THE HUMAN FACTOR: Investment banking used to be the career of choice for ambitious graduates. Aware now of human vulnerability, some are rethinking their priorities.

THE HUMAN FACTOR: Investment banking used to be the career of choice for ambitious graduates. Aware now of human vulnerability, some are rethinking their priorities. - The meaning of life is not generally much discussed in the City's dealing rooms. In the

by PATIENCE WHEATCROFT, business and City editor, The Times

The meaning of life is not generally much discussed in the City's dealing rooms. In the febrile atmosphere of multi-million pound deals and intense competition, there is little room for fears. But the events of 11 September have shaken those who work in the West's financial institutions far more than they have shaken the markets. The ferocious effort to get Wall Street back up and running so rapidly after the atrocities, and the determination not to be beaten by the terrorists, masks the very human reaction of the individuals who had to keep going.

Many of those who work in London's finance houses knew someone who was killed in the terrorist attacks. Apart from the sorrow that this induces, there is the fear: those working in the compact Square Mile or towering Canary Wharf felt instantly vulnerable.

That has not stopped them going to work, but it has forced them to question what they are doing. A senior London investment banker, who was in New York and all too close as the World Trade Center crumbled, confessed to me that he had worked flat out, with his colleagues, to ensure the US operations were put to rights, but he kept asking himself: 'What's the point?'

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