From sex in the City to Playing FTSE. The high-flier who has the world of finance hot under the collar
Former City trader Victoria Pease is creating a stir in the stock market with her new tell-all book. She tells Katie Law how much of it is true
If you're young, female, clever and attractive - and considering a career in the City - you might want to read Playing FTSE first; a lurid sex-in-the-City bankbuster by former analyst Victoria 'Vita' Pease.
It's a novel about a young female graduate trainee who joins an investment bank and rises spectacularly up the greasy pole, only to lose her moral compass and fall for the wrong men for all the wrong reasons.
"I always thought this was an amusing story to write, even though all the literary agents said it's not topical enough because people don't like the City any more," says Pease, who wrote the book under a pseudonym while taking a career break to raise her three children.
After the manuscript was rejected by agents, Pease (41), who took the six-month Faber Academy writing course last year, decided to publish it herself. Her no-holds-barred account of being catcalled, hit on by married men, working punishingly long hours and snorting cocaine with colleagues, all for the sake of the job, is labelled as fiction - so how much of it is true?
Pease began her career as a 23-year-old graduate trainee at Kleinwort Benson before being headhunted by Merrill Lynch.
"I write about the trading floor and how if you're one woman to 10 guys, you get hit on a lot. I certainly was," says Pease, who in her grey lace-trimmed DVF dress and cream Louboutins, exudes intelligence and beauty in equal measure. It was, she says, a price worth paying.
"I was one of the first women to get in on a level playing field with men, and the opportunities offered were the same. In fact, if you were attractive, clever and hard-working you got more attention and could get promoted above a man," she says.
The trick was not to abuse it by sleeping around.
"It was a very male-driven environment, but I as I grew up with five brothers and went to a boys' boarding school [Charterhouse] I didn't mind. As a woman you have to be robust and not take offence. Most of it was harmless, especially if it was a single male colleague. But then you'd get the married ones; I didn't want to go there."
As is evident from the success of dating websites such as Ashley Madison, illicit affairs in the City are rife.
"Especially on the trading floor. These guys are just full of testosterone. They're having to make quick decisions, thinking at a million miles an hour and taking risks. One small mistake and they can lose the firm hundreds of thousands of pounds. So yes, they're the kind of men who like instant gratification."
There was also a lot of alcohol and boozy lunches and drugs.
"I had a number of colleagues who were taking coke but I didn't really know about it."
Pease was working every day from 7am until 11pm and at weekends. She had no life outside work, let alone a relationship, and within a year was earning £150,000. "That's huge money for a 24-year-old. It was during a bubble and there was a lot of money floating around. But you have to realise these years don't last. There's no loyalty and you can get kicked out in two seconds."
"If you work those long hours and make a lot of money you're not dependent on anyone, so you get this elevated sense of 'oh, I can do this all by myself'. Some people may think you become too hard or bitchy. But if you've got the temperament and enjoy the job, go for it."
In the novel, Pease's alter-ego falls into an abusive, relationship with a sexually sadistic older man because, she says: "I wanted a character who you might find at the extreme end of the banking spectrum, who's used to success and everything falling at his feet." But Pease is no E L James, and while the sex may be gratuitous, it's not graphic.
While it's no surprise that Pease met her husband Richard at work, it does stretch credulity that her maiden name was also Pease.
"I was introduced to him as a joke."
She was born in Brazil - her father was an economics professor and her mother a housewife. Richard Pease, who recently set up Crux Asset Management, comes from a Quaker banking family. One of his sisters is Nichola Pease, a former CEO of J O Hambro who is married to hedge fund manager Crispin Odey - they're known as the finance world's Posh and Becks.
His other sister, Carolyn, is married to ex-Barclays CEO John Varley. What do they all talk about at Christmas? She laughs.
"Not about the City. Although when Richard was starting his new business he obviously asked Crispin and Nichola for advice. But with me, we talk about the kids or whatever."
The mantelpiece and shelves of their Kensington des res, where we've met for the interview, are clustered with photographs. They have two sons and a daughter who are four, five and six, and her husband has two older sons, 12 and 14, from his first marriage.
Pease has already started writing the sequel to Playing FTSE, about a career woman facing the dilemma of starting a family.
"I decided to stop for a while and have children. Yes, my career has suffered. But that's the choice I took and there's no question of me staying at home for the rest of my life. Some of my friends have carried on working and are knackered, but they've got to understand they have the power to make a choice too, so don't moan about it," she says in an even tone.
"Women in the generation before mine didn't have the opportunity to work in the City, but look how far we've come - and for the next generation it'll be even easier because we're paving the way," she says. "We're so used to having it all and being on a level playing field, but when it comes to making the choice of stepping out to have children, that's much harder because we're not used to it."
- Playing FTSE by Penelope Jacobs, published by SilverWood at £10, is out in paperback on Monday