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AsiaAsia CommentTaipan

China’s shoe exchange is my worst nightmare

Has any institution created more gentlemen than Captain’s Bar?

Not Charterhouse, nor Eton, nor even the hallowed halls of Winchester. Captain’s Bar allows young bankers to learn a level of sophistication that cannot be taught in the classroom: the sophistication of the sozzled, the charm of the chunderer.

It is only through observing more mature bankers in a state of inebriation that the next generation learn the essential qualities that separate an investment banker from a lowly transaction banker. We talk, they listen. We drink, they pay. We swagger, they swoon.

That’s how it’s supposed to work anyway. But occasionally, young bankers turn up at the Captain’s spouting alien nonsense that leaves us golden oldies stunned into sobriety. Such was that case a few nights ago, when I met a pair of Chinese bankers who said they were trading shoes like stocks. Not even Bally’s, mind you, but trainers — the footwear of lunatics and shoplifters.

“I got two buddies to buy five pairs of AJ red suede for me a month ago,” said one, staring at his phone. “Now they are trading at Rmb17,000 ($2,400).”

They informed me that on a random day in August, the trading volume of the three major shoe indices — Adidas, Nike and AJ — surpassed that of a proper Chinese stock board. I was apoplectic.

People are supposed to make and lose their fortunes on esoteric, intangible assets that have no real world application. But to wear an asset? On your feet?! The idea is offensive. You can’t wear a structured derivative.