Beer, ping-pong replace glitz at City's Christmas parties

Thu Dec 18, 2014 6:47am EST
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By Clare Hutchison

LONDON (Reuters) - Team bonding is the theme for Christmas parties in London's financial district this year as managers tone down the annual knees-up and label it as staff development.

Fearful of a public backlash if they revived the opulent festivities of the pre-crisis era, some banks and financial firms are opting for smaller, quirkier events that can be accounted for as a learning activity rather than just a staff perk.

Treasure hunts, cocktail making, go-karting and wine tasting are some of the things companies are laying on for employees.

Before the 2008 crisis, a specially erected marquee in London's Canary Wharf offered Christmas parties with sit-down dinner, free-flowing champagne and a band on stilts for banks such as Lehman Brothers and HSBC.

"Every year budgets go down," said Pascale Miller, an event executive at London-based Precipuus Events, which organizes parties for City firms such as HSBC Private Bank.

"But because it's part of team building and because it's often a learning activity, they can mark that off in the budget as something separate from pure entertainment."

Informal venues such as pubs are being chosen over ballrooms and the dress code is more sportswear than black tie.

"We're seeing a lot more requests for something a little different, like ping pong (table tennis) -- more team bonding activities," said Nick Telson, co-founder at website and events company   Continued...