Bankers fear holidays could lead to redundancy

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Commonsense would have it that investment bankers will be spending more time on the beaches this year than during the last few years combined. With action hard to come by in equities and corporate finance, now would seem the perfect time to compensate for curtailment or cancellation of holidays past.

A straw poll in London would seem to confirm this reasoning: of 15 people telephoned, 12 were on holiday and 3 were admiring their suntans.

But the idea that holidays are longer this year than previously appears misguided.

&quotThere may be nothing going on, markets may be quiet, and everyone may want to take a long holiday, but no one's doing so because there's a whiff of layoffs in the air,&quot says a leading figure in equities in a US bank. &quotPeople want to be seen with their heads down rather than cavorting on a beach in the south of France.&quot

Andrew Pullman, head of HR for equities at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, confirms that concerns about job security can glue people to their desks: &quotWhen uncertainty strikes, people tend to cancel their holidays, or break them off. People don't want to be away from their offices in times of change, he says.&quot

There are exceptions however. Some at least appear to have found the time to take more than a week or two out. David Kidd, chief operating officer at Chiswell Associates, says that he has taken 5 weeks off this year.

&quotNot taking holiday was a 1980's phenomenon. We are moving into a caring sharing sort of era, and we encourage people to take their holiday, and in full,&quot says Kidd.

Even when jobs are being cut, there may be something to be said for flying in the face of uncertainty and taking a holiday anyway. &quotIt is sending out the wrong message to stay in the office simply out of fear of being laid off,&quot says Michael Moran of Meridian Consulting, an outplacement provider.

&quotIt is a question of confidence. Jobs are still out there for the best people, and going on holiday can be an indication that if the worst comes to the worst you are confident of finding employment elsewhere.&quot

Others are not so certain. Chris Kiddy of business psychologists Kiddy and Partners, says that staying in the office may be a good thing where bankers are concerned. &quotBecause investment banks are very geared to individual performance it makes it more important to be seen to be around.&quot