One French banker in London explains why, despite job losses in the City, he has no plans to go back home soon.
It will soon be five years since my wife and I left France to settle in London. We moved primarily because we had had enough of living in a country where a third of the workforce are public service employees.
Of course, public services are great in France: trains are on time, some have even been travelling at 300kph since 1981; and when you go to a hospital there is always a doctor who seems to be interested in your case. The downside is that those public services are a real weight on the economy. I couldn't bear the thought that I'd have to work until the age of 67 before being able to retire, whilst a bus driver can retire as early as 50, courtesy of the private sector pension funds which the government raids to subsidise public services' pension funds that are in deficit.
Since we have been in London we've done our best to settle in for the long term. I have always worked for 'Anglo-Saxon' companies and declined offers from headhunters to interview with French banks implanted in London. For some reason headhunters assumed that I would be keen to interview with French banks. It might be because I have a strong French accent, even though I've been here for a while.
Retrospectively, I realise that I actually dislike the French approach to work. In France, I used to have to stay late in the office even when I had little to do, as it was frowned upon to leave early. When a transaction is closed, the French like to spend time discussing why they agreed that transaction rather than celebrating or just going home to catch up on some sleep.
They tend always to judge people according to where they studied, not their professional skills. It took me a while to realise that some of the best performing people I worked with in the UK attended universities to which I would not even have considered sending my dog, or had studied unchallenging subjects. In France, they would at best have been allowed a job in the post room or an administrative role, if not relegated to the public sector.
In short, this is a real waste of talent and can lead to financial catastrophes such as occurred at Crédit Lyonnais, where everybody seemed to have come from the same schools with the same misconception of risks.
It is with some delectation, therefore, that I observe from London the unfolding of the SocGen crisis and the French conspiracy theories. The last time I spent so much time reading French websites was when Zidane lost it in the final of the World Cup. It took me two months to recover from the blow. The fact that I was surrounded by three Italians who liked rubbing it in did not help.
The SocGen crisis is different; they overcharged me on my student account. It is almost as if Jérôme is setting the record straight for me all these years later, and unlike the case of Crédit Lyonnais, the taxpayer will not have to pick up the bill.