Gary Stevenson used to gaze at the shining towers of Canary Wharf as a poor schoolboy in Ilford, east London, with a paper round that paid £12 a week. “I saw it on the horizon,” he tells Anoosh Chakelian in The New Statesman, “and thought: ‘That will be a place where I’ll get a job and make money. Why shouldn’t it be me?’” So it turned out. After winning a banking job in a card game at the height of the financial crisis, Stevenson took home £400,000 in his first year, having just turned 23. By 2011 he was Citibank’s most profitable trader.
Now 35, having retired in 2014, Stevenson briefly attained “legendary status” in the City as “Gary the geezer”, thanks to his east London accent. Trading had changed from the stereotype of the “Cockney wideboy trader” and become “a lot of very posh people, elite universities, monogrammed shirts, expensive cufflinks”. That gave him an edge. While his well-off colleagues were buying houses, betting on a swift economic recovery, the people of his past had no money to spend. So he began to “bet really aggressively on there never being a recovery” and became a multimillionaire. “It was surreal”, he says, “very gratifying to be right, but what you have figured out is disaster.”
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