TRANCHED: Bankers are not to blame

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It's all over. The end of the once-great investment banking industry came last week. The two remaining giants, Goldman and Morgan Stanley, were forced to accept a change of status; and Merrill and Lehman respectively merged with rivals and went bust.

The speed with which the landscape has altered has been jaw dropping. Emerging from the rubble is a universal banking world. And even at these early stages, the foundations of the next meltdown seem to have been laid.

The cycle goes something like this: initially, the conservative deposit-taking bank sets out to serve its customer base with investment banking products; the profitability of this activity drives up profits; as the market recovers, the most profitable universal banks set a benchmark for returns in the industry; higher and higher levels of risk are adopted in the race to get to the top of the pile; the bubble bursts and assets are written down, at which point investment banking arms are either closed or hived off.

As anyone who's read the papers or watched the likes of Panorama this week will know, bankers have few friends. Vilified by politicians, the press and the public., talk is all of reforming the City's greedy ways, capping bonuses and generally reigning in the excess.

However, the City doesn't act in a vacuum, it is the place where financial risk is crystallised, but that risk is derived from a wide diversity of sources. Joe Bloggs in the street who takes out a mortgage on a house is a financial speculator taking a leveraged position on the property market. That ability to leverage has been approved by politicians, to allow the population at large to enjoy the benefits of home ownership.

The use of taxpayers' money to shore up these institutions attracts enormous criticism, but the reality is that the capitalist economies and the City/Wall Street are highly connected. This connection is opportunity and greed and is common to both the man in the street and City bankers.

Against this tumultuous backdrop, the search for a new career continues in earnest. I have all but given up on headhunters as they're swamped with CVs. Instead, I've widened my network and a number of new leads have already begun to appear.

The main problem right now is timing. I need to find a long-term role, but I also need a stop gap opportunity in the short term. And I don't want to sacrifice short-term stability for the long-term aim of reinvigorating my career. Friends have found themselves battling this same challenge and have even resorted to giving time for free to potential employers in order to get back into the business.

Reinvention requires sacrifice and imagination, and both are required of those of us on the outside looking in.

CDO Joe is a structured products specialist who lost his job 19 weeks ago.

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