(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

Parliament may be itching to jail more bankers in a bid to scare off potentially scandalous behaviour and score political points with the public, but traders on the frontline are more worried about their bonuses than imprisonment.

Traders are taking the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standard's calls for jail terms with a pinch of salt.

Frankly, there is not going to be a sudden rush, or even an incremental increase, of bankers taking leave at Her Majesty's Pleasure, unless you are a rogue trader.

No one person accountable

Take the mis-selling derivatives scandal for example - in any case - it will never, ever, result in a banker being jailed.

For the product to be mis-sold in the first place it would have to be approved by management and therefore no one person can be held accountable.

No firm, great or small, is ever going to fire a chain of command or a hierarchy. The thought is ludicrous. The only time someone will be slung in jail is if you are a rogue trader - a single person hitting the button on a buy or sell transaction without official authorisation.

That being said, hedge fund managers and private equity staff will be a little more worried but the front-office traders at Britain's biggest banks are not.

I have been in this industry for nearly two decades and it has changed beyond recognition from when I started. I am a senior trader in one of the world's largest banks and I have already seen this seismic shift in our culture, even well before the spate of financial scandals that are dogging headlines today.

Banking culture changed already

Banks have already been hit by stronger compliance. It has affected every desk, client and activity to the nth degree. It is all about strict compliance, not sales any more.

People think all traders are champagne-swilling, risk-obsessive party boys who do not deserve the money they earn each year.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

At the bank I work at, we have a very strict expenses policy, as you have to get sign-off from management if you just spend over £25 on a client.

Previously, it was routine to spend £1,000 entertaining a customer. It was seen as part of your job as you were actively developing business relationships. This would include food, drinks and corporate entertainment.

Now we have to get sign-off for the equivalent of a couple of baguettes, some crisps and a drink.

Hardly the glamorous life gilded in gold.

What's the point if you are not making money?

Meanwhile, all of us are more worried about what is happening to bonuses and pay, following the PCBS report.

The commission proposed that bonuses should be deferred for 10 years. This is pretty outrageous and frankly, it makes a lot of people think, what is the point in staying in the UK?

Back in the day, it was normal to earn a bonus worth around 100% of your basic salary, while fixed pay stayed the same. However, with all the furore over bankers' bonuses in Britain, this is now unheard of.

Instead, we have comparatively small bonuses and no rises in basic salary, even if we change the roles we do.

What many traders are asking themselves is what is point in staying in the UK banking industry when they can go abroad and do the exact same job but with more flexibility and better rewards?

We hear people shirking off claims that bankers will flee the City but this report could be the final nail in the coffin.

Most people get into banking because of the money, but if you're not even getting a rise in basic salary, then there is nothing to stay for.

The US has a raft of regulations going through, Latin America is underdeveloped and the UK and Europe are getting too strict on banking industry rules.

Most people are thinking of moving to Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Malaysia and the Middle East because you can get a lot more money for the role you are already doing. All these regions want to be the cornerstone for financial services and are willing to pay the talent for creating it.

In the UK, the politicians may be happy wanting to prove that they are making the system more stable and safe but my fear is that by the time the rules are implemented, there won't be an industry to overhaul any more.

Mason Richman, not his real name, is a senior trader at one of the world's largest banking groups and has worked in the industry for 15 years