City Girl: life after The London Paper

Barbara Stcherbatcheff today © Barbara Stcherbatcheff - City Girl: life after The London Paper
Barbara Stcherbatcheff today © Barbara Stcherbatcheff
"Money was the be all and end all," says Barbara Stcherbatcheff. Before she was 28 she had made her career in the financial world, climbing the ladder from intern to trader and then financial analyst.

She married and divorced one of her fellow brokers. Stcherbatcheff could be a role-model for women wanting to enter the financial world. Or a warning sign. But she doesn't want to be either one. Instead, she seems to be tired of it all.

For five years, Stcherbatcheff was an integral part of the City, London's financial district and international playground for brokers around the globe. She was one of them and yet often felt like an alien in a man's world.

During the time she spent in finance, bonuses vanished, and entire banks (and countries) went bankrupt. She watched as colleagues blew their bonuses on fast cars, expensive champagne and lap dancers. And finally, she was there when their games sent the entire country into the worst slump since the Great Depression.

Stcherbatcheff herself was not entirely above it all. She worked for the big stockbroking firms like Merrill Lynch, made her way up through the ranks of Fleet Street and Canary Wharf and competed tirelessly against other brokers. She consulted rich hedge fund managers in the streets of Mayfair, she made and lost millions of pounds. And what her male colleagues spent on Lamborghinis and call girls, she put into shoes and clothes.

City Girl in her working environment, the city of London © Barbara Stcherbatcheff
City Girl in her working environment, the city of London © Barbara Stcherbatcheff
She also discovered why there were so few women in their thirties at the big investment banks: even though they start off making the same salaries as their male counterparts, women are rarely paid the same amount in bonuses.

"They generally think women approaching 30 are not going to be around for much longer, so they don’t have to worry about giving them big bonuses to keep them on, or stop them leaving to go to rival firms," Stcherbatcheff told The Times.

She shared her rallying journey through the "machoness" of the financial world freely, first in the anonymous column "City Girl" she wrote for thelondonpaper, then in her own book "Confessions of a City Girl" which was published last August and included revealing of her identity. This also brought an end to her career as a trader.

But despite all the publicity she gained and the symbolic importance figures like her were given during the economic downturn, she now gives half-hearted answers to questions about her life as a female trader. "It is a competitive business, regardless of being a woman or not," she simply says without any reference to her previously detailed experiences, shocks and trials of being a woman broker in the city. She sounds tired and annoyed of the questions.

Surprising to many, her male colleagues never treated her badly. She was never hit on by colleagues, she never had to bear sleazy comments despite being a young, attractive blond. "If you show them once that you are smart, they respect you," she says.

Her own marriage to another broker did not withstand the pressures of the job. "We were both under a lot of stress. And then there was the credit crisis which increased the pressure on us brokers," she says. Asked if there was also competition between them that could have led to the break-up, she answers with a brusque "maybe."

Instead, she turns the conversation to her plans for the future: a writing career in financial journalism, and advising future female brokers.

Stcherbatcheff still lives in London. But a return to the City is more than unlikely, both for her and the financial industry that she has snubbed so much.  With the release of the book, she put an end to a career that she had longed for at 22 and loathed by 27. Now, she wants to shape the future of banking. "I want to show how trade can be done differently," she says. "Especially by women."

Shila Meyer-Behjat


Shila Meyer Behjat
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