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Deal confidentiality: When the cards are marked…

While financial journalists must generally be condemned to work in the dark, labouring against the efforts of PR officials, the misleading comments of sources and the inherent opacity of the banking industry itself, occasionally mere chance shines a light where hours of diligent endeavour cannot.

Or to put it more simply, sometimes you get lucky.

So it was for Euromoney on a multi-country Asia trip recently, in a meeting with a senior banker at a local brokerage house. The banker was talking about a top-secret alliance project with a broker from Japan, being very careful not to give away any revealing details.

The project was in its infancy, we were told, and no details could be reported or even discussed at this stage. No, the banker would not dream of naming the potential partner in Japan. Sensing an opportunity, Euromoney sat up, looked the banker in the eye and named the partner immediately.

The banker reacted with shock, eyes wide, sitting forward in his chair. Where had Euromoney got this information? Was there a leak? Would we agree immediately not to publish this scoop? And again, where had we got this information from?

Your correspondent was not above smiling insufferably and alluding to an all-knowing network of sources buried deep inside the industry... before confessing the truth. If you want to keep details of a top-secret alliance confidential, don’t leave three business cards with the partner’s logo visible on top of your desk and then invite a journalist into your office.

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