London clubs shun bankers

Jonathan Downey, the owner of the East Room club on the edge of London’s financial district, says bankers are the last people he wants as members.

“We don’t want the archetypal City idiot, waving his cash about at the bar and braying like a buffoon and annoying women,” says Downey, whose club charges men an annual membership fee of £350. Women pay £150.

Financial workers, who make up 85 percent of employees in London’s City square mile, are being shut out of the most exclusive clubs. Passed over by centuries-old establishments such as White’s and Brooks’s, which prefer the nobility, military officers and politicians, bankers aren’t welcome at the newest venues either.

They’re not cool enough, says Mark Wakefield, the UK head of clubs at the Quintessentially concierge service.

“If you work in the City, unfortunately this is something money can’t buy,” says Wakefield. “They’re not that keen on lawyers, bankers, even property developers. They want creative people.”

Wakefield advises clients on which clubs would suit them and would favour their applications.

London is a city of two private-member club scenes – one established, the other developing.

The first, which emerged as early as the 17th century, is centered on Piccadilly, in the West End. The Duke of Wellington was a member of the Cavalry and Guards Club and Winston Churchill belonged to White’s. Such clubs offer libraries, butlers, Georgian antiques and the company of landed gentry.

The second club scene, pioneered when the Groucho opened in Soho in 1985, has venues dotted about the City. Membership now is “mostly geared towards media and creative industries”, says Cecilia Stainow, a spokesperson for Soho House Group, the largest operator of private members clubs in London.

One of its clubs is Shoreditch House, where a photo of a Damien Hirst print in the entrance hall shows a man in a suit crossed by a red bar with the message: “No suits”.

“To reject only on the point that they’re coming from a banking background, it’s like discrimination,” says Georgios Ouzounis, a hedge fund analyst at Kyte Capital Advisors.

But Stainow says Soho House Group’s aim is to create a haven for members to relax and be with each other.


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