Living dangerously: Diary of an ABS professional, Week 15

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In which Mr ABS bemoans his inability to make the most of Russia's resurgence.

This week I had supper with a friend of mine who works for Bar Cap. Although the market has gone from bad to worse in the last two weeks he was sporting a big smile and appeared very optimistic about his future. This may be because although he is based in London he spends most of his weekends in Moscow, where he loves the nightlife and, being a diehard bachelor, the local ladies.

A couple of weeks ago, Barclays bought the Russian bank Expobank. The cause of his giant smirk is the 2008 Expobank Calendar, which features attractive female employees wearing very little indeed.

According to the Evening Standard (which also kindly reproduces selected photos), the calendar features a senior economist, senior executives, and other charming ladies who are actual bankers.

My friend assures me that this initiative was sponsored by Expobank's CEO, who wanted to show the bank's clients how friendly the staff are. Apparently, people on my friend's floor are trying hard to get their hands on a copy of the calendar, which almost sunk the Barclays acquisition when it surfaced during the due diligence process.

Personally, I massively regret not having learned Russian at school. I thought there was little point in learning the language of a prison, even if it was a large prison, and I remember teasing one of my friends who did learn Russian in the hope that one day the country would be freed from its oppressive regime.

Now, however, it appears I was mistaken. Russian banks are currently among the few hiring securitization professionals in London, and were I able to converse in their language I might be better placed to land one of their highly contested jobs.

The calendar, meanwhile, clearly symbolises the Russian economic boom and the absence of red tape. HSBC is the latest Western bank to sink $200m into expanding in the country. And if the ladies of Expobank are anything to go by, protégés of Eliot Spitzer may not be far behind.

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