SIX-FIGURE bonuses, sizable cocaine habits and even bigger egos… The City before the 2008 financial crash puts the Wolf of Wall Street to shame.
And now a new BBC drama Industry, co-directed by Lena Dunham, prepares to lift the lid on the sordid world of London’s Square Mile.
The eight-part series, which starts Tuesday, follows a group of young graduates as they compete for a limited number of permanent jobs in the City.
Written by former City Boys Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, it sees one young recruit, Robert, snorting drugs on the dancefloor before leading a girl into the club toilets where they have sex all night.
He then staggers bleary eyed into the daylight – and goes straight to work at one of the world's most prestigious banks.
Using sex to get ahead
Thursdays were notoriously the big drinking night of the week in the City.
Yet, whether they’re partying until dawn or at their desks working 15-hour days, all the characters treat making money as religion.
Their attitude is summed up when one of the new recruits, Gus, is asked about his family during his interview.
He says: "I play third fiddle to two figures in my mother's life – Jesus Christ and Margaret Thatcher… One's the reason why we're all here, the other one's a carpenter."
The other great love of Gus’ life is his secret boyfriend Tom, and together they deliver one of the most explicit sex scenes in the show.
Co-writer Mickey, now 31, who in his early 20s worked as an analyst at a British investment bank, reveals: “It’s actually inspired by something a friend of mine told me. It’s quite full on.”
Gus lives with partyboy Robert who has a crush on fellow trader Yasmin who responds by sending him selfies while her boyfriend performs oral sex on her.
Meanwhile, Yasmin's housemate, Harper, isn't afraid to use sex to get her own way, performing a solo sex act via webcam in return for getting a forged degree certificate to land the job of her dreams.
The tamest of the interns is Hari who is seen necking energy drinks to cope with the long working hours.
Sleeping in toilet cubicles
Mickey says it is reminiscent of his time in the City where he would often find himself working “up to 100 hours a week” surviving thanks to “lots of Red Bull, coffee and youth”.
He adds: “Finishing at 11pm was an early night for me.
“If I needed a snooze I would go to the toilet. A friend gave me a tip of using the toilet roll as a pillow.”
But most of the recruits have some form of indulgence to let off steam in one of the high-pressured environments of investment banking – usually vast quantities of alcohol.
Co-writer Konrad, who worked as an equity salesman for an American investment bank, says: “Drinking is a valve.
"That was true of everybody, all the way up the hierarchy of the bank. In the series we wanted to show the fun of that lifestyle when you’re saying yes to everything — drugs, alcohol — it’s seductive.”
'Gobby, fast-talking and arrogant'
Konrad says the hierarchy on the trading floor even applied to the number of computer screens you had.
The-then 23-year-old had three, while his boss had five. “If you had eight, you were, like, yes now I’m achieving something,” he says.
And Konrad, now 32, also recalls how his boss would call him into his glass-walled office every Friday and strip down to his pink boxers and into his weekend-wear while asking his employee how the week had gone.
He explains: “It was a power thing. Not caring how many people were looking at him. Trading desks tend to attract certain types of people – gobby, fast-talking and arrogant.”
'James Bond lifestyle'
It’s not the first time the pair, who met at university, have worked together since leaving the City behind.
Their first feature film, black comedy Gregor, was nominated for The Raindance Award at the 2014 British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs).
While making Industry, Mickey says they took some former City colleagues onto set.
He says: “They were blown away with how eerily familiar it was. They kept asking, ‘am I in it?’ There are definitely things in it inspired by what people have done.”
One former investment bank headhunter, who wishes to remain anonymous, says of the show: “It looks quite authentic, I must admit.
“Some of the scenes jogged my memory of my time in the City, such as the guy waking up in the bath after a big night out.”
The 51-year-old recalls the long queues outside the toilets every Friday morning.
He says: "You'd get a line of cocaine down you to get you functioning again. That would keep you going until lunchtime when you'd have a couple of pints. Friday afternoons were always easy.
"It was a James Bond lifestyle. Champagne, cigars, drugs."
Kicking off over £400,000 bonus
Another former City Boy, Geraint Anderson, 48, recalls once suffering a cocaine-induced nosebleed when addressing his bank’s trading floor.
Former analyst Geraint, author of the best-selling book Cityboy: Beer and Loathing in the Square Mile, says: “I’d come straight from a party into the office at 7.30am.
“I was on camera and unfortunately for me it was shown in Milan, Paris, Frankfurt and later New York. Everyone knew what was going on."
Mickey admits he didn’t work in the Square Mile long enough to enjoy the City’s infamous lucrative bonuses.
But he says: “I do recall one guy getting 50p added to his bonus as a sort of ‘f*** you’ to say he had not done his job properly.”
And during his time in the financial world, Geraint recalls one colleague “storming out” of the office in outrage after receiving a mere £400,000 bonus.
He says: "You were in this weird bubble. When you earn so much money normal rules don't apply to you."
Geraint says they would often spend their earnings on nights out. He says: “Trips to strip joints were de rigueur.
“There was one opening up every week. Someone once told me it was the best barometer of how healthy the financial markets were. They were in direct correlation."
Rolexes stolen by sex workers
A favourite of City Boys was the Ye Olde Axe, a pub in the East End.
Geraint says: "At lunch time, they put on a show and people had to put a £1 in a pint glass. You'd got guys in £2,000 suits with these old guys in grotty macs."
Now a successful screenwriter, Geraint wrote last year’s indie film Trick or Treat starring Craig Kelly, says client entertaining was “outrageous”.
He recalls: “They would get annoyed with you if you didn’t spend enough.
“I’d get box tickets to Wimbledon and to concerts for the likes of Madonna and the Rolling Stones.”
But that was nothing compared to one hedge fund manager who spent £200,000 on a trip to the Monaco Grand Prix.
Or another who took a group of clients to Las Vegas, where they were robbed of their Rolexes by high class escorts who would wait by the lifts to their five star hotel.
Geraint says: “I once took a client to the Michelin-starred Knightsbridge restaurant, Pétrus, and saw a £30,000 bottle of wine.
“The waiter told me it was very popular with City Boy types.
“Some people made me look smallfry.”
Reflecting on his time in the City, he adds: “When Gordon Brown called it the age of irresponsibility, it was pretty much bang on.
“It was like the last days of Rome. Everyone was trying to make a quick buck as the house of cards came down – and had fun while they were at it.
“City boys couldn't get enough of cocaine and Champagne."
Industry starts on Tuesday on BBC2 at 9.15pm
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