Two weeks ago I received a communication from an old friend and erstwhile head of credit research for a large European bank. It began, “After too many years of this game I’m hanging up my bowler and riding off into the sunset (for now at least)…”. It ended with a plea for me to take on board his personal email address and to continue to send to him my daily market comments.
Little was he to know at that juncture that I too had decided that it was time to walk away. So it comes that today’s column will be, for the while at least, my last one.
What started out in the late 1980s as a bit of daily frivol on the ITIL Reuters page has become a very significant part of my life and the joy of writing has long supplanted the pleasure of offering up my knowledge, experience and conviction to asset managers, only to be met with “thanks but no thanks….” or to have margins eroded to such an extent that one might be led to believe that one is working in a service industry where service is, as much by dint of regulation as by fear of accusation of dirty dealings, no longer allowed to be rewarded.
I was very lucky. As a bear of little brain and armed with no more than a degree in politics and modern history I found myself in the City during a boom time. We all did pretty well.
Some did better than others but I think we all know that it is very rare for somebody to make it to the top because they are nice.
Nevertheless, we foot-soldiers were decently rewarded and, were it not for my divorce a few years ago, I too would be either retiring or already retired due to excess wealth.
As some of you might be aware, I suffered a severe accident this summer which will leave some scarring - on one hand, any future career I might have been contemplating as a model is now off the table, but, on the other, I do at least still need to wear fancy dress for Halloween - but it is in the head that things have changed.
I will be 62 at my next birthday and the time has come for me to reflect on the whichness of the why and to think about what I want to do with the final third of my life.
That said, after a few months of doing little to nothing and of clearing my mind, I will be looking for a sponsor who will keep me in communication systems and pocket money and who will offer me a platform from which I can continue to observe and comment on the merry mayhem we call markets.
It is no secret that I have a passion for fast things on four wheels. I grew up in the age of Jack Brabham, Jim Clark and Graham Hill. It was also the age of Bruce McLaren, Colin Chapman and Enzo Ferrari. Despite the great names, Grand Prix racing was a cottage industry driven by individuals who moved the game forward, not by abiding by the rules, but by rewriting them.
Today’s Formula one plays for bigger money but it has disappeared up the corporate orifice.
Bond markets have done the same. No more men like Stanley Ross or Hans-Joerg Rudloff. I enjoyed the early (though not pioneering) years of the Eurobond market. I used to say that it was fun, that they then took the fun out and replaced it with money but that they have now taken the money out again while forgetting to put the fun back in.
It, too, has become corporate where pushing the envelope risks breaking a player’s career rather than making it.
Eight years ago I was spat out by the US investment banking world, just ahead of bonus time – it was at the end of my best ever year so if asked whether production or age were the respective drivers of my redundancy, how could I possibly comment? – and after a brief spell on the buyside, I found myself being offered a fresh opportunity at SwissInvest, a small but perfectly formed Swiss-owned but London-based institutional bond brokerage.
The two partners, Gilles Wormser and Philippe Leutert, encouraged me to trust my ability and my relationships and I have truly enjoyed my time with them, initially aided of course by the dynamics of the global financial crisis.
They shepherded me though my early days away from the comfort of the market-maker, the trauma of divorce and they indulged me as I took time off to either lick my wounds or watch cars going round in circles.
I wouldn’t say that my time at SwissInvest has been the best I have had with my clothes on but it has come pretty close.
I am sad to leave but we all have to move on. I’d like to take the opportunity here to thank them and to wish them all the best.
I have written over 1,500 daily columns under the SwissInvest banner and if they ask me nicely, I might send them bound copies…
Four and a half years ago, the International Financing Review picked up on my musings and has very kindly reprinted the daily column as well as having commissioned from me an exclusive weekly one too.
Thus, there are also a couple of hundred of those single-themed pieces knocking about on their website as well as in their distinctive yellow magazines.
These I am hoping, god and the editor willing, to keep on writing during the coming hiatus.
I should also like to thank Paul Volker, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, Karl-Otto Poehl, Helmut Schlesinger, Hans Tietmeyer, Ernst Welteke, Juergen Stark, Axel A Weber, Jens Weidmann, Wim Duisenberg, Jean-Claude Trichet, Mario Draghi, Eddie George, Merv the Swerve, Mark “The Magician” Carney…I think you might get the point.
There is of course also the invisible Scotsman, David “Call me Dave” (before he had a majority in the House of Commons) and David (“You may now call me David again”) Cameron now that he does, Francois “Qui? Moi?” Hollande, Mutti and that famous American with Irish roots, Barak O’Bama.
They, along with a bunch of Greeks bearing debts and of course the old enemy, the French, with their 35 hour week and total disregard for EU rules (unless broken by others) have kept me in entertainment and bewilderment for many, many years and this I have tried, in my own way, to share with you.
It began with a bit of a message to a few clients and now, with the benefit of modern technology, I find myself being read in and receiving communications from all corners of the globe written by people who have come to my thoughts third or fourth hand or who follow me in the IFR.
It is incredibly gratifying when I talk to these people about my desire to shorten my step a bit to hear the begging plea not to give up the daily column.
Finally, as I turn my back on the endless grind of front-line broking, I’d like to thank all of those investors, in as much as they are not also retired or promoted beyond the level of daily dealing, who have helped me buy my house, my cars, my food and wine, pay my taxes and go on holiday.
Somewhere in me there is a book and if they promise to buy 20 or so copies, they might, just perhaps, get a mention. For 50 copies, I will leave them out!
Alas, it is that time in my life and all that remains is for me to wish you and yours a happy and peaceful weekend, a wonderful Christmas, a happy and prosperous New Year and for me to thank all of you for having helped me make the 30 years I have worked in the City a time to remember.
However, in the words of that big Austrian bodybuilder and with the grace of God, “I vill be beck”.