The London Paper – 2 Jan 2007
The next two weeks of my life look likely to be about as amusing as those that Saddam Hussein currently faces. That’s because this week the fortnight-long interim results season begins in the sector that I analyze. Henceforth, I face the almost daily ordeal of reading companies’ results and then having to communicate to ‘the market’ my instant interpretation of them. The opportunities to screw up are myriad.
My average day will now follow a predictably stressful routine. At 7am a company will report its results which I access via my Reuters screen. I’ve then got about 10 minutes to analyze them and to try and work out what they mean for the company’s share price. Usually while I’m trying to do this my trader calls me up demanding to know how he should position himself in the relevant shares ready for the stock market’s opening at 8am. Once, when hung-over, I underestimated the impact of a negative announcement and it cost my trader around £300K. Generally I’m not quite that incompetent and after spinning him some yarn I’ll rush down to the trading floor. This is a football pitch-sized open-plan office which between 7 and 8am is buzzing like Peter Doherty at a Bogota house party.
At around 7.15am I step up to the podium and have exactly 2 minutes to explain to the 200 or so people staring at their multiple screens (some of whom are listening) what they should tell their clients. If you’re sweating like a rapist in a line-up because you’re flustered it will be revealed to everyone by the large monitors suspended throughout the room. In this scenario you’re going be about as convincing as Tony Blair talking about Iraqi WMD. The only way to play it is to say things extremely confidently whatever your conviction but this ain’t easy when you’ve merely skimmed through a 30 page document. Stress levels are increased further by your knowledge that certain colleagues in Frankfurt, Milan, Paris and Madrid will be watching you on their screens too and that the New York office will be shown a recording of your performance in about 5 hours. I once heard that a stressed-out analyst burst into tears whilst delivering his spiel – and that’s never a good look at an investment bank. After this ordeal you run upstairs to write an email that should reach around 500 investors, then call as many of your priority clients as possible and finally rush off to the 9am results presentation itself. If you’re hung-over, trying to do all this efficientyly makes an SAS assault course look like a walk in the park.
Undoubtedly, what we do is stressful and this is often used as a justification for our absurdly large pay checks. However, whilst these kinds of days are a wee bit tricky I doubt they’re much worse than certain days teachers, actors or nurses face (and people don’t die if we screw up). Funnily enough, despite their stressful jobs I don’t see these types at the table next to me when I’m dining at Sketch.