The Secret Broker: When your newspaper had a mind of its own
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.
My first real boss in broking was an ex naval commander, who had completed his military service and was now commander in chief of the firm’s private client desk.
I presumed that the firm admired military leadership when choosing a manager, rather than the desk needing help steering through rough waters or needing someone who was experienced in handling the occasional mutiny.
On my first day as the junior on the desk, he sat me down and told me to read as much as I could, whether it be the firm’s research, the Financial Times or a listed companies annual report.
He explained that this would enable me to build my knowledge before I was ever let loose on a client base, as that was saved for the time when I could build my experience.
I would sit on the train in the morning rush hour, open up the famous salmon pink newspaper and start to absorb information.
Reading the Financial Times on a train was a sign to the other commuters that they were in the presence of ‘Someone in the City’ and I soon found reading the front and back page was not too hazardous when squeezed in between fellow commuters.
However, when a story on page one was continued onto page five then I was in all sorts of trouble, needing to splay out my arms by about 4 foot to get to page five before skilfully folding the paper back within itself.
I can only explain that it was like doing origami with a piece of paper the size of your bed, with the same elbow restrictions that you experience in a hotel bed with those tightly tucked in sheets.
If you have ever tried to refold a paper map back to its original size without the aid of a four wheel drive bonnet, then you would understand my troubles.
Add in the fact that my career move from school boy to ‘Gordon Gekko Jr’ meant that reading the Beano comic book was my only previous experience in train arm moving reading etiquette.
One of our partners had foreseen this problem and had insisted that our office toilet stalls were specially designed and built to accommodate a city gent holding a fully splayed FT because, if anyone had elbowed the odd commuter in the eye that morning, they could continue reading page five in a grumble free elbow room comfort zone manner.
My incompetent paper folding capabilities meant that, to the delight of my fellow passengers I quickly moved to annual reports and research notes for my morning commuting material.
Though I would occasionally sit next to an FT holder, so I could read it over both of our shoulders plus offer any assistance needed in the folding out and then the folding back in of the pink pages.
Over time I would discover that, in those days, everything was more or less the truth, except for the firm’s research, which was skewed towards favouring buy recommendations on the companies that we were brokers for.
No disclaimers needed on research, no fake news in the financial papers and no real need to cook the figures in an annual report as executive share incentives were yet to be invented.
Ah, those were the days!
Fast forward to 2020 and I read everything online, pay an accountant to explain to me the figures and their attaching notes in an annual report and now alas, I find that fake news has started to appear in listed company announcements, which for me is a sad reflection on the world today.
Only this week in the UK, Dixons Carphone — a £1.7 billion company (UK equivalent to JB HiFi) –reported that pre-Christmas sales figures had risen 2 per cent.
But six hours later it had to issue a red-faced amendment announcement to say that it had actually fallen 2 per cent.
And then in Australia, listed company Integrated Green Energy Solutions (ASX:IGE), produced the mother of all fake news announcement.
On January 15, IGE announced that through a middleman funder, a finance package backed by the $US850 billion (incorrectly stated as $US850m in its first announcement) Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, was all approved and the first drawdown was about to be activated.
Then, two days later it announced that this was in fact a lie, leaving directors scrambling to stave off insolvency by exercising options at 20c each, as the ASX had now suspended the company at 13c on their real news, not their fake news!
You have to wonder what kind of due diligence was undertaken to sign off with a middleman funder, who has a cheap WIX-built website and displays a Gmail account as their ‘contact us’ email address.
In this age of social media, online newspapers and 24/7 finance TV, life for an investor and their broker should be easier, not harder, to find the real truths in all of the financial data. A liar now has less places to hide, as IGE found out.
While talking about making things easier, the Financial Times has been sold to the colossal Japanese company Nikkei Inc, which, hopefully for commuters, means that they can now produce a paper that can truly fold origami style and fit into your top pocket.
But while we all wait for this advancement, here is a Chaser video clip on what happens when an untrained city type attempts to read a broadsheet on the train. A must watch research preparation video, so you are prepped for any tax deductible UK summer investment seminar trips you are planning.
The Secret Broker can be found on Twitter here @SecretBrokerAU or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.