Life and times of an average banker

Life and times of an average banker
For the past two to three years we have heard nothing but how the bankers have nearly ruined the world, how rich bankers are and of course the rabid rantings from Brown, Prescott, the rest of the Labour lefties and of course the very Biased Broadcasting Company.
I am not trying to make excuses or say that the banks did not play a major part in the financial woes of the world, nor will I say that a few (very few) are grossly overpaid, but no more so than the top people in other Limited companies and PLC’s; though most of their earnings are based on bonus payments, they bring in the dosh they receive a percentage the same as any other salesman, just bigger numbers.
I started my career in banking with the London Trustee Savings Bank in 1969, straight from school and no qualifications higher than “O” level. At the time banking was for the intelligent (yes even me) failures, those that were not up to university but better than mundane factory work; luckily the TSB had lower standards than the big banks them days. The big banks being Westminster, Barclays, Martins, Midland, National Provincial and Lloyds (I might have missed one).

After a short time, about 2 months, I was transferred from local office to Cheapside in the City, as it turned out Cheapside was for the bad boys who were misbehaving as it was sink or swim there. I would mention here that my first take home wage was £32 per month from which I had to find nearly £10 for a season ticket and pay my mother £12; so hardly the life of the rich.

After a few years I was offered a bank flat providing I moved to Ashford Kent, with rent in London upwards of £30 per week for one room then and the large bank flat at a price of £16.67 per month including rates, water and phone it was a no brainer, we moved.
A couple of years later we purchased a house and I decided that if I wanted decent money rather than the £990 per annum that I was getting I had to leave TSB and move into international banking in London.
By using some contacts I knew I blagged my way into a senior position with American Express Bank (not card or travel) and up went the money. Leaving home at 6am every day and returning by 10pm every night became rather tiring so after 2 years I moved closer to London to the same area I live now, this cut an hour off the travel each way and reduced the cost to a third.
Leaving Amex I joined a Japanese bank as customer operations manager. Here my experience of the UK market and banking knowledge proved very valuable and I enjoyed the work. This was until around 1986 when the banks changed their attitude to staff and customers.
The big change was up until now as I said at the start banks were staffed by ordinary honest people who wanted to help people and do a good job, but from across the water (America) came new ideas. To work in a bank you should have a degree, without one you would never be able to do the work (what add up and take away and be polite?).
The new breed joined and before long they were followed by lawyers and accountants who had failed in law and decided that banking was good as it involved lots of paper and boxes to tick. After them came HR and they were given power over all things to do with banking, next came IT and we now had IT people telling bankers how to run a bank. Somehow all this made no sense, but as my money had risen quite a lot due to these people I wasn’t going to complain.
Then the whizz kids arrived, scientists, chemists and head in the clouds people with no social skills, but they could turn and twist numbers to their hearts content and us poor simple bankers had no idea what was going on.

The deals spoke of large profits in 10 years’ time on a deal and the accountants where climaxing on the amazing results, then I a poor simple banker asked what if the deal goes sour between now and ten years time? Surely the profit does not exist until maturity. I was told in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t understand as I did not have a degree. Somehow to my mind a deal gets profit at maturity, or when money changes hands not at some ethereal point in the future, to cap it all the guys that were doing the deal demanded their bonus now today and then they buggered off to another bank before the shit hit the fan. Does this sound like a scam? It did to me.
With all these whizz kids in the market became very complicated and very cut throat, they were all just after as much money as they could make, they were followed by hordes of HR people and compliance people all with accountancy or legal backgrounds but no banking. If any of us real bankers opened our mouths they tried to shut us up by saying “You wouldn’t understand”. In fact we all understood only too well, that they were dealing in dreams tomorrow and built their dreams on sand today, but they were earning in excess of £500k per annum all in bonuses on paper profit, not hard cash.
Don’t misunderstand me if I did a straight deal and made the bank £1 million I expected a share of the profit as would any sales person, but my profit came in hard cash at the end of the deal unless the rate was front loaded. But these new people that are now running the banks work on dreams and figures that are authenticated by accountants who just look at numbers.
As the market began running away the big banks employed people like Fred the Shred, a great guy at cutting costs but he was not a banker, he was an accountant and all he could see was cut costs and sell sell sell.
The same people advised the likes of Woolworths and hospitals to sell their greatest asset their property, by doing so you will increase profits this year, your share price goes up and you are worth billions. However you have to lease back the same property at a fair rent for 5 years, then the screw turns and up goes the rent but you will be making even more by then. Except a recession came and profits dropped but rent went up Woolworths is history. Wait until the hospitals leases are up in a year or two, any savings will be wiped out and we will be up to our necks in debt.
It was around this time I realised I couldn’t stand the dishonesty and lies coming into banking and the back stabbing over trivial things so in 1995 I walked out and forced them to pay me loads of money to go quietly, (I had something on the bank that could have cost them dearly).
Just to finish up the average banker in your High Street is on a salary of around £22k if lucky they may get a car to visit clients, the more senior guys will be up to 35k. It is only the elite at the top that are on big bucks and they are few in numbers, the dealers are on commission so yes if they make a profit then they take a big slice, but if they make a loss they are shown the door pronto.
I started saying average, I think I was well above average, and yes I was paid very well, but that is because I worked hard to get there and worked long hours without overtime.

