The UK financial sector remains one with the highest renumeration. Salaries are not too different to pre-crisis levels, though their growth lags behind inflation. Bonuses are paid again, though without the glory of the former days and behind closed doors, just like they are spent - the City boys parties are not as loud and public as before. The state raised taxes, cut spending - the country is saving. Bankers and financiers are generally blamed for the financial crisis. Admitting you are a banker or work in the financial sector in the social setting these days is at the risk of getting the looks and catching mentions of a 'soul sold to devil'. In the average Brit's mind banking has been forever equalled to occultism.
At the same time, baby boomers, with their endless optimism and life long profit chasing, are retiring, and gradually replaced with Gen X and Y workers. Ideals are changing as a result. Instead of serving one company for life, never ending mission of profits growing and chase for material wealth, more spiritual questions are being asked - is this what I wanted from life? (while sat in the grey 'matrix' style fabric box in the office of the world leading financial behemoth) What am I giving to the world, what is my trace? Is it all worth it? Is it all I am capable of doing?
Of course, there is always sabbatical to heal the souls and hearts of financial employees tortured by existential questions. Many do use it. Ask around and it will seem like you are the only one who in the last 5 years have not helped poverty stricken Peruvian village grow maize, have not spent a year crossing South East Asia on an elephant or have not worked on coral reef and turtles conservation in the Indian ocean.
Sabbatical helps but for how long? At the same time, those financial workers who lost their jobs during crisis demonstrate through their example that life does not stop after losing work. Their skills could be applied in other areas - some started their businesses or not for profits, others have retrained to become teachers, some fulfilled their life long dream and sailed around the world becoming professional yachtsmen, or cashed in their savings and went travelling around the world, others are building houses in Malawi. Perhaps they don't make as much money as before, but they are also quite possibly finding out that it does not matter. It's a well known fact that the more we earn the more we spend. The opposite is also true.
All this did not go unnoticed for those who stayed within financial sector. Aha, if I leave, my salary will commit harakiri, but I will survive and moreover will be able to do what my heart really desires. I will be able to find that elusive road to self actualization.
Finally, another trend - new, alternative employers, such as Google, Facebook, Ebay, Amazon, etc., have emerged. They may not be able to compete with the financial companies on the level of renumeration, but they are definitely ahead on something more important to the new generation of employees - job satisfaction. It's far more interesting to work for the company whose mission is to 'to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful' rather than 'providing financial products that meet the needs of the market in order to drive shareholder value'.
As a result, downshifting is becoming a popular career choice. Sites, or rather communities, like escapethecity.org and careershifters.co.uk, promise to show how to leave the golden cage without losing the house and while still being able to feed the family.
As a result, financial sector will face or perhaps is already facing some sort of 'brain drain'. Pre-crisis this would not have made the difference. Launching a new credit card or saving product does not require much imagination. Financial workers are replaceable. But we are living post crisis, and in new times. In financial sector, traditional players face ever throwing threat from non traditional market players and emerging technologies, such as Paypal, peer-to-peer lending networks, e-wallet and virtual payment providers and mobiles which all aim to replace the traditional plastic. In these new conditions, if you have not got 'creative brains' on your side, you may quickly find yourself uncompetitive and lose the market.
We'll see. Interesting times ahead.