The Pained Trader: don't count your chickens

He may not be free range, but at least there's no egg on his face.

  • By The Pained Trader
  • 16 Mar 2017
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On trading floors across the City there are dozens and dozens of us: traders, sales-traders, failed traders, brokers and salesmen, sitting in rows like so many battery hens in a caged-layer facility. 

At the end of each day, each hen must submit to the degrading ritual of standing up and revealing how many eggs it has laid in the warm straw beneath. 

I rise slowly and sheepishly (if the avian can be ovine, that is), reluctant to lay bare how rare are the eggs I lay, and, on the blue moon when by some bizarre quirk of circumstance there is an end product, the eggs are never golden. I am not a good layer. Always, I affect surprise when I stand up and lift my petticoats to look beneath and see nothing there. You really can put all my eggs in one basket: that's because there are so few of them.

That's strange, I could swear there was a beautiful ovoid creation here just a minute ago. Where could it have gone? Where did I mislay those golden eggs? Don't worry, boss, please don't send me to the abattoir yet. I'm laying another now. I can feel it forming where the stuffing will one day go. 

If I'm crafty, I can extend a surreptitious wing every now and then and try to stealth-roll some other poor clucker's output into my partition, especially the champion chicken next door who plops down so many it can barely keep tally and crows about it. Go to work on an egg they said — even if it's somebody else's.

If another hen leaves its eggs unattended or does not stamp them, what can it expect other than that I may squat on them and adopt them as my own and hatch those little baby chick bonuses? 

Ultimately, however, no amount of clucking and strutting, no amount of flimflam or sleight of wing can avoid the final counting of the eggs. No chicken can cheat the checking forever. All chickens are accountable. A chicken catcher waits. Anyone can talk a good book but in the end words are words and hens lay eggs and that's what the business is about.

And this is why perhaps, the Banking Standards Board's first annual review, published last week, made so many headlines with its eye-catching survey conclusions. It revealed that 18% of respondents turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour, while 13% believe it's difficult to be successful without compromising on ethical standards and a similar percentage reckons that compromise is often rewarded. Ethics is not a county that begins where the East End ends.

I don't know myself. Conveniently, this was another poll in which I was not invited to participate.

Compared to most industries, I suspect banking stands up well. Can you imagine the Honourable Guild of Journalists coming up with lower numbers if they answered honestly? 

Would the Worshipful Company of Builders remain unflinchingly candid in its self-assessment? ("Well, it could be 5% but it could be 95%, it's hard to say.") 

There are so few vocations whose practitioners are innocent and selfless. Estate agents anyone? And I would argue the one which is meant to implement the law is the most criminal of them all; police seem largely above the law. Investment banking is like any other calling: one encounters the good and the bad but it's the latter who make the papers.

When the British public was canvassed by Ipsos Mori last year about the trustworthiness of various professions, banking again fell into the bottom quartile, which shows what damage can be wrought by a hostile press, the politics of envy and the malleability of public opinion, the naivety of which can always be exploited by unscrupulous politicians. 

For every Kweku Adoboli, Jérôme Kerviel or Nick Leeson, there are thousands of others leading humdrum lives of quiet desperation in the City. These are mostly battery hens, not free range.

Swelling their ranks shortly, I imagine, will be Charlotte Egg, I mean Hogg, lately of the Bank of England.

Her absent-mindedness (I cannot believe anyone in her position could be so naive as to think she could conceal her brother's existence as a director at Barclays. His name was Quintin Hogg, they are the offspring of Lord Hailsham and it's not as if no one would make the association) cost her her career. 

My sympathies go out to her because I think I have to make my employers aware of an uncompromising situation regarding my brother. 

He's currently serving two and half years in Walton Gaol for common assault (that means he assailed people frequently, I think). He's also not without ambition, though. He wants a transfer to Wigan ( the prison not the football club). 

The food is better apparently. I wonder if he's too embarrassed to admit to fellow cons that his brother's an investment banker?

  • By The Pained Trader
  • 16 Mar 2017

All International Bonds

Rank Lead Manager Amount $m No of issues Share %
  • Last updated
  • Today
1 Citi 414,341.60 1584 9.03%
2 JPMorgan 377,311.36 1724 8.23%
3 Bank of America Merrill Lynch 358,416.32 1295 7.81%
4 Goldman Sachs 266,063.47 914 5.80%
5 Barclays 264,598.20 1056 5.77%

Bookrunners of All Syndicated Loans EMEA

Rank Lead Manager Amount $m No of issues Share %
  • Last updated
  • Today
1 HSBC 44,979.63 190 6.72%
2 Deutsche Bank 37,019.66 134 5.53%
3 BNP Paribas 35,303.69 205 5.28%
4 JPMorgan 33,752.71 110 5.04%
5 Bank of America Merrill Lynch 32,865.23 106 4.91%

Bookrunners of all EMEA ECM Issuance

Rank Lead Manager Amount $m No of issues Share %
  • Last updated
  • Today
1 JPMorgan 22,398.41 104 8.72%
2 Morgan Stanley 18,608.72 99 7.25%
3 Citi 17,768.49 110 6.92%
4 UBS 17,372.80 70 6.77%
5 Goldman Sachs 17,228.66 97 6.71%