Lunchtime Links: Old school lessons on how investment bankers should behave

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Now that bonus season is upon us, and the traditional lavish payments are likely to be replaced with miserly cash caps and onerous clawbacks, it’s worth reflecting on a time when the life of the investment banker was a more refined affair.

Financial News has looked at what life was like at the veritable City institution that was SG Warburg. It’s now ten years since the bank became a thing of the past, but a series of interviews with (now senior) bankers who started their career at the firm paint a picture of a more modest financial sector.

“There were no signs of excess: the building was shabby, there was lino on the floor, the lifts were slow. And you worked bloody hard. They always said that if you hadn’t met a girl before you joined you were unlikely to get married until you left,” said Mark Nicholls, who is now chairman of Rathbone Brothers.

While other investment banks employed butlers to discreetly deal with inebriated clients after a boozy lunch, alcohol was forbidden at Warburg, which espoused hard-nosed professionalism and “almost puritanical diligence”.

Any new recruits were expected to be worldly and well-read – and for some reason a large proportion of them were pianists – and the workforce was boasted a variety of nationalities and cultures. Despite this, the bank was ultimately “too British” to survive in the new global landscape.


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