The Secret Broker: Takeaways from the lives of Torvill, Dean and Brian the Snail
The Secret Broker
The Secret Broker
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.
Well, I was going to start off this week’s article with some of my treasured Christmas work party stories but I got a bit sideswiped by the SEC and their Bitcoin announcement.
Somehow – and no one knows how – the SEC reckoned that their X account got hacked and a premature announcement saying that they had approved some Bitcoin ETFs sent the price of BTC skywards.
— Giannis Andreou (@gandreou007) January 9, 2024
Saying that the SEC allowed their X account to be hacked took a double take from me. In my mind it was akin to me telling my teacher that our dog had eaten my homework… even though he lived down the road from us and knew we didn’t have a dog.
It was one of those moments where everyone freezes and there is an awkward silence till I blame my cousin’s dog, who came to stay overnight.
Only one of us knows the real truth.
And that is what happened with the SEC.
Anyway, you can see why I got distracted and I didn’t start with the Christmas party tale.
This, I kid you not, is the Christmas party tale of all tales and it involves alcohol and lots of it!
In the good old days, Christmas parties would be held on a Friday, so you could really write yourself off at the firm’s expense, as you had the weekend to recover.
Nowadays, in the eyes of the ‘woke’ HR manager’s mind, parties have to be held on a Wednesday or a Thursday, so everyone is on notice that they have to turn up for work the next day.
So, it was 1991 and our firm had arranged for our party to be held at the White Horse pub in Parsons Green, Fulham.
It’s a cracker of a pub and seeing as it started at 7.00pm, we all had ample time to get warmed up in one of our favourite Corney and Barrow’s wine bars in Broadgate (next to Liverpool Street station).
It overlooked an ice skating rink, so there was always good entertainment to look down on, as everyone thought they were Torvill and Dean after a few drinks.
A book would be made (in 15 minute increments) on what time an ambulance would arrive, to cart off some bloke who was trying too hard to impress the ladies and had come a cropper.
Anyway, I’m standing in a long line at the bar and I happen to mention to the bloke in front of me, ‘This is like waiting for my copper shorts to come in’. He spun around and said ‘Are you short on copper?’ to which I said ‘Yes!’.
Well ‘I’m long’ he said and we started a debate between us on our copper positions.
At the time there were two trains of thought.
One was more luxurious cars, with electric seats etc would push up demand for copper and the other one was that as copper phone lines were getting replaced with optic fibre, the copper wire would be recycled and cause a glut.
As we carried on debating our positions, I told him to come with us to Fulham to meet some of our traders and we would gatecrash him in.
‘Why not?’ he said, so we all piled into a cab and headed off to Fulham and as was tradition, we would play spoof to see who paid the fare.
We were having great fun and when we arrived at the pub for our Xmas party, we shuffled him in between us and someone lent him one of our security passes, just in case he got asked.
We got the first round in and, as I said, it was a cracker of a pub and their pints of Guinness would make any Irishman proud. They were beautiful.
Our guest said he didn’t like the stuff, so we got him set in the Stella Artois and the night went on.
We ended up outside in their ‘kind of beer garden’ and as we know, one of the great highlights of drinking Guinness with your mates is that you can hide things in it when they are not looking.
Cigarette butts used to be the weapon of choice and a cry of “down the hatch after 3” would follow the set-up.
“1, 2, 3!” and the remnants of the pint would be down in one including any hidden cigarette butts, followed by one person swearing and everyone else laughing.
Unbeknownst to me, in the next round, they had set me up with two live snails found in the garden and promptly went about hiding them in my pint.
As we came up to the ‘down the hatch’ part, our gatecrasher whipped mine out of my hand and downed it after the count of three, just to prove to us all that he was a real man and not a lager lout!
Only this time no one really laughed and I was pulled to one side and told what was actually in his pint.
“Thanks a lot mate,” I whispered. “Non French-eating snails can kill you. What were you boys thinking?!”
But the happy chap – who’s name we’d soon discover was Brian – still seemed to be of perverse good health. So we decided to quietly exit stage left and leave our gatecrasher to his own devices.
After all, the pub had the nickname the ‘Sloaney Pony’, so there were lots of young fillies for him to make a drunken fool of himself to.
On the Monday, one of the boys had to phone him so he could get his security pass back (losing them was frowned upon). When he was put through, he was told ‘Brian’ was in hospital, after ‘taking a turn’. Oops.
So at lunchtime, we all pile into a cab to go and see him.
To cheer him up, we had some presents for him, like a can of Guinness, a french beret to hang on the side of his bed and a French cookbook which contained 15 recipes on how to cook snails.
When we got there he told us what had happened the next day: the doctor said he was damn lucky to have so much alcohol in his system – for it was this which had probably saved him from absorbing a fatal dose of the released snail toxins.
When the doctor asked him why, in the name of Dieu! he had decided to consume two live snails, he explained the Guinness incident and the doctor’s reaction was like ‘the dog ate my homework’ look.
The nurses were a bit more fun, and insisted he be sent home on a strict diet of lettuce leaves.
From that day on, he became known as Brian the Snail.
But, that was not the best part of this Yuletide tale of Debauchery and Schadenfreude.
No, no, no.
When someone said, “Don’t worry, it can’t get any worse,” Brian the Snail said: “Oh yes it can.”
We all stopped and leaned in towards his bed.
“My girlfriend has left me.”
“Why, she doesn’t like snail breath?” someone quipped.
“No,” Brian said. “I forgot she was in the wine bar and I was lined up to buy her her first drink when I got caught up with you lot. It was only when they asked me in the hospital who my next of kin was, that I remembered.”
It turned out that Brian the Snail had been Christmas partying a bit too hard that season and she was well over his pissed up late night homecomings.
So to make it up to her, he told her that he would take her out on a special date and she had got on the train, all dressed up and gone to meet him at the wine bar.
Apparently, according to Brian the Snail, she was still waiting for her glass of chardonnay two hours later!
When he tried to explain what had happened, it just got worse for him.
Well, he never lived this one down and later on he became very important to us, as he got himself a new job at the Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo Corporation, where he became the copper trader for Yasuo Hamanaka.
This won’t mean much to many of you but Hamanaka had the nickname ‘Mr Copper’ and he became the biggest whale in the world in copper. Brian the Snail became our inside man!
It all ended in tears though, when Sumitomo Corporation would book a loss of U$2.6bn on his copper position and Hamanaka would end up in jail, for being a ‘rogue trader’.
Finally, at some point, our shorts came good, thanks to a little help from a snail!
And just to make Mrs Broker happy:
Yes, Brian did recover and yes, he did get a new girlfriend and yes, he did get married and yes he has children and no, I don’t know where they live… and no I am not in touch with him anymore as he was too slow to respond to my emails.
Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.