You are not, dear reader, going to believe this – I can hardly believe it myself – but today’s column represents the 500thAnd Finally…!
I find myself at something of a loss having unearthed this fact – obviously I should use the occasion to deliver one of the great columns produced anywhere by anyone, but that would break the habit of a lifetime, therefore I thought – given the US holiday as well – that I would provide newer readers and those without the Insight subscription a peek into what they have been, or are missing.
I am also, I regret to inform you, also going to shamelessly self-indulge a little.
The very first And Finally…very much set the tone for what was to follow. I am trying to recall whether my desire to say something about an absurd situation prompted me to come up with the name for a small opinion piece at the end of Squawkbox, or whether it had already been planned and I just got lucky, but either way, when I picked up my metaphorical pen, I was blessed by events surrounding Jerome Kerviel to comment upon.
The first column, therefore, observed that it was unfortunate timing on the part of the Bank for International Settlements to release a paper on central bank co-operation the very same week that the Fed held an emergency meeting and cut rates, only to find out that the Banque de France had omitted to tell them that SocGen was unwinding a rogue trader’s (Jerome Kerviel) position. You simply cannot make this sort of thing up! Equity markets were getting a total kicking because the unwinding was (apparently) less than subtle, but at no time did anyone think to tell anyone in the central bank at the next financial centre to face the chaos.
It is quite noticeable looking back on the first year of columns (we kicked off on January 28, 2008) what a momentous time it was. I discussed rogue traders, huge losses, bail outs, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and much more in the first 11 months.
What I find interesting about those early missives is how I also discussed the need for better TCA; the challenge of monitoring behaviour on anonymous platforms; trader behaviour around benchmark fixings (I should stress this was related to Libor and not the WM – that came later!); the creep of regulation and its negative impact on FX market liquidity; stop losses and customers suing banks. Roll forward 10 years and pretty much we’re still discussing the same issues – having taken a significant detour around one of my particular bugbears, last look.
Over the 500 columns you have also had to read about my encounter with a naked man in my bathroom (it involved a tub of fake tan!), my (still ongoing) battle to avoid ever flying United Airlines; a singing and dancing (literally) stowaway on a flight from Chicago to London; Diana Ross commenting on the dollar during a live gig I was at; and possibly most bizarrely, an FX trading platform that reinvented itself as a service provider for the adult entertainment industry. Fill your own joke in there!
The columns have also evoked Pink Floyd, Barry Manilow, Tom Jones, Foreigner, Carry On Films, Busta Groove, Arnold Schwartenegger, George Benson, Noel Coward, Run DMC, Jeremy Clarkson, Confucius, Matthew Broderick, Ozzy Osborne, Clint Eastwood, George Santayana (he was a 19th/20th century Spanish philosopher apparently), Kate Spade, Steven Seagal, C&C Music Factory, The Shamen (me neither!), Mike Oldfield and George Bernard Shaw. That rather eccentric list explains a lot, although the good news is I discovered that in the first year I repeatedly referred to myself having the mentality of a 14 year old. In more recent times I have been claiming that of a 15 year old – that’s progress!
This column does like an unscientific poll, as regular readers will attest, and over the years there have been a few persistent targets, including sales desks (I am an ex-trader after all), strategists, regulators, geeks, management, lawyers (especially lawyers!) and Professor Darrell Duffie – which is one for the real diehard readers!
I suppose on a more serious note, the issues that have most concerned me were behaviour around benchmark fixes, last look and, more latterly, pre-hedging, and it is significant that all have one thing in common – they present tremendous reputational risk for an industry I love.
These issues are ongoing – just a couple of months ago I issued what I estimate to be the fourth or fifth clarion call for industry leadership over something that was happening. I have no doubt there will be more occasions.
In terms of events, the most memorable has to be SNB Day – that was a real shock to the system and everyone in it. It was all the more so because just that morning I had written about (in the ‘other’ column) what would happen if the SNB pulled the peg.
I got messages suggesting I knew something – I didn’t. And just to highlight the superior insight and predictive powers of this column, I even suggested that if the peg went the cross “might gap” lower.
More insightful (and worrying) in the same column, was my prediction that what would be “a once-in-a-generation type event” like a de-pegging “is bound to happen at some stage”…eight hours later and “bonnet de douche” as Derek Trotter would say! That just highlights something I like to tell delegates on the ACI Australia Dealing Simulation Course – it’s better to be lucky than good!
Ultimately, however, the fact that I have got to 500 (and there have 343 And Another Thing…efforts!) is down to the interaction with you, the readers. So much of the humour in these columns emanates from feedback from the readership – most of it denigrating to yours truly.
I do feel this is an appropriate time to thank every single person who has read one of these columns and provided ideas, feedback, material and criticism. I do have the industry’s interests at heart and feel just as passionately as I ever did about people doing the right thing. It is important to me that there are so many of you out there who also feel that way.
Occasionally, of course, my passion for the FX industry does descend (I would say ‘ascend’ of course) into cheap gags at the expense of other asset classes, and I would like to take this opportunity to commit to continuing to do just that!
So with thanks to you, our readers, I look forward to qriting many, many more – all infused by the ethos of And Finally…from the very start – “sometimes right…sometimes wrong…always certain!”