'We were sitting around the dealing room a few days back, when we heard the whispers - one of the senior traders had taken voluntary redundancy. It didn't sound too voluntary to me.
The staff were going into huddles all over the trading floor. Rumours were flying that they'd be more redundancies later that morning. I was arguing with this young trader dude about some ridiculous market convention on a bond I was trying to flog. At the last minute my client had pulled the order, and I was cranky as hell. We all were. Suddenly Al gets up from his desk, sticks on his jacket and looks me in the eye. 'That's it mate. Nice working with you'. It had already started. Throughout the morning, assistants kept coming to people's desks and grabbing pathetic little bundles of personal effects. Those of us still left were paralysed by a mixture of fear for our own skins, and a kind of grief for those who had been culled. It was frightful.
My mates on the desk next to mine were joking away, but you could see we were all freaked out. 'If you get it, you can retire early,' one cackled. 'If it's me, put all my stuff in the bin. I'm tired of this business anyway!'. Suddenly Tom's extension started to ring. It was an internal call. 'OK, I'll be right down', he said. He turned to us as he reached for his jacket: 'Looks like my number's up, boys'. We shook hands in silence. No-one knew what to say. And off he went - a decent bloke who I'd worked with, hung out with, argued with, joked with, confided in and trusted over the course of some six years. All that was gone in an instant.
A minute later my own extension rang. I picked it up thinking, 'it CAN'T be me!'. It wasn't. Some bozo had forgotten to tell me I had a big meeting with the Chairman and a client downstairs. I was late for a meeting I didn't know I had.
When I returned to the trading room later that day, Tom's desk had already been cleared. His terminal was switched off. There was no trace that he'd ever been there. Funny how all this talk of thousands of job losses leaves no real impression, but when one decent bloke you know well gets the tap on the shoulder, well, it all feels very different'.