Still have a job? Say bye to perks, bankers told

Mon Feb 2, 2009 10:25am EST
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By Olesya Dmitracova

LONDON (Reuters) - "How about McDonald's for lunch?" Only a year ago top London restaurants buzzed with high-earning bankers but the money-saving quip from one financial recruiter sums up the new mood of austerity.

His client at a large investment bank replied: "It would probably have to be if we were paying," the recruiter told Reuters.

The near-limitless expense accounts of the boom years have been replaced by a new probity and the banking industry's survivors are cutting costs, as they seek to adjust to a slump in business and multi-billion dollar state bailouts which have made them pariahs.

"There is a new austere mood that you can't be seen being too loud and too brash for fear of people having a go at you," said a senior investment banker in London.

The frugality is hitting jobs, bonuses and perks for banking employees such as free fruit at work and taxis home.

Only two years ago, bankers could commonly spend 3,000 or 4,000 pounds ($5,663) just on lunch, and sometimes that much on wine alone, in a Michelin-starred restaurant like Pied a Terre in west London.

Now the restaurant, along with other upmarket London eateries, is taking part in a promotion offering huge discounts to clients.

Banks, insurers and asset managers have announced around 300,000 layoffs since August 2007. Wall Street firms slashed cash bonuses for New York City staff by 44 percent in 2008, according to a state report last week.   Continued...

<p>The financial district of Canary Wharf is seen from central London January 22, 2009.REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>