Bellwether: A proper bake off

IFR Review of the Year 2016
3 min read

Here at Bellwether, we are more than used to moving in exalted circles, such is the high esteem in which we are held.

But even we have to admit to being a little star-struck when Great British Bake Off heart-throb Selasi Gbormittah was wheeled out like a dessert trolley to serve some biscuits at one of Deutsche Bank’s awards pitches (although, disappointingly, Gbormittah – a transaction banker at Deutsche – hadn’t made the biscuits in question).

For those who have been living under a rock for the past half a dozen years, GBBO is where a bunch of talented amateurs compete for a largely valueless trophy but plenty of kudos and the prospect of lucrative future employment. So entirely different from the IFR Awards.

Pitch meetings can often entail little more in the way of fun than trying to slice through league table positions more inflated than a souffle and claims to greatness so self-raising they would make a Victoria sponge blush. Anything to sweeten the experience is icing on the cake.

Deutsche sought to convince us that it has been on something of a FIG roll. But the appearance of the housewives’ favourite banker-baker got us thinking about the scope for possible product development, particularly within the realm of – apologies – hybread securities.

We just have to hope a surfeit of Additional Tiered Bun does not lead to Tier 2 diabetes.

BELLWETHER WOULDN’T WANT to suggest that the awards pitching process is anything other than thoroughly enjoyable, but it’s remarkable the lengths some IFR hacks will go to avoid it.

One of our team, for instance, contracted a blood-borne form of E Coli and was ill just in time to avoid the first pitches and returned just a day after the last.

He was outdone by another IFR journo whose paternity leave coincided – if that is the word – precisely with the two weeks when pitching was at its most intense.

The hack in question has form in this regard, having done precisely the same three years before. Once could be a coincidence. But twice surely requires careful timing and the enterprising use of thermometers.

A LOT OF time is spent in awards pitches sorting between the truth and the, er, embellishments.

But rarely is that process as easy as in one videoconference bringing together bankers from around the world.

Arriving early, the IFR team was able to check in with bankers in London and Asia who said how exciting it was to use this novel technology for the first time.

A few minutes later and the US office was on stream and immediately in pitching mode about the bank’s joined-up team.

“We are very global. This isn’t our first videoconference, you know,” he said.

THERE WAS MUCH boasting about the banking industry’s efforts to improve diversity. But there is still much to be done – especially in the derivatives world.

More than 50 individuals pitched for derivatives awards this year, but just four were women (two of whom dialled in by phone). And that’s probably an all-time high.

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