I can pinpoint the moment I realised that the City wasn't going to be for me. It was 9 January, 1993, the day I started work at Credit Lyonnais Laing, the stockbroking firm where I had accidentally got myself taken on as a trainee investment analyst. It took just one afternoon spent twiddling my thumbs at my new desk amid the bedlam of the dealing floor, ignored by my new colleagues and traumatised by the sight of so much computer equipment. I resolved to leave as soon as I could.
Indeed, it was three months before anyone could think what to do with me. After nearly six years, two jobs and another bank, I finally managed my escape. By then I had somehow climbed on to the corporate finance treadmill at Flemings, where I was too busy churning out presentations to work out how to climb off. My chance came when my team was disbanded. Faced with having to join a new team or a new bank, I chose neither. Eighteen months on, I still offer up daily thanks for my deliverance.
By taking that decision, I joined a growing band of refugees from the City. They come from every level: ex-brokers, ex-bankers, ex-traders who have swapped the big salaries, bigger bonuses, fast cars and first-class travel to try their hands at careers as writers, farmers, entrepreneurs - almost anything you can think of. Outsiders, steered by the media to regard City bankers and brokers with fascination, envy and disgust, might well be baffled.