It’s all very well for Janet Yellen to claim the Global Financial Crisis is behind us and that the US balance sheet has been repaired but what about mine?
I’m still living through the GFC. It never ended for me. My household balance sheet resembles my heart — stretched, then broken, now irreparable — and if Janet insists on pursuing something she euphemises as ‘the normalisation of interest rates’, then I, Gentle Reader, am as dead as the Norwegian Blue.
Addicted to stimulus
I am still addicted to my monetary stimulus and if I went to see a professional in the carnal knowledge industry it is quantitative easing I would be requesting as an ‘extra’ not quantitative tightening. Janet may think she has reached escape velocity and the economy has lift-off but I am only looking up at the stars because I’m still flat out on my back in the gutter. Turboparalysis is the only way I can describe the frantic activity and herculean effort which I apply to my job, not in the hope of progress, you understand but just to stay where I am. Career wheelspin is a marginal improvement on career tailspin and it’s the extent of my ambition at Salvation Bank.
If Janet thinks 5% is a respectable, historically reasonable level for borrowing, then my mortgage payments, which I can barely service in this prelapsarian era before the MiFID holocaust, will almost treble and The House The Locals Know As The Pained Trader’s Folly will be reverting back to the building society not long thereafter.
Nothing will serve to demonstrate the fatal inability of post-modern stockbroking to pay the rent, than a normalisation of sodding interest rates. I can scarcely believe a decade ago I was in a net cash position, bullish on my prospects, sexually active, I thought I could prove Aristophanes right about love and I could rise nimbly from an armchair without emitting a distressing series of groans. Fast-forward 10 years and all of those positions are reversed. Hope was a poor investment with low returns. You can’t eat hope: it eats you.
End of an era
And with my demise, so goes the métier of post-modern stockbroking, hybrid sales, phone jockeying and liquid lunching. The tradition dies with me – or so it feels. Qualis artifex pereo. I shall leave it to the algo merchants, the DMA providers, the purveyors of low-touch, the high-frequency tossers, the programmers and the bots. The genes will not survive. Evolution has had its way. Brokers are like the loom-weavers of the early 19th-century, confronted with the advent of the spinning jenny: resentful and bereft of hope.
“I wish to complain about this stockbroker what I purchased not half a year ago.”
“Ay, yes, the phone jockey sales-trader. What’s wrong with him?”
I tell you what’s wrong with him. He’s dead.”
“No, he’s not dead. He’s resting. Remarkable creature, the sales-trader. Beautiful shirt and tie combination.”
“Shirt and tie don’t come into it. He’s stone dead.”
“He’s resting. Relaxed in the paddock. That’s what they say.”
“If he’s relaxed in the paddock, wake him up then.”
(Shouting into cage) “’Ello geezer. Want some biz? Testing. Testing. This is an incoming order alert. A lovely, large discretionary order for you." (Slaps sales-trader on head.)
“That’s a dead sales-trader.”
"No, he’s stunned.”
“Stunned? Stunned he got an order?”
“Yes. You stunned him. He was just coming round. Sales-traders stun easily. MiFID. Dark pools. Automation. Anything can set him off.”
“Look mate. I’ve had enough of this. This sales-trader is deceased and when I hired him you assured me his total lack of business was due to him being shagged out after a particularly busy day’s trading and a night out lap-dancing with some clients.”
“Well, he’s probably pining for the margins and fretting about MiFID.”
“Pining for the margins? What kind of rubbish is that? Commission rates are in a race towards zero and MiFID is a holocaust. Everyone knows that.”
“The sales-trader prefers to keep still and affect lifelessness for long hours before springing into life when the phone rings. That’s all he needs: an incoming call and then BOOM!”
“BOOM? Mate, this sales-trader wouldn’t boom if you put four million volts through him. He’s bleeding demised. The only reason he’s still sitting in his seat is because he’s been nailed to it. If his phone did ring we’d call an ambulance because he would need capital commitment and 10 minutes later we’re carrying one of the traders out on a stretcher.”
“He’s pining for the bull market.”
“He’s not pining. He’s passed on. He’s disintermediated. This sales-trader is no more. He’s ceased to be. He hasn’t had an order in months. He’s expired and gone to meet HR and then his maker. His loss ratio is through the roof. If he weren’t nailed to the desk, he’d be pushing up daisies. He’s kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. For him, execution-only means his execution is the only thing he’s got to look forward to.”
“Right, well, we’d better replace him then.” (Peeks behind the counter.) “We’re right out of sales-traders, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, I see.”
“I’ve got a robot.”
“Pray…” (whispers sweetly)… “Does it put in dodgy expenses, watch inappropriate images on the internet, take too much holiday, occupy management time, smoke crafty fags outside the back door, demand functional plumbing, cut and paste ad infinitum and absurdam, give pure wind the appearance of solidity and call in sick on a Friday?”
“Not really. He’s at work on time every day. He doesn’t want a pension. He doesn’t suffer hangovers. He won’t sue you for sexual discrimination. He doesn’t expect a bonus. When you’ve had enough, you turn him off.”
“Perfect. I’ll take one of those please.”