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Asia CommentTaipan

Hell is only for other people

French Revolution, Guillotine, 18th Century

Bankers know that heads will roll, but they will never admit that these might be their own

I like equity capital markets bankers, I really do. Royally stoic types. Never complain, never explain.

Tell a head of syndicate that his house has burnt down but the insurers have found that the oven was left on, he’ll say it's a difficult climate.

Ask him why on earth an IPO went ahead five minutes after markets learned about the worst inflation in decades, and he'll tell you that a timetable is a timetable and when you’ve made your bed, you have to lie in it. Or in this case, launch it to investors.

But this year is testing the limits of what these ladies and gentlemen can shrug off. Take Hong Kong's equity market: the total value of IPOs this year to date is a painful 90% lower than last year.

Banks must trim their ECM teams and bankers know this. They concede that it will happen. But I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon: that it will only happen to the others.

Bankers at big banks say the pressure is on small, regional, banks.

Bankers at Chinese banks feel sorry for their poor colleagues at Western banks after all their undisciplined binge hiring.

Those at Western banks say the same about Chinese banks.

And what of the staff at European banks, you ask? Well, they just feel sorry for the whole lot.

So what should one make of this charade? Having done my own time in the banking world, I think we go through three stages of banking grief: denial, despair and then drinking, lots of it. For anyone fearing the can, drinks will be on me at Captain's Bar this Friday! Chin up.

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