Resembling a homeless unfortunate who had just been turfed out of his overnight resting place, a doorway off Cheapside, the humdrum stockbroker, by turns dyspeptic and crapulous, shuffled along the City’s central thoroughfare and into a branch of a well-known high street baker.
He had but one thing on his mind: buying a restorative sausage roll, their best-selling product. Before I tell you about my unsatisfactory consumer experience, let me tell you they shift 2.5 million of these items every single week. I approached the counter.
“A sausage roll, please.”
The girl serving was short and wearing a headscarf. She said something incomprehensible to me. I know I have a habit of muttering when I’m hungover so I repeated my order. It was only at the third time of asking that I finally heard clearly what she was saying:
“You want a roll with a sausage in it?”
Mental agility is never a strongpoint of mine, especially at that time of day but how to respond? Was there a philosophical dimension to her question? Was it rhetorical? Or trick? Did I really want a roll with a sausage in it?
On the train journey in, I had been reading about the aviation security officer who hauled a 69 year-old doctor off a United Airlines flight in Chicago last year, breaking his nose, knocking out two teeth and concussing him. He is suing his former employers for not training him properly in what is known in the business as "the force level continuum'.
This protocol provides guidelines for how much physicality can be used against a resisting subject, and I was wondering what level I might have to apply if I wanted to make sure I got what I came in for. Before I was left with no option but the application of lethal force and reflecting that language is an unsatisfactory medium for human communication, I just pointed in the end.
The interaction was not remotely hostile and I don’t think she was deliberately obstructing my recuperative jentacular but I can’t believe they will continue selling so many sausage rolls if there is the same mental dislocation every time one is ordered.
No workin', no Cryan
As it is with shop assistants on the minimum wage selling low-quality comestibles to the City’s impecunious, so it goes with stockbrokers on gossamer-thin margins, peanuts and monkeys.
This week saw the demise of John Cryan, formerly CEO of Deutsche Bank and author of the statement: “I have no idea why I was offered a contract with a bonus in it because I promise you I will not work any harder”.
I invariably attach the epithet ‘unfortunate’ to any demise but I eschewed it on this occasion because let’s just say he and I were not aligned when forming opinions on remuneration in the City.
I would argue the main reason he was not that bothered about a bonus is because he earned €5.2m last year and if I were earning that kind of money, no, I wouldn’t be too concerned about my bonus either and nor would I be buying a roll with a sausage in it for breakfast.
I would happily dig holes in the road using my head as a pick if Salvation Bank were to pay me so well. His golden goodbye is €7m for the two years of his contract he won’t fulfil. Get Rich or Die Tryin? How about Get Rich and Die Cryan?
The hypocrisy was breathtaking. He thought bankers earned too much for simply turning up to work to handle other people’s money but was more than happy to take 40 times the average salary of his employees.
It’s analogous to Warren Buffett’s enthusiasm for higher taxes which I’d be all for, were I also a billionaire.
The Wage of Omaha is worth $85bn or so and given a similar bank balance I’d happily put myself in the 99% tax bracket. I suspect All-You-Can-Eat Buffett was more reticent about taxation before he made his pile.
When Cryan was appointed, I recall reading what a former colleague of his had said about him, presumably in tribute: “Other managers can drink their colleagues under the table. He can work them under the table.”
No one would ever say that about me and nor would I want them too. It sounds like the indictment of a career not an endorsement. Boasting about one’s capacity for hard work and long hours is like stoking a log fire with your penis as a poker: it’s an admirable display of fortitude but ultimately a futile sacrifice.
Salvation Bank has a March year-end so I am now waiting to discover if they take a parsimonious or extravagant approach to bonus culture. Will they pay me like a City dungwallah or a big hitter?
I will find no peace until I know. Is what Orwell meant when he wrote, “Serenity is impossible to a poor man in a cold country”? Having been in between jobs last year and zeroed the year before by Chaucer Securities, I have not been in receipt of a discretionary lump sum since 2015 when I was able to spend the greater part of that lump sum all in the same evening on a Chinese takeaway, a bottle of Jacob’s Creek (in magnum!) and vigorous rubdown from Kung Fu Panda in my local oriental massage parlour. That’s how a postmodern stockbroker celebrates in the time of MiFID.
I don’t know how successful the Pained Trader’s first year at Salvation Bank will be judged. After the eaglet’s initial flappy winged, aborted take-offs, at times in recent months the sight of the postmodern sales-trader floating effortlessly on the market thermals must lift the heart and persuade them to keep him aloft by bestowing a bumper bonus bonanza big enough to give a dead pope a pulse.
Just for once, will the nomad of the bitter pastures confound that rainy island pessimism and graze the verdancy on offer the other side of the barbed wire fence? On verra. Que sera, sera.