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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Summer Eats, Stocks and Putts

The RTS is flat. The office is quiet. The clients are on vacation. For many financial professionals in Moscow, it's time to forget about Wall Street and focus more on Easy Street. And that means everything from taking two- or even three-hour lunches to playing every imaginable sport inside the office.

"Some days are just deathly boring because half the clients are away on vacation, and the other half that aren't, they know that the other half are, so they're not going to do anything," said Erik DePoy, a strategist at Alfa Bank.

Of course, some of Moscow's money men and women have found productive uses for their time, such as reading books about finance and brainstorming trading strategies with colleagues from other firms -- over a long lunch, of course.

Also, some banks have been sending junior employees to training sessions in London or elsewhere. Other firms are getting a head start on work for the fall: This week, the research team at Deutsche UFG has been toiling to get ready for the firm's investor conference in early September in New York.

"Most of the staff of a brokerage always has something to do," said Ilya Efimchuk, head of the Derivatives Expert analytical agency. "They have to prepare all the reports for their clients, they have to work on deals, and so on."

But for many financiers not lucky enough to be on vacation, the goal during the dog days of late summer can be chasing away boredom while trying to get at least a modicum of work done for the company.

In chats with financial services professionals -- many of whom didn't want to be named, for obvious reasons -- the most popular way to relax in August was to take a long business lunch, either with co-workers or with contacts from other firms, who are a part of the "extended family" of finance workers.

The restaurants around Krasniye Vorota naturally attract visitors from the cluster of investment banks with headquarters in the area.

An analyst with Renaissance Capital mentioned the Coffeemania cafe on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa as an increasingly popular hangout for financial types in central Moscow. Originally, the cafe attracted conservatory musicians from next door, and the eminent cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich had been spotted there in the past.

Today you are more likely to see employees of RenCap, Kit Finance, Troika Dialog, Standard & Poor's, ABN Amro and MICEX, all of which have offices in the neighborhood. In the month of August, these lunches can drag on well past 3 p.m.

Yet even the hungriest bankers have to leave the table and return to the office eventually, and that's when the office sports come into play. The classic game is practicing golf putts: All you need is a golf ball, a putter and a plastic cup turned on its side.

"You place the cup at one end of the trading floor, and you practice your putt," said a financial source with direct knowledge of the game. The source added that a cricket bat had been spotted in the same office, as well as a Nerf basketball hoop favored by a certain telecom analyst who shall remain nameless.

For those with a less-athletic bent, the standard office distractions still apply: reading the news online, checking e-mail, and surfing the web. But in today's offices, the web surfing rarely gets out of hand. One credit analyst said pornography was a definite no-no, because you never know "when Big Brother is watching you."

Meanwhile, a Moscow-based fund manager joked that he liked to spend slow August days calling up his attorneys and giving them extra work. Not so fast, said one securities lawyer who happened to overhear that comment: He makes a special effort to avoid taking phone calls from such clients during the summer months, he said.

Some of the fun doesn't begin until after working hours, which can occasionally end as early as 5 p.m. Office bowling trips are common, as are exotic pursuits such as paintball and laser tag.

Being away from your desk isn't such a problem these days, because traders and analysts can always be summoned quickly with a mobile phone call or a message sent to the worker's BlackBerry or other e-mail device.

Despite well-meaning advice to the contrary from friends and family, many financial professionals also feel the need to pack the BlackBerry along with the sunscreen when they go on vacation.

Yaroslav Lissovolik, chief economist at Deutsche UFG, confessed that he brushed aside his friends' kind advice and brought his BlackBerry on his recent vacation to Dubrovnik, Croatia. He said he checked it two or three times per day but steadfastly refused to take it to the beach.

"I think it's a bad idea to be off guard in Russia in the August period, because, generally, some not-very-good things happen in this month," Lissovolik said.

And perhaps he's right: Even in the August doldrums, market-moving news has a surprising way of catching Russia off balance. Take the financial crisis of 1998, for example. Or last year's stock market rally, which started to take off in August. Not to mention a handful of terrorist attacks that have affected the financial markets.

This August has been pretty quiet so far, from a market perspective at least. Keep your fingers crossed.