Christmas comes early for staff at JP Morgan

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At Deutsche Bank, bankers are also to have a whole day off to shop and they, too, will be exchanging personalised presents. Credit Suisse First Boston's staff below vice-president level will have an afternoon in which to peruse shops within half a day's radius of Canary Wharf.

Offerings from staff at Chase Manhattan, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter are to be avoided. Time off for shopping at these institutions is ruled out unless sanctified by forgiving departmental heads. 'Opportunities to shop are a bit restricted,' said one hard-pressed employee.

JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and CSFB's benevolence with staff time is part of a quest to create a desirable balance between work and life. 'We are merely formalising what was already practiced by open-minded managers in pockets of the firm,' said an HR director.

Iola Goulton, a consultant specialising in work life issues at the Hay Group, agrees that the extra time off is a good thing. 'It's impossible to go Christmas shopping in your lunch hour,' she said.

If shopping in person proves to be out of the question, there may be another solution. A growing number of investment bankers have access to personal valets, who can be engaged as present purchasers. 'We often help with Christmas shopping. You just have to tell us something about the person that we are buying for and we can buy the present for you,' said a spokesperson for valet company tenUK.

Otherwise, those working without leave until December 23 will have to brave the hoards to come away with whatever is left on the shelf. Bulk purchases of singing fish and robotic dogs, anyone?

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