Irrational Exuberance

The London Paper  –  5 June 2009

Whenever journalists ask me what I miss most about being a stockbroker I have no hesitation in replying that four-hour boozy lunches were always the highlight of my week. Unfortunately, it now appears that such behaviour is being frowned upon – as was shown recently when an oil trader called David Redmond was banned from working in the City for two years after coming back from ‘a drinking session’ and trading like a man possessed. Ostensibly, this poor bloke lost his job because he tried to conceal his trades from his bosses but the press and the City regulator have focussed most on the fact that boozing had ‘affected his behaviour.’

There are several conclusions to be drawn from this sorry tale. Firstly, the City is changing. Back in my day debauched, drunken lunches followed by an inevitable visit to Browns, Metropolis or some other Shoreditch-based strip-joint were de rigueur. We would spend perhaps £500 of the banks’ money at some hideously over-priced City restaurant like Prism and then join all the local low-life placing our one pound coins into a pint glass being passed around by a scantily-clad ex-hooker. We’d usually roll back at about 4pm to catch the last half hour of the market vainly hoping that the hastily-chewed spearmint gum covered up the reek of stale champagne.

Secondly, the FSA (the City regulator) have got to get their act together. This case was apparently the first time they’ve suggested that alcohol played some part in rules being broken. Are they on drugs? The City and boozing go hand in hand like taking cocaine and talking utter gibberish, or at least they used to. I have no doubt that the devil’s urine has played a major role in numerous transgressions – from sexual harassment to insider trading. In fact, I reckon some of the ‘irrational exuberance’ in markets that we’ve experienced over the last twenty years (and which we’re paying for now) were fuelled by grog and Charlie.

Finally, and most importantly, NEVER GO BACK INTO THE OFFICE AFTER HAVING CONSUMED A SKIN-FULL. I still cringe when I think back to drunkenly patting my rotund boss’ belly on my return from The Ten Bells six months into my first City job. I can hardly bear recalling the time I slurred at a bunch of senior traders that they were ‘all c*&ts who couldn’t trade their way out of a paper bag.’ Dear old Mr Redmond was apparently making a trade every 7.5 seconds after his ‘quiet drink’ and ended up leaving his bank at risk of a $10m loss. I’m sure it seemed a wonderful idea at the time but then so did my bet that I could snort a glass full of chilli vodka at 3am last Friday.

‘Work is the curse of the drinking classes’ but if you’ve gotta work and you’ve gotta drink I’d always recommend not mixing the two together … especially if you’re dealing in millions of pounds or operating heavy machinery!

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