“We are like goldfish,” says Jon Macintosh, a Mayfair hedge-fund manager. “We swim once around our bowl and when we complete the circle everything looks new.”
From the crowded bars of Canary Wharf to the corporate hospitality village at Wimbledon, memories are fading fast. Less than a year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought the banking system to its knees, London’s financial community is shaking itself down and getting back to the business of making money. “We are like goldfish,” says Jon Macintosh, a Mayfair hedge-fund manager. “We swim once around our bowl and when we complete the circle everything looks new.”
In the offices of Goldman Sachs staff have been briefed to expect one of its most profitable years ever. Headhunters also report the return of poaching raids, as banks like Barclays and Nomura hire star employees from firms unable to keep up with the new bonus boom. Barclays alone is paying out an estimated £730m to some 410 of its employees this month after successfully selling its fund-management arm.
But soaring trading profits are doing more than just wiping bad memories away. The growing optimism is also encouraging those who want to slow down the reform process which began last autumn. To the alarm of policymakers, a number of regulation initiatives have not just stalled but are being actively rolled back. “There is a danger because we are now seeing some signs of positive things … and because of the exhaustion of driving through changes there could be some drawing back from the degree of radicalism we require,” warned Adair Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, in Westminster this week.
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