Author: ricksrant

I am perfect, well I think so and I am never wrong so it must be true.

20 thoughts on “Life and times of an average banker”

  1. Hi Rick, I had an uncle who reached the very pinnacle of banking after a career in the 60s,70s 80s and early 90s. He was knighted for his work, essentially he invented the Eurobond market and chaired the Takeover Panel, and had you stayed long enough at one of your banks would have been one of your directors. He had your attitude to banking and despite his impressive career, made less money in 30 years than Fred the Shred made in one year. In his autobiography published in about 1998, he recalls the moment when at the end of his working life he calculated that he had paid £1 million in tax. That was for his entire career which included chairmanship and directorship of several major industrial corporations. There are many bankers today with a fraction of his ability who pay that much in tax every year. I actually know, slightly, one of Fred the Shred’s sidekicks. Nice chap, but with nothing like the intellectual ability nor the integrity of my uncle, but several times the income.

    You should read the current issue of Fortune Magazine. It has a great piece on Pfizer and the management struggles. A lawyer moves to MacDonalds on to Boston Chicken on to become CEO of the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world. He screws up big time but walks away with many millions.

  2. It seems to me that all of industry and politics is being run by the wrong people. Let’s face it accountants= boring, lawyers= dishonest, HR= slime balls. yet somehow they are all in charge now.

    Sipu I would’ve liked to meet your uncle sounds on my wave length

    the loonies are out there an ion control.

  3. Akshully, success in management (ie, getting to the top) has always been about being able to ‘run the company machine’ (admin flair) and making the best decisions for the company (judgement). Of course HR nerds go on about team instincts but usually the alpha males get to the top despite the efforts of team members! The reason accountants become general managers is that they often fulfil my two criteria for success and are good at spotting the meanings in the numbers. Generalisations like “It seems to me that all of industry and politics is being run by the wrong people. Let’s face it accountants= boring, lawyers= dishonest, HR= slime balls. yet somehow they are all in charge now” no doubt express your feelings but are as inaccurate as most generalisations.

  4. There is a saying in the software industry: “Accountants are like Lisp programmers. They know the value of everything and the worth of nothing!”

  5. Interesting Rick, it was pretty obvious from the other side too. It went from managers that were totally reasonable to marionettes that seriously didn’t want to lend commercial money to single divorced women.
    They pissed me off so much I ended up always trading in credit. Irritating because one could never expand etc but retrospectively a Godsend!
    At least I kept the proverbial shirt on my back and the roof over my head.
    Presumably I didn’t fit the profile they wanted, didn’t fit in the box, so, no box!

  6. Janus yes they are in charge now and look at the state of the banks and industry in general. These people just look at money and not the real result.

    A few years ago Dell had to cut costs so the accountants worked out that by outsourcing their sales staff to India they could save loads of money. Sure enough the result did show an enormous saving on costs. However sales dropped by a far greater figure because people did not want to talk to Roger in India and listen to him prattle on about football and East Enders before taking an order.

  7. Rick – Oh, how true and how sad! Same for me as a former commodity trader where ‘My word is my bond’ morphed in the late ’80s into ‘Screw the loser’. I guess Society’s current values and lack of decency have contaminated the most honourable of professions.

    OZ

  8. I’m surprised at your implication that the current ‘greed’ and ‘immorality’ of the financial sector is a recent phenomenon. As far as I know, they have been conspicuous ever since the Wall Street Crash or maybe the South Sea Bubble. Are you not suffering from the ‘fings-aint-wot-they-used-to-be’ syndrome?

  9. Janus no I don’t think so. There has always been problems in all industries. But since we gave in to accountants, lawyers and HR they have got a lot worse and quicker.

    The same goes for the police, once staffed by everyday people who waded in and stopped crime, now by academics who sit back and evaluate and pontificate, then do risk assessments etc. by then the crooks have legged it.

  10. Thank you for your frank biography, Rick. Banking has gone horribly wrong since TSB days. We need to get back to trustee savings-type banks.

    Enough of that for now. I’m off to the Edinburgh Festival.

  11. I like this post. It paints a warts an all picture of the industry while debunking the myth. I think we all fall prey to stereotypes as far as other people’s jobs are concerned.

  12. julietee :

    Enough of that for now. I’m off to the Edinburgh Festival.

    Hi JulieT.

    Enjoy. It’s chucking it down again today but we are promised better weather soon.

    This a looks like the busiest yet in terms of tourist levels.

    If you’re going to the Book Festival to meet our mutual close personal friend Sandy McCall Smith again, be warned that it is a quagmire. They’e got the duckboards down but the rumour is that they have already lost a few literati in the Slough of Despond round Albert’s statue.

    Rick, my thanks for your post as well. My Uncle Frank was a banker of the old school like yourself and must be spinning in his grave at what the present lot get up to.

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