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Asia CommentTaipan

Stepping back in time

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It’s easy to forget that my lavish retirement lifestyle is thanks to the sometimes-excruciating work I did back in the day

Yes, I like to remind my nephew and his friends that I too once worked terribly hard for long hours to make my way in the banking world. But now that I sit in the comfort of my retirement, I admit that I sometimes gloss over some of the less desirable details of working in my 20s.

I recently met up for lunch with an old friend at the famed China Club.

The chap started in the industry around the same time I did, although he began his career in Hong Kong while I was getting my feet wet in London. We started talking about the old days — the sleepless nights and long weekend hours in the early part of our careers, then on to loads of business-class travel, five-star hotel stays and a bumper bonus once we had made our marks.

As we were laughing about the exhausting labour we put up with, my friend paused for a moment and looked around the room of the China Club: the hardwood floors, the expensive artwork, and the sheer opulence of the setting.

"You know I used to sleep here?" he said.

I was stunned initially, but soon remembered that the China Club, with its strict dress code and exclusivity, sits in the old Bank of China building in the heart of Hong Kong. When my friend was beginning his career, he actually worked in the building.

He explained that the room we were in had once been full of makeshift beds for interns, who worked so late into the night that they often had little choice but to catch some quick shuteye there between deals.

What a time that was. I certainly don't envy him, and maybe today’s interns complaining about their workloads and long hours should take note.

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