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Asia CommentTaipan

When a rose by any other name is asked to leave

The theory of nominative determinism states that people tend to take jobs that fit their names: John Baker becomes a baker, Ted Milk becomes a dairy farmer, Fakey McBlowhard becomes a politician. But there are also names that are valuable, not so much because they affect your career choices but because there’s a good chance you might get confused for someone else.

British comedian David Mitchell, when he turned to writing books, no doubt got a boost from the fact that he shared a name with the author of Cloud Atlas. British film director Steve McQueen almost certainly got more notice since he shared a name with the star of The Great Escape. But what about in the world of financial journalism? The right name can open doors — but it can’t necessarily keep them open.

One of Taipan's friends got a call a few years ago from the assistant of a bank CEO, who had recently taken over his institution. “Can you come in to meet him?” she said. “He’s eager to talk to you about his vision for the bank.”

This young chap couldn’t believe his luck. Someone had noticed his hard work! Somehow, despite the fact that he was a junior subscription salesman on a trade publication, a bank CEO had finally realised that he was the man of the hour. Unfortunately, his excitement lasted less than an hour.

He was back in the office within 30 minutes, glum and entirely without a sale. It turned out they had mixed him up with the editor of the magazine, who had a very similar name. They hadn’t even offered him a coffee for his trouble.

“What’s in a name?” asked Shakespeare’s Juliet. Perhaps she was the one who set up the meeting.

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