What London’s Libor Traders Did Nextby , , and
Former brokers struggle to match salaries outside finance
Libor, FX scandals tarnished those bankers implicated
The former ICAP Plc broker stood near the bar, pint of cider in hand, surrounded by members of his house music collective, Hellsinki-V.
Clad in their signature mad scientist garb -- lab coats and 3D glasses -- Danny Wilkinson and his bandmates were celebrating with pre-holiday merrymakers in London’s trendy Hoxton Square. It has been a busy year, with gigs ranging from the Lechlade Music Festival, in England’s Cotswolds, to Ibiza.
For Wilkinson, the band is a second act -- part job, part lark -- after his career in finance abruptly ended. He was one of dozens of traders and brokers fired after being implicated in a global conspiracy to rig the London interbank offered rate, a key interest-rate benchmark. Even though he was acquitted at trial of manipulating Libor, he was effectively exiled from the industry.
“After 25 years in the City, I suddenly found myself at home thinking ‘what do I do now?”’ said Wilkinson, 50, who used to earn as much as 1 million pounds ($1.2 million) a year. “I’d DJ’d at lots of acid house parties in the 80s and I always had a love of music.”
Now, he DJ’s on a radio station on weekends and plays regular club nights and festivals with the band. He said it’s not full time, but they’re getting more bookings, and the group is gearing up to release a new single -- a remix of Baby D’s 1990s hit “Let Me Be Your Fantasy.”
It’s not easy to match the high-flying salaries in finance. Terry Farr worked as a broker at RP Martin Holdings Ltd. before being tried and acquitted over Libor with Wilkinson. He now spends Fridays manning a stall in Brentwood, a small commuter town, selling plants and bulbs. Dressed in a brown flat cap, green jacket and jeans, he chats with the locals, knocking 50 pence off here and there for regulars.
He splits the rest of the week between markets around Essex and London, and fulfilling gardening contracts at local businesses, with his springer spaniel, Lily, in tow. Farr, 45, said he makes about 10 percent of the six-figure salary he used to earn.
“Even though I was tried and found innocent, you’re tarred with that brush,” said Farr, who has returned to the sort of work he did with his father when growing up. “I do miss working in London. I miss that sort of buzz of the dealing room.”
Those cast adrift after the Libor scandal and the foreign-exchange manipulation probe that followed it are a tiny subset of the thousands of City workers who’ve lost their jobs since the financial crisis in 2008. The end of the debt-fueled banking boom ushered in a period of shrinking profits, heightened regulatory scrutiny and little tolerance for those accused of wrongdoing.
"Libor changed the game for the rehabilitation of a career in finance,” says Richard Burger, a lawyer at London firm RPC who used to work at the U.K. markets regulator. “Even if a person is exonerated, it’s often seen as too big a risk to take."
Brent Davies, who left ICAP over Libor, has used his height, husky build and shoulder-length blond hair to get work in films as an extra, according to his profile on The Casting Collective Ltd., an agency that provides walk-ons. His roles have included a member of the rebel alliance under Colonel Akbar in “Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens.”
Extras earn, on average, about 100 pounds a day, or more if the actor is asked to do anything out of the ordinary, like work in the rain, according to the agency. Davies declined to be interviewed through his lawyer.
For some, the change wasn’t unwelcome. Perry Stimpson, 55, said he was already considering leaving the industry when Citigroup Inc. fired him in 2014 over the currency-rigging scandal that cost banks $10 billion in fines. He’s now managing a property development and rental business.
Stimpson, who worked at the U.S. bank for more than 20 years, is one of more than a dozen traders who sued his employer over his dismissal in the foreign-exchange probe. He won the suit and was awarded 58,774 pounds in March.
Out of banking, he can spend more time with his adolescent kids, and definitely gets more sleep. “There are a lot of silver linings,” he said.
For Wilkinson, gone is the daily 5:39 a.m. train commute from Essex to London, the days matching orders and the late evenings entertaining clients. Now, he’s more apt to be heading into London to begin a night of DJ’ing rather than staggering home.
In the old days, “normally I’m the drunk bloke at Liverpool Street trying to get on the 11:50 p.m.” train home, he said. “I then found myself getting off the 11:50 p.m. with a record box and me headphones, and all the brokers are trying to push past me with their kebabs, and I’m like, ‘this is so surreal.”’