TRANCHED: Banks capping bonuses will be evacuated faster than a plane on the Hudson River

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Like the melting of the snow, I was beginning to hope that there might be the first signs of a thaw in the credit crunch.

Why? Well, headhunters had begun to call me unprompted. They weren't exactly offering dream jobs, but unsolicited calls are a phenomenon I haven't experienced for nearly a year. This coincided with mutterings about a sudden quickening of pace and a resurrection of genuine hiring.

It turned out to be a false dawn. The surprise writedowns at Lloyds Banking Group following the takeover of HBOS, show that we are still well and truly stuck in the dark of the night.

In these dark hours, strange shapes are coalescing out of public ire. The word "bonus" seems to get journalists salivating and politicians of all political faiths preaching from pulpits about the immorality of financiers the world over. Bonus caps are lurking in the corner, feeding on the disdain.

Now, call it greed if you like, but bankers are - for the most part - highly mercenary individuals. Any bank that caps bonuses across the board is therefore going to be evacuated faster than the plane that fell into the Hudson River last month.

Critics of this argument validly point out that no one else is hiring so that these financial pariahs will be stuck sorting out their mess for the rest of their careers. WRONG - what will happen in reality is that the very good people who have a chance at coming up with intelligent and generally economically sound solutions to these banks problems will be plucked out of the door by a bank or hedge fund that understands the merits of the market economy.

The government dictated banks will slowly lose quality people and be left with those for whom clinging on is the only option. They will be joined by the weaker elements from other banks and the place will be staffed by an unmotivated and inept team that will eventually need rescuing all over again.

Keeping talent by incentivising them may be as politically popular as punching nuns, but it's the best solution there is.

In the meantime my day job (start-up risk consultancy) has proved far more interesting than expected. The financial spoils never quite materialise, but it definitely beats sitting in a moribund investment bank waiting for the government to cap you into oblivion.

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