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Thursday, November 17, 2016, 09:15

Binging on success

By Evelyn Yu

Evelyn Yu explores the har d-partying culture of the financial sector in Hong Kong, and meets some of those helping the young high fliers who inevitably crash and burn.

Binging on success

Work hard, play harder is the golden axiom among the high fliers in the city’s financial services.

Just a few drinks is softball stuff. The real heavy hitters need at least five or six lines of coke and a supply of hookers close to hand. Being buzzed all day is no problem. The Wolf of Wall Street is on the loose in Central, Hong Kong, and hungry for action.

A third of the clients at The Cabin Hong Kong, an addiction rehab center, are from the financial sector. Self-indulgence is epidemic among the self-styled “Masters of the Universe”, as Tom Wolfe called the inmates of the financial sector in the 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities.

“We don’t know the pattern yet, but at some times all our clients are from financial services — traders, bankers, managers — one after another,” said Seamus MacAuley, lead addiction counselor in the center.

The city was stupefied by the savage cruelty inflicted on two Indonesian sex trade workers, found with their throats cut in the apartment of former Bank of American Merrill Lynch banker Rurik Jutting. A psychiatrist testified that the grisly crimes came at the climax of a six-week cocaine binge, during which the ex-banker’s drug abuse escalated out of control. The psychiatrist, who described Jutting as a sadistic narcissist, said the Briton was acting out sadistic sexual fantasies. After killing the two women, Jutting, high on cocaine, shouted at pedestrians on the street below his upscale Wan Chai apartment while brandishing a knife. Then he called the police and turned himself in.

May, a female sex worker in her 30s from the Chinese mainland, told China Daily many of her clients come from the skyscrapers in Central. They start showing up at her place after 6 pm. She says they are all “highly strung”. She earns from HK$400-600 per hour for her services.

“The traders keep telling me they are terrified at the thought of making mistakes and of missing their sales quotas.”

Illicit trades

One former analyst named Zhang described the grinding ordeal of working at an investment bank from 7:30 am till 9:30 pm, confessing that even at that, he was the last to arrive and the first to leave the office.

“The moment you opened your eyes in the morning, the battle was on.”

Zhang described getting up at 6:30 am every day, tuning in to a review the US overnight market while brushing his teeth. He took a taxi to the office from Quarry Bay, figuring it was worth it. It allowed him an extra five minutes of sleep.

He spent his first half hour leafing through market data, profit and loss statements, balance sheets, cash flows and corporate disclosures through the stock exchange. He’d brief the traders, then spend the rest of the day drafting and writing research reports. In little over a year he started to down dopamine boosters, medication generally prescribed for patients with depression and anxiety, to help him get through the day.

He quit the job in after few years despite the enviable pay to escape the stress.

Yang, a trader at a Hong Kong-based asset management company, says it’s the expats who get heavily into drugs. The Chinese in the financial sector are more into sex. It is their “job culture” to visit bars after work. Rumors fly in offices about who slept with many girls the night before, with or without a condom.

The “curtain bars” around Lockhart Road in Wan Chai are often seen full of working women from Southeast Asia who wait for patrons to buy a drink for them. Following that, it’s pretty much anything goes.

Compared with London and New York, sex workers here are not just available but also charge less for their services.

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