How Marco lost half a million dollars and still got promoted

Marco has been promoted, and I haven't. Even in normal circumstances, this would have me spitting with rage. Marco and I, after all, joined at the same time on the same level and the same salary package. And since then there's been little to distinguish our relative performances - with one rather large exception. I have never lost the bank half a million dollars.

Marco's own particular Black Monday happened about three months ago. Marlene, Freddie and he had been trying to tie together a small European country, a large international conglomerate and a US super-bank in what was, admittedly, a complex deal, and after a week of running the numbers were ready to put the whole package in place the instant the German mark reached the right level against sterling.

Well, finally moment zero arrived. For five hectic minutes, Marlene and the boys waved phones, yelled into squawk boxes and flapped their arms around, while Neil, Laura and I looked on in amusement. (It's always fascinating to watch how other people behave in these circumstances; for instance, under stress Freddie goes all high-pitched and starts stamping around like an overgrown toddler.) Then suddenly the whole thing was done and dusted. Cheers all round, a million dollars in the coffers, and champagne on the menu for the evening.

Two days later, when the interlocking transactions were due to settle, Sam came trotting through from the back office to ask Marlene why the conglomerate had just given us a rather large amount of Swiss francs and was wanting to know why it hadn't received a corresponding amount of sterling. Worried frowns from the gang. The paperwork was checked and rechecked, but there was nothing to shed light on the problem. Rory grilled Marlene, Freddie and Marco, but that didn't help either. Only one thing for it; they would have to listen to the tapes.

All our phone calls are recorded in case of disputes over deals, and we all appreciate how important this is. Nevertheless, it's a nerve-racking business to sit and listen to yourself days later doing your stuff. I've had to do it twice, and I've been exonerated twice.

On this occasion, though, Marco wasn't so lucky. Turned out that when he and his opposite number had gone through the terms, and the man had mentioned the stuff about the sterling and Swiss francs, instead of going "Hang on a minute, what's that about, you didn't mention that before," Marco had mumbled a sort of yes. Net result: half a million down the drain, because we'd had to buy sterling and it had risen over the past two days.

Anyway, there wasn't a doghouse big enough for Marco after that. Marlene tore so many strips off him it's a surprise there was anything left, and Rory gave him a massive lecture and told him he was lucky to keep his job.

Well, since then there's been nothing that Marco won't do to get back into our chief honcho's good books. He's out drinking with Rory every night, laughing at his dreary tales of the Flashy Eighties and generally smarming up to him. He even invited Rory on a couple of his skiing weekends, and he's usually extremely particular about who goes on those.

And now all his brown-nosing has paid off, and I'm more than a bit miffed.

"I don't understand how Rory can do this," I tell Laura.

"Oh, it's simple," she says. "Rory won't promote the talented people. He only promotes the ones who aren't going to threaten his own position."

"And then wonders why the team doesn't perform as well as it used to?" I query.

"Exactly," says Laura. "Another coffee?"