On the floor: So who really cares about the euro?

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The Independent Culture
With all the fuss over the euro, Marlene has been in her element this week, dashing around and having lengthy conversations with the FX boys. If only the rest of us could join in the party, but Laura and I both feel distinctly underwhelmed. After all, the euro won't exist in physical form until 2002, about the same time the Millennium Dome will be finished. On the other hand, for all the dollars I see in the course of a day, they might as well not exist either. I sometimes worry that we'll wake up one morning to find the whole financial market is based on a handful of loose change, and it'll all come tumbling down about our ears.

My lack of excitement about the euro is all the more upsetting because its arrival is, we are told by those who know these things, An Historical Event. You can tell this because there are lots of pictures in the papers of a bunch of men in suits looking smug and smiling at each other with all the sincerity of a lion looking at a lamb. To their female voters, the introduction of decent childcare and frivolous things like that would really be a reason to celebrate, but that, you understand, wouldn't be History, just life.

Anyway, for one reason or another, Laura and I are feeling left out of the limelight, and we've had to resort to inventing rumours in the hope of stirring some life into the dollar sector. Our success has been astounding. The first bit of made-up news, about the departure of the entire swaps team from one of the French banks, took just 38 minutes to be reported back to us and was only rumbled when someone realised they didn't have a swaps team in the first place.

Even more thrilling was the response to our rumour that one of the big Americans was planning a huge bond issue for an international corporation renowned for its global ambitions. That apparently resulted in a heated argument between the heads of bond trading, derivatives and corporate finance at Fed American Bank about why they'd each been left out of the picture, and it took a graduate trainee to point out that there wasn't, in fact, anything to be left out of.

Such easy success naturally rather spoilt the game. As Laura said, if it took only five minutes to invent the gossip and half an hour for it to bounce back again, what were we expected to do for the rest of the afternoon? Unluckily, Marlene provided the answer by giving us an informal presentation on, you've guessed it, the euro and its impact on the global market.

I don't know if I've ever said, but Marlene's lecture style veers hard towards the ponderous. By her own admission she has no sense of humour in any language, not even her own, so there are no jokes. Not only that, she refuses to believe that not everyone shares her in-depth knowledge of the currency sector, so half the talk is usually incomprehensible. To make things worse on this occasion, no one really has the foggiest what the impact will have, so the whole presentation was about as absorbing as the commentary on election night before the results come in.

All the more puzzling that the FX boys seem in great good spirits whenever Marlene goes to see them. I couldn't resist asking Dave, who trades marks, whether they'd discovered some secret about how to talk to Marlene.

"Nah," he said. "Nothing like that. It's just that every time she mentions the euro, I laugh and think of my nice fat redundancy cheque. I'm practising going to the bank."

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