Tales of bankers’ excesses are nothing new. Over the course of the financial crisis, all manner of stories came out of the proverbial woodwork about £44,000 lunches, traders blowing bonuses on the latest Porsche or Ferrari and 20- and 30-somethings snatching up multi-million pound properties in London’s most fashionable post codes.
In Cityboy, author Geraint Anderson – a self-styled hippie-come-banker – lays bare the inner workings of this fiercely close-knit group of ‘big swinging d*cks’ (a phrase used widely across the banking industry to describe the biggest earners) and their attempts at outdoing each other.
Often hilariously funny but at times downright shocking, Cityboy evolved from Anderson’s anonymous column in a London newspaper and is fleshed out with all kinds of sordid titbits.
From client entertainment involving a former warlord – yes, that is a true story – to snorting cocaine with £5,000-a-night prostitutes, there is evidently no limit to which traders and analysts around London did not go to in the heyday of the financial services industry.
Throughout the book, Anderson appears to be telling a cautionary tale.
Readers are told of the author’s dream of spending his days on a beach in Goa, India, selling trinkets and smoking marijuana in peace – a far cry from his experiences in the banking industry.
As you read about the charmless wonders that float in and out of the numerous banks at which he worked, Anderson always tries to make clear that he was only in it for the short term and was in no way like those around him.
This does not stop him from chasing a bigger bonus each year, however.
Granted, the book can become a little repetitive at points. One story about cocaine is very much like the one that came before it.
But what makes this a funny and entertaining read is Anderson’s personal narrative and the way his own story ties in with the more exuberant experiences he went through during his time as a banker.
Once involved in a loving relationship with a girl whom he hoped to marry, the author sank deeper into his addictive habits and lust for fast, easy money. Eventually, she slipped out of his grasp.
Readers cannot help but sympathise for a moment, before realizing that he – like so many others – brought this entirely upon himself.
The book is worth reading, if only for the diabolical tales of peacocking amongst a group of people that many in society have come to loathe. Bordering on schadenfreude, it can be alarmingly amusing to read about such people meeting their downfall as a result of their own extravagance.
You may find yourself sympathizing with Anderson, or indeed you may not. However, you cannot help but be gripped by the stories wrapped up in the narrative and for that reason alone, Cityboy is definitely worth picking up.