The Secret Broker: Bet, Hope and BHPray!
The Secret Broker
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After 35 years of stockbroking for some of the biggest houses and investors in Australia and the UK, the Secret Broker is regaling Stockhead readers with his colourful war stories — from the trading floor to the dealer’s desk.
Ah. The first day of September was a happy one for me.
Breakfast in bed for Mrs B and some extra cash flung at the kids so they can all appreciate my happy, happy mood down at the TAB.
The rest of the morning is taken up with me moving around the kitchen like Fred Astaire, as I prepare a BBQ feast for the evening.
A bottle of red is popped and allowed to breathe. The meat, almost still breathing itself, is out of the fridge and allowed to stiffen at room temperature, before being undressed and thrown on the hot coals.
In the afternoon I am picked up by a mate and dragged, kicking and cheering to my favourite watering hole, so I can relax and change the world with him, one beer at a time.
As we settle in, on the big TV screen they are showing an old NRL game from 1983, which I find fascinating.
Not for the actual game itself, but from the advertising around the pitch. I like to see who was around then and if they are still around today.
The advertisers that stood out for me were Winfield cigarettes, followed by XXXX Beer and Tooheys. Then you also had Four n Twenty pies, Haig Scotch Whisky, TNT (on the ref’s shirt) and lastly, Natwest Finance.
I presume in those days, you were allowed a fag, a pie and a beer at half time and a whisky as you ran back down the tunnel.
The other thing I observe is how skinny they all looked compared to today’s boofheads.
Oh and also, no tattoos!
After that game finished they started to spruik an up and coming game. On the front of the Roosters’ shirts was an advertiser ‘City Index’.
I almost fell off my chair, as I hadn’t seen that name for 40-odd years and they were still going. They were our bookmakers of choice when we were lads about town in the ‘80s.
I thought it just shows how far the reach of UK betting companies had come, though in our day, they were known for making spreads on financial indices, like the FTSE and the Dow Jones.
You could phone them up and ask for a two-way price on the FTSE at any time in the morning and then at night until Wall Street had closed UK time.
They never knew if you were a buyer or a seller and they never knew your position or your name. They would just give you a quote like ‘995 to 997’. You would then tell them what you wanted to do, in the size you wanted and your 5-digit account number.
So if they made you a spread over the FTSE of ‘995 to 997’ you could then buy it or sell it from them at £1 a point and go up to £50 a point.
If you were bearish and thought the market was going down, you could sell to them ‘995’ points, at say, £1 a point. They would then confirm and you then gave them your account number.
You could then phone them up anytime and ask for ‘a quote on the FTSE please’ and they would give you their price.
If it was ‘963 to 965’ you could then buy back at ‘965’ and you would have made 30 quid (sold at 995 and bought back at 965 = a 30 point profit at £1 a point).
So to recap, they never knew if you were a buyer or a seller and they always made a live price over the phone.
No odds, just a simple spread and no internet.
A small contract note would arrive in the post with either a cheque or a statement of your running losses. They never closed you out but just kept sending statements out.
They introduced spread betting on the cricket and the tennis.
This meant we could all be sitting in a city pub on a summer’s day, drinking Pimms and buying and selling runs, live, as the game was being played.
This was like trading heaven to us. We could trade something live and because it was considered a bet, all winnings were tax free.
This meant that if England were playing Australia at Lords, we could bet between £1 a run and £50 a run, either long or short and close out the position live or just wait for the result.
If England were batting and had a good number one batsman, we could make a bet on how many runs England would score on the day and live.
Alcohol, betting, hot summer sun, young know-it-alls showing off… what could possibly go wrong?
…usually when, after a few too many beers, you all decide to just use one account and pool your resources together, and have a rather large pre-game punt by going long on runs and watch in horror as Australia bowl out England’s number one batsman for 3 runs.
What happens is the price on runs collapses and some mug in the group (me) now has an account underwater and is liable for the loss and the game has only been going for 5 minutes. Five frigging minutes!
I think they made us a price on total runs England would score in that innings of ‘280 runs to 290 runs’ and the five of us all decided to go long at £5 each at 290 runs. So a total of £25 a run was our punt.
As soon as England’s number one batsman was bowled out for 3 runs, the next quote we got was like ‘140 runs to 150 runs’.
Five minutes into the game and we are down on paper the difference between 290 runs and the buying price is now ‘140 runs’. At £25 a run, that comes in at a loss of £3,750 or £750 each.
After more beers and Pimms, it was decided we should wait till the end of the innings and let nature take its course. I think we all ended up down about £600 each, but on my City Index account! Ouch.
Took a bit of time to get everyone to cough up and of course my account at City Index couldn’t be used until its balance went from minus £3,000 back to zero.
By the time my account was right to go again – about three months – summer was done with me.
The moral of this story is:
a) How good were the ’80s
b) Don’t drink and punt
c) Don’t drink and punt but if you do, never let everyone use your account
d) Crying waters down your Pimms too much
e) BHP is a decent long-term investment
Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.