The chairman tries to win over a group of journalists with hypnotism
You know, in all the nail-biting tension before, not to mention the head-spinning excitement after, the FSA produced its thoughts on polarisation, I completely forgot to ask the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet about his special insight into the watchdog's mind.
Those of you who regularly inflict this column upon yourselves may remember how last summer we discovered the extensive surveillance network the chairman uses to oversee and, on occasion, electrocute his employees.
You might also remember that one television screen was set slightly apart from all the others that were hidden in the company's boardroom and this, it emerged, was FSATV, a sort of fly-on-the-wall in one of the meeting rooms of the FSA's offices.
Surely this would have afforded the chairman some prior warning of the FSA's plans, sorry, proposals for ditching polarisation but if that was the case I was a little hurt he hadn't tipped me the wink ' or whatever it is proper sources are supposed to do to proper journalists.
The ideal time to broach this touchy subject came last weekend when SmallBlue Planet invited a number of lucky hacks to Bordeaux for two days of rigorous investment-oriented seminars, workshops and lectures. Anything you may have heard about very fine wine, very fine food and very poor tennis is probably an exaggeration.
The weekend took place in a sweet little 40-bedroomed chateau that SmallBlue had taken over along with a few hectares of surrounding vineyard back in the 1980s. The connoisseurs among you will no doubt have a couple of cases of Chateau Petit Bleu in your cellars ' and it's well worth looking out for if you happen to be passing some of the higher-end wine merchants.
Chateau Petit Bleu is also the site of something called the Small Blue Planet University, which is a bit like a real university only it's in a chateau. Oh yes ' and the people who go there aren't called students but 'Planetiens' and they have lots of little diagrams called 'Planetagrams' that denote key company goals. I suppose the group's employees collect them rather like boy scouts collect badges and McDonalds' employees collect stars. Come to think of it, it's not like a real university at all.
Anyway, the chairman intuitively knew a hard day's wine-tasting would be topped off perfectly by a presentation on what SmallBlue Planet is, where it is going and what it might like to do when it gets there. However this didn't go entirely smoothly as, in his introduction, the company's marketing director thought he'd kick off with a cunning wine-related metaphor.
'If I had to describe SmallBlue Planet as a wine,' he started confidently, 'I'd say it was a tasty prospect, well-developed and with plenty of depth. In short it is ready to drink now.' 'So are we ' where's the bar?' chorused 20 or so journalists stampeding past the startled marketing director and out of the room. Still, they eventually managed to herd most of us back to our seats and the presentation passed reasonably peaceably.
As did dinner ' but I fear the surprise entertainment that had been organised afterwards may have some repercussions. Our entertainer was a sort of mind-reading magician with a sideline in hypnotism and as the act progressed with two journalists under a different sort of influence than usual, I could see the marketing director looking increasingly uncomfortable.
He later approached the chairman and the managing director just as I was about to ask them about FSATV. 'Do you think that was a good idea?' he asked. 'Do we think what was a good idea?' replied the chairman. 'Hypnotising those journalists,' said the marketing director. 'What if there are lasting effects? We could get into all sorts of trouble.' The chairman and the MD shot each other a strange look. 'After what I paid him I jolly well hope there are some lasting effects,' muttered the chairman.
'Hang on a minute,' I interrupted. 'I thought it was a little odd you invited some of SmallBlue's most vociferous critics on this trip ' and suddenly two of them have been called up on stage and hypnotised. Are you saying you've had them put into some sort of subliminal pro-SmallBlue state of mind?' 'I'm not saying anything at all,' said the chairman looking at me intensely and pulling a watch and chain out of his pocket. At that point I decided polarisation and FSATV could wait.
Joined as head of strategy, multi asset, in June
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