Lisa Chow is the economics reporter at WNYC. She tries to explore in her stories surprising aspects of New York’s many economies—in plain view or hidden, in neighborhoods or sectors.
Dating a Banker: Who Pays?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
New York, NY —
With Wall Street's reputation in tatters, and massive layoffs hitting the industry, bankers, and those who date bankers, are rewriting the rules of courtship. WNYC's Lisa Chow reports.
REPORTER: Okay. Let's be honest. For some women, dating a man who's a banker meant never having to pick up the check. But these days, with so many bankers out of work, the question, who pays, isn't so simple. One advertising executive who is her mid 20s and works in advertising is actively dating. The guy on her radar now is a trader at the Swiss bank UBS.
AD EXECUTIVE: Back in the day, maybe two or three years ago, I would have allowed him to pay up through the sixth date. But at this point, I'm asking at the second and third date, do you want me to like, here's some cab money.
REPORTER: And yet the ad executive admits, if a banker were to accept her offer on a second date, she'd be slightly annoyed. Because she says, he should have saved enough money, working on Wall Street, to cover her.
AD EXECUTIVE: My evaluation has changed. Now I'm looking for a man who's okay to pay, not because he has the money, but he's okay to pay because he has the foresight to save enough, if and when he's in the layoff situation.
REPORTER: On this weekday evening, the ad executive's out at a midtown bar with her girlfriends. They're crashing an event whose sole purpose is to connect laid-off bankers with recruiters. Now if the ad executive were dating this out-of-work investment banker.
BANKER 1: The day I got laid off I went to the Hugo Boss store. I bought like $500 of clothes.
REPORTER: Then she wouldn't have to worry about paying. This banker refuses to give his name because he's hoping to return to the tight-lipped industry. But he says he continues to pay for everything for his girlfriend-clothes, vacations, dining out.
BANKER 1: I still pay for it because I probably made more a month, than she made a year. There's such a discrepancy and she knows my package, which is pretty good.
REPORTER: The 34-year-old says he earned more than half a million a year at UBS. He lost his job a few months ago and says he isn't ashamed of telling people. A friend standing next to him, another laid off i-banker who wouldn't give his name, agrees.
BANKER 2: Hopefully the people that I'm dating aren't just in this game for what I can spend on dinner, or what I can spend on drinks. Hopefully there's a little more to it than that.
REPORTER: Both say they saved money during the boom years, so they're not too worried. In fact the guy, who pays for his girlfriend's clothes, says he's still planning to surprise her with a mini vacation for Valentine's Day. He's optimistic about his future.
BANKER 1: One of the reasons we probably went into banking is because we're pretty type A. We're pretty adamant. I think we're pretty much on the ball with stuff. You know, we've always been successful, and so finally you hit your first setback. That's fine. But we know that we're going to bounce back.
REPORTER: Not everyone in the industry agrees. Satyan Shah is hanging out at an East Village club with some business school friends. He was laid off a few months ago from an investment firm.
SHAH: Right now, people are like, yeah, we had a down year. It's not a big deal. We're going to make it back. We still have all the best people. We're still going to make money. I don't know if you call it artificial optimism, but it's optimism based on no real grounding.
REPORTER: And Shah has stopped living according to pre-financial crisis dating standards.
SHAH: I would normally pay for everything initially.
REPORTER: Shah dates a doctor.
SHAH: And now she feels really bad about the situation, so she's like, don't worry about it. We're going to have ups and downs in our lives. Right now you're in a down, and I'm okay, so I'm going to pay for stuff more.
REPORTER: Shah says his relationship has gotten more serious since he lost his job, and he's starting to think about whether he wants to stay in the financial industry.
SHAH: It's the type of person who values you for who you are rather than what you bring to them from a material standpoint. So it's really caused me to rethink some things about my life.
REPORTER: The challenge now is the girlfriends' parents. Shah's joblessness and association with a troubled industry isn't winning him any points.
SHAH: If you're going out with someone who's Asian for example, their parents usually looked upon the finance profession as a great thing. But now they're like, you know, we'd rather have someone who's a doctor.
REPORTER: One good thing about getting laid off is no more 80+ hour work weeks. Bankers may not have the same cache as before, but at least they have the time to date. For WNYC, I'm Lisa Chow.