Whizzkids yearn for a happy office life...

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The "loadsamoney" image of sharp-suited City whizz-kids, whose loyalty lies only with their next million-pound bonus, is completely misplaced according to a new survey. For all their high-spending ways, it takes more than money to keep them happy.

High-fliers working for the big investment banks are motivated by having a creative and interesting job with opportunities for personal development. They rank salary as less important, on a par with friendly colleagues and a pleasant working environment.

While their employers are right to recognise that loyalty to the company is a thing of the past, most make the mistake of thinking that leaves pay as the only thing that would motivate their employees.

The research, conducted for the City recruitment specialist Abacus Financial Selection, concludes: "Employers ... still have to embrace the new Nineties philosophy".

It blames the companies for clinging to outdated images from the late 1980s, the years of films such as Wall Street with their "greed is good" mentality. To understand their employees, the merchant banks need to watch This Life rather than re-runs of Capital City.

The survey, covering staff in the most mobile age range, 21 to 40, found that their typical stay in a job is only just over three years. But there is a chasm between their ranking of the things that would make them stay in a job or leave it and their employers'.

Employers said salary was the most important factor in retaining staff. Employees said the most important thing was their opportunity for development and promotion. Ten per cent even said that their work gave them a purpose in life.

The bosses thought employees came back to work after their holidays either because they needed the money (90 per cent) or were worried about what had gone wrong at the office while they were away (10 per cent). But the most important reason given by employees was "missing the excitement of work".

More than four out of ten of the staff surveyed said that if they won the National Lottery they would change jobs, perhaps to work for a charity or voluntary organisation. Only two out of ten said they would quit work.

Of course, many people outside the City would see these high earners as having won life's lottery already.

Clive Donnison, a director of Abacus, said: "This research indicates that companies have to think very carefully about how to retain their good employees. Clearly, the reasons why employees stay in a job are different to what their bosses believe, and managers who remain stuck in the 1980s are likely to lose their best people."