Sitting at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam with no sign of a plane at the end of the airbridge, you could be forgiven for being slightly irked by the loudspeaker announcing:
“The 11:30 BA flight to London City airport will leave later than scheduled due to a delay.”
So it’s late because it is late. Brilliant.
Leaving tautologies aside, the point was that we weren’t going anywhere fast and the complimentary copies of the Daily Mail were unlikely to distract from this point for long. So our collective attention turned towards a fund management group which, reports were claiming, was being prepared for a stockmarket flotation, and in particular one fund manager. “He may share a name with a cartoon rabbit but he earns a disgustingly large amount of money,” said a fellow inmate of Gate 14.
The statement was met with numerous murmurs of approval which could easily be heard over the incessant shuffling of airport staff apparently preparing the still intangible aircraft.
“How much does he stand to make?” asked another inquisitive companion, using his Montblanc to sound the beat of “I Shall Be Released” on his coke can.
“Around this much,” said the first, stretching his arms out on both sides of his chest by way of reply.
Waiting until the chuckles subsided another voice cautiously entered into the conversation.
“Yes, but he is a really lovely guy I suppose,” came the rather tentative riposte.
While the statement met with no audible gasps of breath, I suspect that those unwitting snoops who overheard the conversation were already tutting to themselves.
But what, I thought, if he really is a “nice guy”? A flotation, after all, is really an invitation to all comers to buy into a business in which this individual happens to play a key role. Can we blame him for being the recipient of others’ avarice? And, more broadly, what is it about workers in the financial sector that so riles our sense of injustice?
Clearly if you want figures of blame for the near collapse of the banks, bankers are not a bad place to start. But the outlet of anger—the mock hangings, the smashing of car windows, the breaking in to RBS branches—was surely an overreaction to the cultural failings of the industry.
Where was the backlash against financial regulators and ratings agencies who were surely the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the crisis?
“Well personality’s the most important thing, for sure,” the prime accuser added sardonically.
The sarcasm, however, may be misplaced, for without Fred Goodwin, Dick Fuld and John Thain (not to mention Bernard Madoff and Alan Stanford) where would we have been able to focus the mass accumulation of anger and indignation?
The crisis highlighted structural problems in an industry long masked by a veil of secrecy and complexity. But just as you can’t have a flight without a plane, it seems you can’t have a drama without your villains.