If clichés were true, the spouses and partners of investment bankers and hedge fund managers would be showered with expensive gifts on Valentine’s Day. Bankers, after all, can afford deliveries of Bollinger and blooms.
The reality is less seductive and more sterile. Financial services is not a romantic industry.
Bankers aren't actually seen as desirable dates. A 2012 survey of 5,000 Britons by dating website Match.com found that bankers don’t feature in either sex’s definition of their preferred partners. Most of all, women want to date firemen, teachers and musicians. Men are keenest on nurses, scientists and accountants.
One reason, of course, is bankers just don't have much time for romance. “They tend to work extremely long hours and don’t really cross paths with anyone romantically. They are at their desks a lot,” said Hayley Bystram, a director at elite introductory agency the Bowes Lyons Partnership, which charges £6k for alerting like-minded professionals to each other’s existence. Many of her clients are financial professionals.
Nor do bankers tend to value relationships, experts said. In her book, ‘The Men on My Couch,’ Manhattan-based sex and love therapist Dr. Brandy Engler, described a successful young hedge fund manager called David who worked 80-hour weeks. Although David had a beautiful girlfriend with “rock hard abs and a great rack,” he spent his evenings going out with male friends and competitively pursuing other beautiful women. Engler diagnosed David as having “narcissistic proclivities.” His entire self worth was based upon “the external reinforcement he got from his career, physical appearance, and messages from his family and lovers.”
Only when David stopped womanizing and started appreciating himself was he able to feel genuine love. He moved to Brooklyn, started hanging out with artists, learned to play the guitar, read books and visited museums. His womanizing was driven by “core emotional needs of love, trust and acceptance,” concluded Engler.
David doesn’t seem to be the only man in the financial services industry for whom romance is sublimated to the need to find a hot woman as a status symbol. “The City is such a competitive place that the big swingers wouldn’t be seen dead with a ropey bird,” Geraint Anderson, the ex-equity researcher turned author told us. “There’s an expectation that as a banker you’ll have a hot woman because you’re rich.”
If you’re not a big swinger, you may not attract anyone at all. Despite years of diversity efforts, banking remains a male dominated industry. This can be good news for women in banking, but bad news for men lower down the pecking order, said Anderson. “If you’re an even mildly attractive woman in a bank, you’ll be incredibly sought-after due to your rarity value,” he said. “But young men in banking can get frustrated – it’s very hard to meet women. You don’t have the time of the energy and there aren’t that many women around.”
Anderson met his wife at a music festival while he was still working at Dresdner, but Bystram said many bankers need professional stimulus for their love lives. “We have two groups of financial services clients,” she said: “People in their 30s who have been working incredibly hard for a decade and suddenly realize that their friends are settling down and having children whilst they’re not meeting anyone new, and people who are older and recently divorced.”
Bystram said bankers are popular choices among the clientele of Bowes Lyons. “All our people are hardworking professionals. They admire someone who is motivated, ambitious and driven. That is what they like in a partner – they’re looking for someone similar to themselves.”
In this sense, elite introductory agencies may be a better bet for the single banker than standard dating websites. Our own test profile of a generic male banker in mergers and acquisitions on Match.com (we described a financial professional in his mid-40s, divorced, who likes to travel and eat in nice restaurants) attracted only three winks and two genuine emails over a three-week period. One email was from a woman in Fulham, the other was from a woman in Maida Vale – both affluent areas of London replete with banking divorcees.