the current economic crisis were also very much of the realist position. “Capitalism is quite resilient and there is a huge amount of people who have a massive self-interest in ensuring that it thrives and continues. I think we might have five bad years, but we will get out of it eventually”.
“The problem with the system is when the Berlin Wall came down; Thatcher and Regan influenced by Friedman were convinced that the market is God, and we started to deregulate and make the market more and more powerful with less and less control and scrutiny”, he explained. “It’s all well and good until you realise that there is a group of people who are greedy, ruthless and clever working the City who are not necessarily looking after society’s best interests. They are looking to make their own money”.
“I believe the credit crunch was caused by individual bankers who knew that this toxic debt would bring the house of cards down, but because of the bonus system they made so much money before it did, that they didn’t care,” he continued.
Throughout the interview, however, it was evident that Anderson attached blame to the system in general, rather than to those individuals who were at the centre of the crash. “It’s a natural element of capitalism with the way it is that the rich are getting richer. I do think that capitalism appeals to the most base of our urges to be materialistic and greedy arseholes. As 50 Cent said, ‘get rich or die trying’”.
He also suggested, “City boys were the people who helped propagate that. I get a bit worried about the younger generation, because you had religion, then you had left-wing idealism and now it does seem that accumulation of wealth is the basic agenda for much of the youth”.
This concept of accumulation of wealth by whatever means seems to be applicable to the University of Nottingham graduate, Kweku Adoboli, who cost UBS $2 billion in 2011 due to a series of ‘rogue’ trades. And Anderson concluded that: “City boys are not in it for the benefit of society. They are in it to make money. I used to see a lot of insider trading and a lot of spreading of false rumours. There are a lot of nasty people out there making money from other people’s suffering.”
We are now in a position where never before so much has been owned by so few. We have entered an epoch of hedge-funds, billionaires and the super-rich, while large parts of the world are still rife with recession, poverty and famine. It is evident that change and reform in the banking sector is well underway. Still, I can’t help but feel that our generation will be remembered for the recklessness of its city boys. Irrespective of those who label him a hypocrite, Geraint Anderson has played a big part in revealing the corruption of the banking world and brought home many uncomfortable truths about today’s society.