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Coked up bankers of Hong Kong

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Tessa Thorniley reports from Hong Kong for Danwei on the city's drugged up financial industry.

On a Friday night in Lan Kwai Fong, a 29-year-old stockbroker knocks back a shot of sake and tries to work out how many people in his bank take drugs.

It is a question that has been rippling through the Hong Kong banking community since the death, in June, of Neil McCormick, the 36-year-old head of Asian equity derivatives at UBS on the island.

McCormick had returned to the UK for a wedding when, after snorting cocaine at a friend's home in Holland Park, London, he plunged from the balcony to his death.

While none of his friends suggested that Hong Kong had turned him into a drug user, other bankers who spoke to Danwei on condition of anonymity suggested that cocaine use on the island is ubiquitous.

“What happened to Neil is obviously terribly sad, but it is not that surprising,” says one. “The financial community here is buried in white powder.”

“On the evening of the last day of the 2009 financial year, I know of a team of accountants responsible for calculating traders' profits at a US investment bank in Hong Kong who snorted cocaine at their desks through the night until 9am in order to continue working,” she adds.

After another shot of sake, the young stockbroker, born in Hong Kong but educated in the UK, has his answer. “I would say around 65 per cent of the people who work with me have a recreational drug habit,” he says.

 
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