We’re just back from a week in London—coincidentally smack in the middle of the UK firms’ earnings-release season—and for reasons far more profound than that annual roll call of bragging rights, the level of preoccupation with the future in the great City has never to us seemed higher to us. A telling, and extremely representative, moment came when one managing partner we were meeting with started to enumerate the threats facing his (very solidly performing) firm as, “One,…., and two…., and—oh hell, there are threats everywhere!”
Even the Magic Circle are looking over their shoulders. One is tempted to blurt out, “Imagine that!” but one need imagine nothing; it’s real.
And this overwhelming attitude of uncertainty—call it concern if you’re prone to understatement, nervousness or fear or existential questioning if you’re otherwise inclined—was quite palpable to us and widespread. We’re calling it simply the Age of Anxiety (with the obligatory bow to Auden).
Nor, we hasten to add, is it a UK phenomenon; it’s alive and well, thank you very much, in New York, Chicago, California, DC, etc., and doesn’t discriminate by size of firm or market niche.
Now, what are the sources and causes of this level of anxiety?
We have some candidates.