It is clear that there will soon be a large number of people on the streets who to all intents and purposes are unemployable.
Ten uses of an ex-investment banker
At the risk of offending my friends and jeopardising my annual invitations to grouse moors or Swiss chalets, it is clear that there will soon be a large number of people on the streets who to all intents and purposes are unemployable. Investment bankers have enjoyed 20 years of bumper pay and splendid working conditions - the only drawback has been the long hours - but now the game is up. Most of them have lost their fortunes and will soon be little more than Soviet-style apparatchiks. At least they haven't lost their senses of humour. One friend emailed me to say that events of the past few weeks were worse than a divorce: "I have lost half my net worth," he wrote, "but still have my wife!"
Some 20 years ago, a book was published called 101 Uses of a Dead Cat. It detailed all the ways you could profitably use a stiff moggy - although it stopped short of suggesting that you first killed the cat. I propose a similar tome, to be called 10 Uses of an ex-Investment Banker. I don't think they will be as helpful around the house as a dead cat, which is why I have limited myself to 10. If it jeopardises my invitations, so be it; they are now probably too poor to afford tickets to the opera at Glyndebourne or sailing weekends in Croatia anyway. The trouble is, it is hard to know exactly what they are qualified to do. Unless they reinvent themselves, and fast, they might become as extinct as dinosaurs, or milkmen. Here, in a sneak preview, I can exclusively reveal the top 10 uses:
Number One: Just about every banker I know keeps one eye on his Blackberry at all times. You can be relating your most amusing anecdote and just when you get to the punchline, he will say "sorry, excuse me a second" and start tapping away at a small, flashing object. To most people these devices are mysterious; for investment bankers, they are a life-support system. I suggest that each new Blackberry sold should come with its own investment banker, who will be on hand to offer full-time help and IT support.
Number Two: In Germany there are portable sausage stalls, which you strap on like a tray. All the German bankers could be retrained to sell frankfurters. Apparently they are not too technical to operate, although the German government will be on hand to help if needed. Number Three: In Paris there is a shocking shortage of waiters. French bankers could fill this gap. They will be ideally suited to this taxing task: few waiters give you the right change. As French bankers seem incapable of adding up, they will fit in to this role effortlessly, and will be suitably surly to be given such a menial task of bringing pastis and pistachio nuts to weary travellers.
Number Four: Locust control. Investment bankers have shown they are brilliant at taking a large number and turning it into a deficit. They should be called in to work their magic on the troublesome pest. Number Five: Taxi drivers. I am still unsure whether they are up to this onerous task - do they have the knowledge, I wonder? Would the Government step in to help if they got you lost? But they could entertain their passengers with tales of lap dancing clubs and their views on why the world's economy has tanked. "I'll tell you who should be running the country," they'd say. "The bankers. I remember back in the 1990s..."
Number Six: They could be put to work finding out where all the money went. One person to ask might be Dick Fuld, the former head of Lehman Brothers, who trousered some US$350 million (Dh1.29 billion) from 2000 before his bank collapsed last month. Number Seven: Road cones. The motorways of the world have a pressing need for road cones. Rather than making more plastic ones, we should assemble large quantities of bankers and have them deposited where needed. If they wore their stripy shirts and red braces, this would make them visible to motorists.
Number Eight: Picking up plastic bags. The environment has been the biggest casualty in this bank bailout - together with the taxpayer. Bankers can do their best to rectify this by scouring the countryside for plastic bags and empty bottles. Number Nine: Digging canals. The world has a pressing need for fresh water supplies, but the water is often in the wrong place. One of the ways out of the Great Depression was the start of major infrastructure projects. The same could be done again, using pin-striped bankers rather than Irish navvies.
Number 10: Carrying sandwich boards that say "sorry". Among this debacle, hardly anybody has come forward to apologise for the mess. How cheering it would be for taxpayers to see former bankers walking along Oxford Street and Fifth Avenue wearing sandwich boards saying: "Former Master of the Universe. Turned out to be a nincompoop. Awfully sorry." The only thing that might halt sales of my book is if bankers somehow reinvent themselves. We should not underestimate the cunning of these types: they have already persuaded governments around the world to stump up trillions of dollars to save their institutions, and perhaps, their jobs. It appears now that no bank can be allowed to fail. This perhaps shows the folly of setting economic policy to satisfy the stock markets. My pals the investment bankers will no doubt be trying to get their hands on some of that money by advising governments on how to spend it. Who do you think came up with Gordon Brown's banking rescue package anyway - the British Treasury or Rothschilds? firstname.lastname@example.org