The Secret Broker: Why rob a bank when you can buy shares in it?
The Secret Broker
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.
Before those annoying people from HR became involved, office parties were really good fun, with the Christmas one being the most anticipated.
No food, just an unlimited tab behind the bar and no other halves invited.
Pre-HR, broking was a very social industry and from about December 15th it was no work, all party time, and no matter where you stood in the office pecking order, everyone was encouraged to let their hair down and celebrate.
By the time Christmas day actually came around, you were pretty much over it. When my mate drunkenly fell into a hedge and hurt his ribs, the doctor explained to him that it was not his ribs causing him his pain but his liver.
Apparently, it can swell to double its normal size, when hit with a months’ worth of alcohol in just 10 days.
Didn’t learn that one in biology.
In fact, leaving school at 16 and going straight into broking, I learnt more things in a month than I ever would in a year of schooling.
I learnt that if you stuck within the rules, you would do just fine.
By the time I was 18, one rule I had learnt was to have two jackets in the office. One for the back of my chair and the other to wear out.
If anyone came looking for me, they would see my jacket and presume I must be around somewhere, when in fact I was out on a long ‘pre-mobile phone’ lunch.
This trick came in very handy when I had to meet two of my city mates in a posh wine bar, as they had both been promoted and we were out to celebrate Christmas — via their newly minted corporate Amex cards.
When I arrived, they had already grabbed a table, set up a joint tab and told me to get a drink of “whatever you want”.
Being 18, the only real wine I knew was my mother’s favourite tipple of Blue Nun and Black Tower, and as now I could only see labels written in French, I was a bit lost until I saw their stunning display of Moët & Chandon Champagne bottles.
A tower of smaller sized bottles were displayed in a triangle of ever increasing size, leading to the biggest bottle I had ever seen.
I knew from watching Formula One that this was a good brand, so I pointed at the biggest one and said I will have that one thank you.
The bar tender almost fainted, as he explained that they had only just put out the display and it was meant to last all Christmas. I said just put it on their tab and pointed towards our table.
After about 10 minutes of bartender commotion, another table was dragged next to ours and the massive bottle arrived, carried by two out of breath bartenders.
The popped cork was about the size of my fist and when one of the carriers asked how many glasses, we said three and fell about laughing.
This bottle was 12 times the size of a normal bottle and, according to the label, contained 9 litres of champagne or 72 glasses. It is officially called a Salmanazar.
The bottle was so large, that two of us had to lift it to get it to the right angle to fill the other one’s champagne glass and after we had consumed about four glasses each, a large crowd was gathering around us, watching us skilfully poor the contents into a champagne glass without spilling any.
At this point we soon realised, that at this drinking rate, it would be next Christmas before we polished it off.
More glasses were duly requested and soon the whole bar was sharing our Christmas drinkies.
People were even going back to their offices and bringing back colleagues to come and meet us.
About 4.00pm, all three of us ceremoniously carried the bottle back to the bar and turned it upside down into the bartenders sink. We then staggered off in different directions.
I fell asleep on my train and went to the end of the line and back, passing my stop twice before finally getting off at the third attempt, while the other two went off to the casino.
The total bill was just under £1,000 ($1,902) and for a young me in 1982, this was more than my car was worth.
The rule of thumb at this time was that you needed to make at least five times in commission, to get it through expenses without a query.
The next day a few phone calls were made and a few favours called in and the other two got enough orders from our firm to cover off their expense/commission ratio.
To survive, we never ever dabbled in drugs or cheated our bosses. We just gamed the system within any rules we were set.
If only Ross McCarty had followed us, he would not be spending this Christmas eating porridge instead of Christmas pudding.
In 1977, McCarty was a Floor Trader on the ASX and last month he was arrested for the things he got up to when getting drunk in his lunch hour.
He wasn’t arrested for front running orders or insider trading, getting clients to invest in dodgy IPOs or taking a placement for himself, just ahead of a company releasing a brilliant stock popping drill result.
No, no, no,
He was arrested because after his liquid lunch, he would stagger out of the pub and into a dark alleyway, don a big floppy hat and a pair of sunglasses and then go and hold up the nearest bank by waving a pistol (water) and a handwritten note around, straight in the face of some poor innocent bank teller.
He carried on doing robberies and gambling away the cash until 1979, when he ‘got a better job’.
Now, 40 years later he gets arrested, as new technology matched his fingerprints to the notes he had left behind.
He was inside one of the greatest money-producing industries on the planet and he goes and robs banks to get by. What a Turkey.
He could have legally left as many fingerprints on his order slips as he needed and today he would still be free man.
So stay within the rules this Christmas, or wiser still, skip the Christmas party altogether, as a piccolo is probably your HR guideline allowance, and who can stand being sober with the same people you work with all year, when you can go and party hard elsewhere!
More from the Secret Broker:
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Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.