My first proper job after university was working in the City. It didn’t take long to work out that it really wasn’t for me and after a couple of years I left to happily run my own business.
It’s a risky thing to do and involves working long hours with real stress and anxiety. Get it wrong and you can lose everything. But it’s very rewarding if you get it right.
As a businessman, what used to drive me completely mad was tales from the City of London of enormous salaries being paid to people taking risks with other people’s money.
Then they seemed to earn extraordinary bonuses for doing what they were already paid for.
I have no doubt about the hard work they put in, but they took little risk and seemed to make more every year than I could ever dream of from selling one of my businesses.
My wife got tired of me shouting at the paper as the story came up again with ever greater numbers of bankers and an ever increasing pot of money.
And when it all went wrong, it was our money these people were risking and we all ended up paying for their recklessness.
So believe me, I have no great affection for bankers and the huge casino they run.
But, as much as it hurts to say this, we need them right now. Britain needs bankers. There, I’ve said it. Through gritted teeth perhaps, but I’ve said it.
Why? Because they earn this country huge amounts of money. There are any number of estimates about what they bring, but the best authority I can find is a report from PriceWaterhouse Coopers that estimates financial services, as a whole, being worth some 11 per cent of all tax, or £50bn. That’s a lot of money, money we simply can’t afford to be without in these times.
Much rests on big banks, their investment banking businesses and the superstar employees within them.
And that unfortunately means bonuses. We need to hold our noses and accept it. It’s just potentially too expensive for us to do anything else.