has seen some amazing things as she’s moved around in Wonderland. How could she
forget that tea-party where she met those oh-so-clever people who encouraged
her to put her grand-papa’s pension funds in industrial metal ETFs? Fortunately
for her (and her grand-papa) she’d spotted that metals were for using, not just
holding, and if they weren’t being used, the price would be unlikely to go up
for very long. She’d enjoyed going to the Treasury, as well, where she’d talked
to the men who’d decided that when there wasn’t enough money, they could just
rustle up some more. She’d spotted flaws in their concept soon enough, but it
had been an educative day. And what about her trips to the Washington and
Brussels Wonderlands? Those had been real highlights. She’d learned a lot on
both those trips. But that’s the thing about Alice; we all know she’s a clever girl, but
she’s always keen and willing to learn more about how Wonderland works. Unlike
some of those she meets, she doesn’t believe she already knows it all.
So it was that she welcomed her invitation to visit one of
Wonderland’s biggest banks, just before Christmas, to learn more about how they
traded metals, and why. She was in the big City, the heart of Wonderland’s
financial system. She skipped into the great big dealing room and met the men
and women who made the business work. She was fascinated; she sat with option
traders, futures traders, market makers and prop traders, and all of them
explained to her how what they did made money for the bank and its
shareholders. In the afternoon, she went and sat amongst the people who looked
after the needs of some of the biggest hedge funds and speculators in the
world; they were multi-skilled, helping their clients make the investments they
wanted. There were also some people there whose job it was to assist the
world’s biggest mining companies run their metal hedging programmes. Alice loved the day, and
at the end of it, as she went home, her eyes were shining with excitement as
she thought how clever the people she had met were and how important they must
be to the bosses of the bank.
The next day dawned, and Alice was up with the lark. She was going
back to the bank, this time to spend a day with the analysts and researchers
who provided a flow of information and analysis about the markets to the bank’s
own traders and its customers. But it was just a few days before Christmas, and
she had a bit of shopping to do first – cards and presents for all her friends
wouldn’t buy themselves, after all. So it was mid-morning by the time she went
into the bank’s reception, with its twinkling Christmas tree and sprigs of
holly in the vases on the receptionists’ desk. Back into the dealing room she
went, and that was festively decorated, as well, Christmas cards in front of
all the traders, spangly paperchains hanging from the ceiling and, as she knew
from the traders yesterday, Christmas presents from grateful customers in the
desk drawers (“don’t tell compliance about that”, the traders had said to her,
with a knowing wink).
But something was wrong. Nobody was on the phone, there was
no buzz of excited chatter. In fact, most of the people she’d met yesterday
seemed to be taking the contents of their desk drawers and loading them into
boxes and black plastic sacks. Alice
ran across to the desk where she’d been sitting with the traders yesterday.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
The head trader turned to her. “They’ve closed the business.
Those people in there” – he pointed towards a glass-walled meeting room behind
him – “came over from our head office this morning and told us the bank doesn’t
want to trade metals any more, so everybody involved in the business was being
‘let go’. Most of us have to be out of here with all our possessions
immediately, and just a few will stay on for a while to wind down the business.”
was appalled. “But it’s only a few days before Christmas. And everybody is
losing their job. That doesn’t sound nice.”
The trader shrugged again. “It’s not, but that’s just the
way things are. Look” – he scribbled on the back of his card – “that’s my
email. Keep in touch. We’re all going down to the pub, but you can’t really go
didn’t really want to pry, and she knew the trader had earned a lot and lived in
a beautiful house and drove an expensive car, but she had to ask. “Do they pay
you off well?”
“Nothing special. The law tells them what to do. Look,” he
said, “the bank has been in and out of the metals business over the years. They
hire people in a rush of enthusiasm and then lose interest after a while and
can them all again. Then the whole cycle starts again a couple of years later.
Frankly, they don’t really know what they’re doing – they just follow the herd.
Makes our lives difficult, though.” He grinned at her. “They pay us a lot while
they want us, but forget about security. It’s not a bad balance overall, just a
shame it’s only a few days before Christmas – puts a bit of a damper on it,
Alice left the building and wandered off down the road, thinking hard. Everything in Wonderland was maybe
not quite how it seemed.
This site has been running now for just about five months, and I'd like to take the opportunity - as it's Christmas and time for taking stock of the year - to thank all the readers for their support. It's really appreciated. I'd also like to thank my guest writers who have made a substantial contribution to the success of the site and my advertisers, whose participation is also much appreciated.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.