The chairman's very excited now he's up to speed on the next big thing
'Nice new place you've got here,' I said to the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet as I surveyed his plush new office and the huge desk that dominated the room. 'Oh it's not much,' he shrugged modestly. 'But I like to call it home. Still, enough of this small talk, what do you think of our latest little project?'
'Would that be your focused fund, your venture capital split cap fund or your Early 70s Nostalgia fund?' I asked from my seat on the other side of the desk. The distance from the chairman was such I wondered if I should have shouted ' but apparently not. 'Don't be facetious,' he said. 'You know very well I'm talking about our new Warp Account. It's a little idea we picked up from the States.'
'So pretty much like every other idea Her Majesty's financial services industry has had in the last 20 years then?' I said.
The chairman appeared to ignore this, although it was entirely possible he hadn't heard me. 'The great thing about the Warp Account is that nobody has ever done it before in this country,' he continued. 'What happens is we condense or 'warp' an investor's every financial need into one easy-to-manage product and then service them, service them and service them until they can't be serviced any more.'
'Brings tears to your eyes,' I said. 'Exactly ' I got a lump in my throat too when top stockbroker and industry pundit Jasper Ubiquitous-Smith first brought the idea to me,' said the chairman. 'He told me warp accounts are more popular in the US than baseball and twice as easy to understand ' and for a slice of the action you only need £150,000.'
'Bearing in mind we don't all have our own insignificantly-sized investment companies that seems quite a big 'only',' I observed. 'Ah, but that's the beauty of it,' said the chairman. 'That's a combined figure ' incorporating your liquid cash, your pension, your investments, your family's wealth, luncheon vouchers, book tokens ' the lot. You want to mortgage your cat? We'll take that into consideration as well. Frankly, Jasper and I can't see why any right-thinking member of society wouldn't sign up with us. After all, there's a single fee, you can switch investments at no cost, you can choose the amount of help you get from us and there's no conflict of interest.'
'Between who?' I asked. 'Why between us and our clients,' replied the chairman. 'Who do you think?' 'Oh, I don't know,' I said. 'What about your in-house stockbroking arm? If memory serves, they've been making quite a noise about their own self-select Isa and Sipp offerings. Surely this new Warp deal will tread on a few toes there. Then there's SmallBlue's pensions boys and girls. What happens if somebody comes to the company with a pot of £200,000 but £100,000 of that is of a pensions nature and would genuinely be better off in an SBP product but not the Warp account? Then you're left with £100,000 and out of the Warp game.'
The chairman shot me the sort of look he usually reserves for people presenting expenses claims and then disappeared under his desk. He emerged a few seconds later looking a lot more composed. 'Of course it's easy to come up with one-off examples where we might not yet be fully up to speed,' he said. 'What's important is that the system as a whole is not flawed.'
'Um,' I said. 'No ¦ hang on a moment ¦ er.' 'No comeback?' smiled the chairman. 'Don't gloat,' I said. 'It's most ill-mannered. Now I'm sure your answer makes no sense ' I just can't work out how or why. Anyway, the response was very un-you ' where on earth did it come from? Have you got a crib sheet or something?'
'Don't be ridiculous,' the chairman laughed nervously. 'Next you'll be saying I've started hiding my new in-house PR person under my desk during interviews and meetings so she can feed me the answers to tricky questions ¦' He stopped. looked down and disappeared from view again before popping up once more to finish: '¦ which of course I haven't.'
'I think we'd better leave it there,' I said getting up to go. 'It's probably best,' replied the chairman without moving his lips.
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