Finance: The first cut is always the cheapest

The Trader

IT'S FUNNY, isn't it, how it's always the simple things that cause the problems.

While the credit department have always come down on us like a ton of bricks if we even suggested any kind of deal with Russia, they have not, it seems, been so picky about boring old loans and dull old venture capital. Net result: bye-bye bonus, bye-bye profits and possibly even bye-bye bank.

The first, but surely not the last, casualty of all this is the director responsible for allowing all this profligate lending, Johnny H__. This is a surprise in itself; usually they try to find someone more junior to carry the can, but I suppose they couldn't in this instance, and dear Johnny had to step in and metaphorically fall on his sword instead. Still, it's a lot better than what the FX boys had in mind for him, though that did involve a sword, too.

So now all we can do is wait for the ripple to work its way outwards. The boys seem to spend most of their time gazing mournfully at their Hermes ties, wondering if they'll ever be able to afford another one.

"Oh yes," says Laura, "the ties that bind."

"Or, in Freddie's case, the ties that blind," I reply. "Just look at that frightful yellow number he's sporting today." And then we remember what's going on, and think of all those trips to Harvey Nicks we'll never make, and we stop laughing at once.

All I can say is, thank heaven for Olivier, who has been taking me out to dinner or the cinema nearly every night in an attempt to lift my spirits.

"What is the worst that can happen?" he says over pudding (chocolate tart because I'm stressed and deserve it, obviously) each night. And then we work out that the most dreadful possibility is that I and/or other members of our happy little gang lose our jobs.

"So, then you get another one; it's not so complicated," Olivier says to me with Gallic logic. "And besides, if you have a few days off we can go on a holiday together."

Suddenly the possibility of redundancy doesn't seem so awful - it might even be a laugh - though I have the chocolate tart anyway, just in case.

Laura, it's true, is unconvinced by Olivier's happy little theory. In her book, losing your job is one of life's great stressful events, up there with divorce, bereavement or marriage. In other words, not something you just shrug off.

Quite how she comes by this idea is hard to say, since she's never been made redundant herself, but it may well be connected with her chance encounter with Rory in the Underground last week.

"Well, it was a bit early in the day for drinking, even by Rory's standards," she points out. "After all, he never used to have Special Brew for breakfast before, and certainly not out of the can."

She's right, of course. Reluctantly, I have to conclude that getting the push may not be the awfully big adventure Olivier kindly tries to make out.

What makes it worse is that none of us is responsible for losing the money in the first place, so we won't even get to be notorious and have books written about us. "Modern life is so cruel," I sigh. "My new suit would have looked perfect on the news."

I turn to Laura who is gazing at her computer screen in horror. The last time she looked this distraught was when Neil took off his trousers at that party of Rory's, so it must be something pretty terrible. And it is: a news item on the Internet that says we are cutting our trading operations to the bone with immediate effect.

But, as I point out to Laura, if it were true we'd have been the first to be told, wouldn't we...?

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