There is always the very slight chance that my prospective employers (let’s call them Salvation Bank, shall we, because that’s what they represent to me at this stage of my so-called career?) will decide to discuss my chequered disciplinary history and peccadillo’d past with my previous employers and I won’t even get to start my new job.
They may resolve, after reading about the travails of my ‘inappropriate’ correspondence discussing Donald Trump and his alleged carnal relations with goats, and the resultant clash of the ironic and the literal minds, that I’m too much of a reputational risk — and withdraw their offer.
In my experience, there needs to exist only the remotest of possibilities of a sub-optimal outcome for it to come magically and tragically true, transforming an agreeable scenario into a bath of boiling faeces. Rotten luck will do the rest. I shall not count a solitary chicken or take the new role for granted then until I am given a security pass and shown the way to my desk on day one.
Like most places these days, Salvation Bank outsources its background checks on new hires to another company. I was obliged to make a full and complete disclosure of almost everything I have ever done — and some things I haven’t — but luckily most of the crimes I have committed in the City and in this life were not covered.
For example, I was able to state without fear of contradiction that I have never been judged an unfit and improper person to work in the City because, although most people would say it, no one has ever taken the trouble to write it down.
The online questionnaire did not ask me, for example: Did you, in 1999, unintentionally misreport an execution of 250,000 shares of a Hungarian bank at a price of 4554.4554 forint and spoonerise the purchase price to 5445.5445 forint, thereby creating a profit of several hundred thousand dollars which no one (either at our place or the customer’s) noticed for months afterwards, by which time it was deemed the bargain was best left as it was. This was fortunate because that’s what happened.
Nor was I asked directly if I had in 1995 threatened the head of trading at a US brokerage that I would wait outside the office after work for him, where I promised to knock his block off. This again was fortunate because I cannot tell a lie.
I was not asked if I had ever committed insider trading. I was merely asked whether I had been found guilty of it. My insider trading in and around the year 2000 cost me £5,000, when the stock I punted on the basis of advice from a board member and friend of mine announced a profit warning and promptly fell 25%. My mate should have done time for duff information, I know that for sure.
When quizzed whether I had ever been arrested, replying “No” was not entirely truthful because of the time I was with a coachload of Everton fans in the early 1980s and they smashed up a Little Chef on the M6 services – and everyone, innocent or guilty, hooligan or wide-eyed bystander, was banged up in the back of a meat wagon for the afternoon. (And missed the match, although with Everton of that era it was probably a blessing.)
No, these outsourced checkers don’t ask you anything specific, thank goodness, or investigate thought crimes or the fiddling of expenses, or how often I have confused buy and sell or how much of every day is given over to the twin vices of sexual reverie and sub-tabular self-interference because all these direct challenges to my integrity would change Salvation Bank into Damnation Bank very rapidly.
The moral arc of the universe is long but it cleaves towards justice in the end, so I just have to hope I’m out of this business before it gets there – or, at the very least, before I get to start at Salvation Bank.
HR has been unspeakably friendly and accommodating in initial exchanges, especially when it became apparent they were dealing with a technological chimpanzee who could no more upload a file than he could scan a copy of his own passport.
Of course, sooner or later, once I start underperforming, and taking the piss on holidays and sticking in £500 lunch bills with nothing to show for it and the first warnings come, then relations will sour. But for now we have a honeymoon period and I’m enjoying it immensely. I intend to make it as awkward as possible for them to have to notify me I’m ‘at risk’ a few months from now.
My probation lasts for six months and for the first time in a long while I have something in common with my brother – because he has just been released from Walton Gaol and he is on probation too.
He has been tagged and can’t leave the house between 7pm and 7am, so when he wants to smoke a crafty cigarette he has to sit outside on my mum’s patio but leave his left leg on a chair just inside the door because if the sensor is triggered he’s straight back inside. It keeps him indoors at night but it has proved no deterrent to him smoking, mind you.
Speaking of chimpanzees, this week I started reading Sapiens, a book of anthropology that has received much critical approbation. I am perhaps a quarter of the way through, having passed through the Cognitive and Agricultural revolutions and several species of the genus Homo, including Erectus, Floriensis and Neanderthal.
So far I have seen the extinction of dinosaurs, inter-dealer brokers and the three-bottle lunch, but there is no mention yet of when man first started punting stocks, so I’m guessing a lot of evolution had to take place before he did. I must wait even longer for Homo Sapiens to decide he needs a HR department and creates the first collateralised debt obligation. I’m assuming he had descended from the trees and had come up off all fours before he started sales-trading but I need to get to that bit.
It’s amazing to think that one day, several millennia from now, anthropologists will be trying to explain MiFID to a befuddled audience and trying to justify it as a guideline for an uncertain future. We could bury a time capsule with an explanation but I don’t know anyone who has one. Do you?
If Gabriel Garcia Marques had been a stockbroker and not a journalist, would he have written a book entitled, “Love in the Time of MiFID”? Get back to me on that.