Morning Coffee: Do you need to booze to get ahead in banking?

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Banking boozing

When it comes to substance abuse in investment banking, alcohol is the least of your worries. Bankers are more prone than most to fall into alcoholism, but some also abuse cocaine, Adderall, benzodiazepines, legal highs and stimulants that allow them to work such extreme long hours.

Nonetheless, alcohol is a problem. A now oft-cited 2012 study by Alexandra Michel, which looked into investment banking working practices over 13 years, suggests that a lot of alcoholics in banking. Some have even pinned an unusual amount of erectile dysfunction in the City of London on too much alcohol.

Aside from extremes, whether you’re in London, Wall Street or Hong Kong, both social and networking events in investment banking tend to be ‘well-oiled’. But is boozing directly correlated to career progression, and what happens if you’re a tee-totaller?

A ‘sober analyst’ has asked Lucy Kellaway this very question in the FT. Aside from her sage advice on the fact that no one really cares about whether you drink at these social occasions any more, some of the more interesting insights come in the comments from fellow dry finance professionals.

Some accept that drinking is part of networking, others suggest that supping soft drinks implies you have a drinking problem, while some insist the need to imbibe until you stumble on to a train home is a London thing – something the banking analyst who left the ‘party town’ of Hong Kong may disagree with. But there’s also an interest insight from someone pertaining to be a senior investment banker.

“I stopped drinking alcohol 28 years ago. Reason: It gives me headaches, even after having very small quantities; plus I was an investment banker rising at 4:30 a.m., for a daily 6 a.m. morning meeting, in our time zone. Result of choosing not to drink alcohol: This quickly became totally unimportant to clients and friends. I absolutely still attended the firm, client and other social events. Sparkling water and soft drinks simply became my choice. I was chosen as CEO, and later Chairman, of our firm. Anyway, this should not be an important issue at most companies.”


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