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The wrong sort of liquidity

By Taipan
12 Nov 2020

Spare a thought for a young loans banker who recently told Taipan about his newfound freedom. I was drinking in Solas when the chap walked in on his own and ordered a Brooklyn Lager. Since we were the only two occupying the bar’s outside seating, we naturally started talking.

The banker said he has become a bar-hound, heading to his local most days a week by around 4pm. That doesn’t sound so bad — few of us would complain about having a job so flexible — but for an ambitious chap at the start of his career, the early exit from work was cause for commiseration not celebration. There is simply nothing for him to do.

He described his daily routine: arrive at the office at 9am, have a coffee, chat with colleagues, read every newspaper available, have a long lunch, return to the office for another coffee, another chat, another read — and rinse and repeat until the week is over.

“The market is so dead,” he said. “I’m not sure what else I can do.”

I told him that quiet markets were periods of opportunity, both for individuals and for firms. Those banks that move into niche revenue-streams being ignored by their rivals can do remarkably well when the rest of the street is complaining about tepid volumes. Those bankers that can identify the niche opportunities can rise quickly.

I suggested that he talk to his boss, ask if there was anything he was missing, anything he could do. “I guarantee you,” I told him, “your boss is not just sitting around waiting for deals to arrive on his desk like manna from heaven. He’ll be thinking hard about how to create them.”

This moral was well-intentioned but evidently false. By 4.30pm, his boss had turned up at the same bar and started drinking alongside him.

By Taipan
12 Nov 2020