Finance is an industry with long hours, where unexpected termination is rife. To survive, most people abide by the moto: work hard, party hard (and sometimes harder).
Junior bankers in particular have mastered the art. I've seen people who've had very little sleep during the week spend an entire weekend partying before returning to work on Monday morning for another sleepless week. Needless to say, this can only be sustained for a few years.
Once you hit your 30s, maintaining your mojo in banking has traditionally been a lot less about partying and a lot more about perfect holidays. These aren't always luxurious: an MD I knew at Goldman Sachs used to go on crazy hardcore back-packing trips in the middle of the jungle. Obviously his salary allowed him to fly business, get the best guide and to bring a satellite phone (just in case), unlike your average Indiana Jones.
Sporty holidays are also a thing. Plenty of people I know in banking are into cycling and they travel all over the place to 'unwind' on their bike. Often these are short holidays in Europe squeezed in between two packed days of client meetings (something which will sadly become less possible when European clients are covered by bankers based locally).
The real banker holiday, however, consists of renting a luxurious villa. Ideally, it will have been used previously by celebrities. Ideally too it will be in a location where you might encounter important clients. Especially if you own a boat.
Naturally, some of this villa holiday must be spent working - otherwise you cannot consider yourself successful. There are people I know who send more emails when they're on holiday than at any other time.
A friend of mine was holidaying on the Amalfi Coast back a few years ago. After a long series of conference calls the decision was made by his boss that he would have to attend a meeting in Finland. So, mid-holiday he dropped his wife and kids to fly to a business meeting. Sadly, he missed his connection in Frankfurt and ended up on a conference call with the client instead, from the Frankfurt business lounge! He had to spend more money making it up to his family later.
This year, there will be almost certainly be none of this happening. This in itself will mark a shift in culture in London and New York: bankers who worked long hours and lived for lavish windows of holiday, are now putting in similar hours at home in the midst of a tragic pandemic. The result is likely to be a reappraisal of life and of work in the months to come.
Amit Itelmon is the pseudonym of a banker who has been around.
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