You may be a business man or some high-degree thief
They may call you doctor or they may call you chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Bob Dylan – “Gotta serve somebody”
Rather how one feels after a four course lunch I fear that I am suffering from too many columns about lunching and dining out. Certainly my body is creaking having entertained a lot last week, even considering I don’t drink and am very careful with what I eat, which is not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable. Both the food and the company were top drawer but this is not a restaurant review column (although that would be fun) but it’s starting to get like one. Similar to a boxer who has had one too many fights or a luncher who has had one too many drinks it is a subject that is getting a little wobbly on its feet.
However before I totally leave the subject of lunch I wanted to use a story that Spencer Campbell, a man with a memory like an elephant, reminded me of and being lazy I am going to quote his email pretty much verbatim. To set the picture there was an Aussie called Ryan Crowe who had come to London to find fame and fortune, missed both and ended up working in the Options pit for SeaGrayFosh and my birthday twin Jimmy Two-Names ( James Campbell-Gray) – a true legend in his own lunchtime. As Spencer narrates “One afternoon Ryan puts in a request to fly to Copenhagen the next Thursday to meet a client for lunch on the Friday and spend the weekend entertaining him. Upon his return flight he arrived at the UK airport only to be quizzed by the immigration officer on his working visa status! After checking through his bag they asked if they could read his diary, to which he replied “but of course” having nothing to hide! “What does working at the wine bar on Wednesday refer to here?” they asked! “Oh that, I help out a friend on Wednesday night as a favour, I get free drinks and can chat up the chicks” he proclaimed! “I am sorry Sir but that is a violation of your working visa for the UK and you will be deported back to your home country, Australia!” Since it was a Sunday he was unable to reach the firm and was then on an indirect flight to Sydney via Bangkok. After landing in Bangkok he managed to call the office and spoke to Jimmy Two-Names who said “where are you? You missed the open?” “In Bangkok” “Must have been a good weekend then” came the reply, laughter ensued! He explained and they offered to get lawyers on the case for a swift return, he turned down the offer stating he would have returned not long after anyway and went back to Australia for good!”
I had a very pleasant sojourn with an ex-boss of mine last week, Richard Reinert, where we discussed several plans but mostly reflected on some of the characters that we had worked with, or for, which encouraged me to reflect on leaders. As Bob Dylan sings where ever you are in the business cycle whether you are the lowest of the low serving your first boss or a high flying CEO serving shareholders none of us escape. Whatever industry or profession you have chosen you will get caught, even back to your school days, and the nature of your bosses from teacher onwards decides your life and enjoyment of it. Now that I am rapidly approaching my dotage I look back and realise that there are only two types of bosses, well in broking anyway, those that believe that their way or the highway is the route and the caring sharing type who hope to obtain success by employees wanting to please them.
David Buik, who I court favour with a photo of Johnny Haynes, was without doubt the latter and the best boss and mentor that I’ve encountered by a country mile. His embrace of an employee as a person hopefully softened some of my harder edges. It’s interesting to note that Jon Delaney , that I now work with was trained by John Ruskin who I trained and you can see some “ Buikisms” come through- third generation no less. David was and still is a great luncher in an era where lunch occasionally overlapped with corporate entertainment at sporting events, which is again now less common, and here the patronage of the boss would come into play. Indeed David Buik was very understanding (or was it controlled fury) when a dozen of us got out of control at Highbury. It was the launch of the new boxes above the North Bank and Arsenal were trying to sell one to Prebon and had gifted the evening, including unlimited booze to us. David knowing that we had a large Arsenal following in the futures team passed the invite to us. Unfortunately the box was directly above the away fans that had travelled down from Newcastle. I am still embarrassed at our behaviour and will refrain from repeating the car keys story. I say no more than the police were called, I was carpeted and ironically we bought the box. I suspect from guilt but never mind we made full use of it.
Bosses ,leaders corporate entertaining and indeed accountants are subjects I will return to but as I’m off to The Emirates with my Grandson shortly I better talk a little of the markets. The most unsurprising headline of the week was “ No government formed in Italy “ this saga will run and run and the longer it runs the more unsettling it will become with the two extremes of the political horseshoe attracting each other . The election in Hungary has seen a resounding victory for the anti-immigration right wing party led by Orban and spells trouble for Brussels .Meanwhile Macron is taking on the Unions starting with SNCF. Les cheminots are fantastically well paid and have jobs for life however if France is to move truly forward how the country reacts to this their Thatcher moment is crucial. Fifty years after the near revolution in France in 1968 it is a different country but the support for the reforms appears to be still split pretty much 50/50. Not only is this crucial for Macron at home but for his ambitions to be seen as the true leader of Europe, now that Merkel’s star is no longer in the ascendency, when the European parliamentary elections take place in May next year.
It would be really pushing it to believe that Trump is a caring boss and what feels like very basic negotiating tactics with China are starting to unsettle the markets. Let me be clear China has abused its power but only as it has been allowed too. By imposing harsher and harsher tariffs on China Trump may be just pushing his luck a little too hard and China will hit back. They are a country not known for backing down. Although the 2/10 US Bond spread steepened a bit last week a full scale trade war would not only seriously hurt stocks but could well push the world into recession. The thought that haunts me most is that some say it was tariffs in the 1930s pushed America into a depression. The stock markets feel very vulnerable and for those that follow the technicals they look very bearish.
As all good bosses and leaders know there is a fine line between encouragement and bullying and it’s a hard line to walk. Few people that I have worked with have achieved this mix and thankfully workplace bullying is now virtually non-existent. What is really sad is that even fewer politicians have been skilled in the fine arts of leadership in the years that I have been in the market. Chancellors of the exchequer have fared even worse but then none have behaved as badly as my old account Mike “Marigolds” Lee did and I will return to him next week. As they say a man deserving of a book to himself.