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Foreign Exchange

So long, and thanks for all the FX

It’s not exactly the end of an era, but as most of you already know, this is my last weeklyFiX. It seems like yesterday that I agreed to help Euromoney with its FX coverage for a short period. That was over four years – and 350,000 words by my reckoning – ago.

Most of the time, writing theweeklyFiX has been a joy. But I still remember how I was told by one contact soon after its launch that it was bringing the market into disrepute. This worried me, but not a lot. I have always been keen in this column to promote FX as an industry, without shying away from some of the ridiculous things that have happened.

The vast majority of readers understand that. Some don’t, and over the column’s life various threats have been made – some legal; others I shrugged off with the phrase: ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’. Those who took umbrage usually found there was even more copy about their antics.

Interestingly, even though I make fun of many press officers and PRs, most of them are playing a long game. They will still be there long after the latest, greatest rainmaker has gone.

“Well I must say this is a bit of a surprise, but welcome to the ‘dark side’ and congrats on the new role! We will of course miss you (I think!)... you always did keep it interesting and despite my not agreeing with some of the coverage you’ve given us over the years, I respected your reporting and you always were amusing to deal with. All the best in your new role and don’t be a stranger,” were the kind words from one press officer who got a harder time than most from me.

Word often filters back about some of the reactions to theweeklyFiX, such as the investment bank that swept its office for electronic bugs after I reported the dismissal of a senior figure for calling his boss a very bad word in front of all the staff. I heard too about one forward euro broker, who, I had alluded, was still cashing in points and paying backhanders out to his clients. He tried to get his company to sue me; it didn’t because what I had written was true – bizarrely not always a defence against libel. More recently, I hear a senior figure at a flailing bank asked one of his staff if he knew me and if he could ‘put me right’. “Put him right about what?” was the reply, to which the senior figure had no answer. Of course, I can’t finish up without mentioning the debacle that was FXMarketSpace, or “FXWasteofSpace” as I call it.

Initially, I gave it a fair crack. Once it became apparent that it was doomed, which was probably even before it launched, I labelled it as a concept that was either five years too late or five years too early. The debate now around the use of a central clearer in FX suggests that it was more probably the latter, but FXWasteofSpace’s hyperbolic claims destroyed its credibility to the point where it was never going to be able to reinvent itself as a platform for clearing forwards and options.

Naturally, I’d like to thank all of you who have helped me. I certainly have more contacts now – many of whom I consider as friends – than I did when I started. Apologies to those who have asked me what I will be doing at Citi and who got misleading answers – in some cases I just couldn’t resist the temptation to have a little bit more fun. For instance, when my old mate at Integral Sam Low – nicknamed Slow – suggested that my departure would mean a loss of impartiality in the FiX, I told him my new role was to manage vendor relationships. “Will that mean we go out for lots of lunches and dinners?” he asked, to which I replied “No!” Don’t worry, Slow, I was just joking about my new role.

One disappointment I must mention was the parting gift UBS sent me – a wooden plane. “Ladies and gentleman, please fasten your seatbelts... the Euromoney poll 2010 is ready for take off!” The instructions say the plane is, “not suitable for children under three years due to small parts which may represent a choking hazard.” It could have added: “Or FX traders with a small IQ.”

Needless to say, the model was difficult to make and, somewhat cruelly, the one I got has been tampered with. Instead of having UBS’s logo on the tail plane, it spells out ‘jubs’. For once, I’ll leave UBS with the final word. 

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