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October 8, 2009


By Spear's

The sad truth is that most people in the City do not have a Plan B, either through lack of inspiration or merely through fear

AS DAVID YARROW, hedge fund manager and nature photographer, shows in Nowhere Man, life can be best viewed through a lens. David’s photographs from around the world — Chilean mountains, Canadian lakes, English beaches, Namibian deserts, as originally seen in his book Nowhere — are small blasts of beauty, reminding us that there is life beyond the steel towers in our line of sight.

This neatly fits with Josh Spero’s report on the afterlives of those in the City, Did You Hear the One About the Ex-Banker?. He surveys the many routes taken by those who have forsaken finance for following their dream: comedy, electric cars, charity, even spying.

The main thing that these ex-bankers gain — as well as freedom — is perspective. Having worked for as many hours as enthusiasm, money and Red Bull could take them, over a period of years, myopia can tend to set in. When sat in an investment bank in front of a computer screen under buzzing striplights, both arriving and leaving when it’s dark, it’s easy to forget that you once had a life. (Two frenzied weeks in August in Ibiza or Mustique or the Rockies do not count as experiencing life.)

And so what the leavers Spero profiles have found is that there is a world where value is not calculated in financial terms, where your talent is measured by how much you change the world, not how you arrange the beads on the abacus. The surprising thing is that more people do not take this chance: there are no doubt substantial redundancy packages on offer, and one would hope that bankers would have some money saved up.

The sad truth is that most people in the City do not have a Plan B, either through lack of inspiration or merely through fear. Many are worried that they will lack security if they strike out, and this is a real concern: no charity or organic yoghurt shop in Brighton will pay for three kids at St Paul’s and a nice house in the quieter parts of Chelsea. Equally, many of them went into finance because that was what was expected of them, or because it was the only thing they could imagine doing. But lack of inspiration and fear are not excuses.

Does this mean that most workers in the City do not deserve or cannot have an afterlife? Not at all — it just means that they need to put some effort into it, spend some time looking about, planning, thinking outside the cubicle. Strike now, while inspiration is hot and possibilities seethe. The beginning is half of the whole, as the Greeks say. 

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