Ever since “Meltdown Monday”, photographs of her anguished expressions have been splashed almost daily across the pages of newspapers around the globe. Frankfurt stock market broker Simone Wallmeyer has become the face of the credit crunch.
With her shock of blonde hair, learned half rimmed spectacles and a look that has an extraordinary ability to reflect each and every market jitter, 47-year-old Ms Wallmeyer, who works as a broker for Germany’s ICF securities bank, seems to capture the emotions of anyone who has money invested anywhere right now.
“My photograph has been appearing all over the place as far as I can judge,” she told The Independent from her Frankfurt stock exchange desk today. “This may have something to do with my face, but it probably has more to do with where I sit on the stock exchange floor,” she added.
When she is not climbing mountains, which she does in her free time, Simone Wallmeyer sits on the Frankfurt exchange floor in front of what for most press photographers is the perfect backdrop; a giant black and white share price index board which constantly rattles up and down like a an airport arrivals display.
“There are only a few brokers on the Frankfurt exchange who sit in this seat. I’m afraid I get photographed because of the board rather than me,” she insisted.
Ms Wallmeyer has worked on the stock exchange for 23 years. She works a 10 – 12 hours shift and deals with an average of between seven and eight million euros worth of investments each day. However she admits to never experiencing anything quite like the current crisis: “I run the full gamut of emotions, but you get on such an adrenaline high that you hardly notice it at the time. The pressure is enormous when you are dealing with other people’s money. You only start to really feel things and reflect on what is going on much, much later,” she said.
“Often it can get so tense that you don’t dare take a drink of water for fear of missing something by having to leave your screen to go to the loo,” she added.
In terms of traumatic experiences on the stock exchange, only 9/11 was worse. “When I came in on that day and the news started breaking about the attacks in New York, the emotions I felt were pure fear. It wasn’t just what was happening on the markets. I am afraid I knew somebody who was a victim,” she said, “This time the adrenaline rush has been there but not the same sort of frightening feelings.”
Ms Wallmeyer, who started off as a trainee banker after completing the German equivalent of A levels, worked in London before becoming a securities broker eight years ago. Her career began when German banking was still male dominated. Nowadays, even in conservative German banking circles, women are accepted and “men no longer think that women are born with an iron in their hand.” She has worked for ICF in Frankfurt since 2000 and lives in the city with her partner, who also works on the exchange.
In her spare time she trains for and occasionally runs marathons. Her other passion - mountaineering - is an activity which she admits can raise adrenaline levels as much as the financial markets. “My current ambition is to climb the Matterhorn – simply because it’s the most beautiful mountain in the world,” she said.
As for the markets, last night she was confident that the US House of Representatives would ratify the $700bn rescue package. “That won’t mean its over, but at least there will be the beginning of a return to normality.”