The party was over. The directors of the bank had left and I was alone in Bahrain. My journey from foreign exchange dealer in Guernsey to the representative of a bank in Manama had been surprisingly easy. I had not done very much to deserve this and sitting at my desk overlooking the north shore, it all looked bright.
How did I get here?
American Express has decided that my time was up and by a clerical mistake as I was certainly not senior enough, I was given an out- placement service so I could find a new job with a recruitment group just off the National Gallery. It was the summer of 1994 and we were allocated a personal consultant, an office and the services of a lovely secretary Sally who had once worked as a dancer in Cairo. She soon became a friend of course and later married a great friend who shared my house.
The routine was easy. Drift into ‘work’ and scour the pages of the FT and financial magazines. All letters were typed up, checked and posted at no cost to us job seekers. We had practice interviews, cocktail party etiquette training, not that I needed that and we eagerly absorbed all the help and treated job hunting as it was, a job. I was living in Holland Park in a house belonging to a girl friend who had relocated to Singapore and I added to my income by subletting two rooms. Most evenings were spent drinking and driving home over the limit being hounded by keen traffic policemen who were then entertained royally by my house mates while I cleaned my teeth and eat mints. It worked.
But eventually I had the nod that the Bank of Bermuda was looking for dealers in Luxembourg. I had barely heard of Luxembourg, but knew Bermuda. That paradise island had been where I was sent on my first ever business trip. My boss at the time, a Canadian Viscount insisted on tagging along as well just in case I made any mistakes. At least I had someone to sign the expenses.
Everyone else I worked with had been sent to Rugby or Leeds on business trips and I had Bermuda. This small island was going to play such a role in my life. I stayed at a colonial hotel called the Rosedon, was served by wonderful black waiters in dress whites and hired a scooter. The only other occupants were a mother and daughter from Chicago. The mother had won a holiday and her husband, a bin man declined to go.
I made both ladies English tea from my room and using a cultivated accent, a few large rum drinks later I professed I loved them both very much, but at different times! My days were spent going up and down Front Street collecting dollar deposits and meeting clients for drinks in the evenings. I can’t remember eating very much.
In the end Luxembourg decided I was not for them but the Guernsey office needed a dealer so after a late dinner in London I set off for the island and the interview that would change my direction. On arrival with a hangover I was ushered into the dealing room for one of six planned appointments. The Chief Dealer was wearing the same tie as me, a Regimental one, and so the formality of actually being interviewed was largely irrelevant. He took me to lunch at The Swan on St. Julian’s Avenue and by six o’clock I had the job and fell into a taxi to take me to the airport and home to London.
I was in the Bank of Bermuda.
I moved to Guernsey and because of the lack of housing started in a caravan way out in the country. I had taken my old Land Rover ‘Mary’ with me and so could travel around. In the dealing room it was common place for the younger staff to have several jobs, such was the low level of pay. One chap unloaded luggage at the airport first thing, then came to the bank and finally worked at Home Base and Pizza Express delivering.
There was a great commotion one day when our secretary won the lottery and was never seen again. However another episode is so extraordinary and true.
I answered a telephone call from Credit Suisse in London. It was late June and they told me that the Bank of Bermuda was due to deliver on several gold futures contracts that were maturing in September and they wanted to know if we had the funds. This was to be some three million dollars.
Aghast I knew we never had traded gold and on asking for proof it was us they told me that not only did they have the telephone tapes but they were so concerned they had travelled and were on the island and in a pub close by. Surely this was a joke, but I went along with it. We agreed to meet at the Randy Paddle pub where they played me the cassette and sure enough we were trading gold. But not from the trading room. It was a disgruntled employee who, on not being made a dealer decided to try his luck, no doubt hoping to present the management with the results of his great intuition.
I was not sure what to do, and then quite by chance the rogue trader walked in. I furtively made a call, the mobile system was basic then and soon not only did the Managing Director arrive but a posse of security staff as well. His job was over but it was not the end of the story.
His father, a well connected businessman offered to pay the damages if his son could have his job back. As a bank this was not possible and we challenged Credit Suisse saying that their controls were lax and we would publish the story. They retreated, a few thousand dollars changed hands and the case was closed.
Back in 1996 and in Guernsey we used the ‘Apple’ computers. Cubes with green screens and flashing cursors. It was the rudiments on e-mail. One morning there was a general e-mail from the Chief Executive Officer in Bermuda. He had one question.
Had anyone ever been to or worked in the Middle East, and if so please respond as a project was in play. I had worked in Bahrain in 1988 till the Gulf War finished off our bank. I was getting bored in Guernsey and this project, what ever it was seemed like a great opportunity.
I replied that I had and in a few days was flown to Bermuda to start the next chapter of my career with the Bank of Bermuda.