The chairman goes on the defensive as the dark forces get darker
'Remind me once again why we're cowering in your panic room rather than enjoying one of the many wittily-named eateries and boozeries we normally frequent,' I said to the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet after I'd dropped by his offices the other day.
'We are in no way cowering and this is very definitely not a panic room,' said the chairman sternly. 'It's a combination secure headquarters and attack command centre and we're in it because the very fabric of our way of life ' no, no less than our very being ' is facing its darkest threat from the darkest of forces.'
'And could you perhaps shed some light on exactly who it is that's threatening to darken our fabric this week?' I asked. 'You know very well,' replied the chairman before turning his back on me to peruse what might have been a map but was more likely to have been a decision tree.
There was something different about the chairman today ' something that couldn't altogether be put down to the fact he was wearing a very fetching pin stripe of varying types of green and a similarly-coloured helmet. He seemed genuinely disturbed ' more than usual, I mean ' but who or what could have had such an effect?
'I'm not sure I do know,' I said. 'Traditional runners and riders would have the Treasury and the FSA at short odds and the rest of the Government and the Inland Revenue at 11/4. Hang on a minute ' it's Sandler, isn't it? Should I be sticking a friendly fiver on old Ron at 6 to 1?'
'Save your money,' said the chairman. 'Sandler isn't the problem. We always knew we'd win on that one. Obviously most of the time when Her Majesty's financial services industry describes a new proposal as unworkable because of the lack of margins, we're just being awkward. But occasionally some bureaucrat comes up with a plan that's so away with the fairies that even we find ourselves actually telling the truth when we're being rude about it.'
'Must be terrible for you,' I said. 'But what about the possible re- emergence of the life offices on the back of the rise in the life Isa allowance ' surely you must be worried about that.' 'Not particularly,' said the chairman. 'I think the whole with-profits farce ' the fact that they were trumpeted for years as the answer to volatile markets and then so spectacularly weren't ' has shown up the life offices for the investment geniuses that they are. So why not throw them a bone with the life Isa?
'I just love the way they keep going on about this move now levelling the playing field. It's funny how a playing field is only level after you've been given a new advantage.'
'Way of the world, I guess,' I said. 'But then what is it that's got you all hot and bothered? I mean Branson's not been around for ages and so I'd have to put him out at 33 to 1 while the Europeans have been pretty quiet so they'd be around 14s. I suppose one newer entrant could be Insight's recruitment budget, coming up on the rails at 16 to 1. Oh ' and I suppose at around 12s we should have New Star as ¦'
'Shhh,' hissed the chairman. 'Don't mention the name of the Knightsbridge Firm.' 'What, New Star?' I said ' predictably enough, but you take your fun where you find it. 'I said don't mention that name,' repeated the chairman. 'In fact don't even think about that name.' 'Is this like the superstition actors have about Macbeth?' I asked.
'It's no superstition,' said the chairman. 'I'm just not willing to take the risk of anything bringing SmallBlue to you-know-who's attention.' 'If you ask me, this image of New ¦ sorry, the Knightsbridge Firm looking to pick up funds under management willy-nilly is a rather overblown,' I said. 'And anyway, if the pattern continues, SmallBlue's independence will be perfectly safe ' after all, the company's not named after a British town.'
'I hadn't thought of that,' said the chairman visibly brightening. 'So what you're saying is that Halifax, Norwich, Lincoln, Marlborough and of course Edinburgh are far more likely targets.' 'Sure ' why not?' I said. 'Anything to get us out of this panic room ' I mean, whatever you called it.' 'So where shall we go then?' asked the chairman. 'I rather like the sound of Podgers,' I said. 'Everybody does,' came the reply.
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