Sometimes I used to wonder why I hadn't joined a bank when I left university. Then I might have become rich. Maybe now I'd have a superyacht and be giving parties like Philip Green. But I never thought this for long; I'm far too lazy. Imagine if I'd ended up at Goldman Sachs, for example. "The people who are going to be successful at Goldman are the folks that are willing to sacrifice just all," one Goldman banker told the Daily Mail's William Cohan. "All. Everything. To the greater glory."
He's not exaggerating. First there's the Orwellian process you go through to get a job, with former CIA operatives and private investigators all over your background even if you meet the other requirements. "They turn your life inside out," said one employee. "They look into every aspect of your life."
And who apart from someone obsessed with money could put up with the hours of work? "Cars collect senior executives at 5.30am, in time to hit the gym and be at their desks by 7.30am," says Cohan. "Breaks are unheard of. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are taken at desks."
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And that's when you reach the top. Brokers routinely work past midnight, families are neglected, four hours sleep is regarded as excessive. "You worked 110 hours a week," said one banker. "This life is Nuts, nuts, nuts," said another. Working all weekend was and is nothing unusual. In what The Sunday Times has described as the best cash-making machine capitalism ever produced, all that mattered was the firm.
Anthony Scaramucci, a former employee, describes how on one Friday, at the start of a Memorial Day holiday weekend, 40 new investment bankers were told to report to a conference room at Goldman's New York HQ at 5pm. Once there, they were kept waiting for five hours. Then, a partner appeared and gave the new recruits a piece of paper to sign. "Today's lesson," he said, "is about waiting patiently for those who are more important than you. Some day, you may be in the lobby of a billionaire, and he or she may make you wait. Your job as a representative of Goldman Sachs is to sit there."
That wouldn't suit me. It's not surprising, in such an atmosphere, that clients are called "muppets" and that sales meetings are "about how we can make the most possible money off of them". The only surprising thing about Greg Smith's outburst in The New York Times last week is why it took him so long to catch on (£3m a year, perhaps).
It's years since Rolling Stone magazine likened Goldman to "a vampire squid wrapped round the face of humanity". Muppets or not, I see no sign of Goldman's clients queuing up to leave so they must believe that money is being made for them, too, not just for Lloyd Blankfein a banker, as he once told us, "doing God's work" and his cohorts.
Still, I'm grateful for Greg Smith's tirade about the "toxic and destructive" environment that persuaded him to quit Goldman's after 12 years. It reminded me why I rarely regret not becoming a banker.
Tabloid money bonfire of the quangos failed to ignite
"Oh, no it's drought time again," says Rod Liddle in The Sun. "The water companies are threatening fines of up to a thousand quid for anyone seen secretly watering their petunias with a hosepipe It's getting so bad that the rich are going to have to fill their swimming pools with Evian
"Well, listen. I'm probably their [the water companies'] perfect citizen in that I only drink alcohol and never take a shower or a bath. They should pay me a bonus. But I would be happier about paying the water fines if the water companies kept their part of the bargain. So maybe they should be fined for the vast amounts of water they lose every year as a result of having broken pipes which nobody has bothered to maintain."
Southern Water's profits last year were almost £200m, South East Water's almost £100m, while South West Water raked in £132.5m. "All of them, rolling in dosh, if not in water. And these are the people who are about to fine you for trying to make your lawn look a bit less like Wayne Rooney's hair transplant and more like a, well, lawn. It seems to me a bit of a cheek, frankly."
"Labour's rising star Chuka Umunna causes a bit of a flap by saying that people who set up businesses should be well rewarded," writes Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror. "But then Chuka is the son of a man who started his own business who employed people, created wealth and put himself on the line to build something from nothing. Unlike almost every MP in Westminster."
Ministers plan to slash Whitehall civil servants by two-thirds, says The Sun. "They are right to root out waste, and ministries should face the same belt-tightening as the rest of us." But the government has a poor track record. In 2010 it vowed to axe more than 200 of the 900 taxpayer-funded bodies in a "bonfire of the quangos", saving billions. So far only 50 have gone.
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