The 2007 FX poll dinner
Mark Warms, general manager Europe Fxall, got the evening off to a promising start; the audience booed Deutsche’s Zar Amrolia when he picked up his gong for topping the poll; Bob and Megs Wilson thank everyone for their participation in the charity auction for Willow Foundation; and the evening ends drunk and disorderly, where bankers young and old tumbled to the floor.
Feedback from this year’s FX poll dinner, held at Arsenal’s impressive Emirates Stadium in Highbury, north London, suggests most people enjoyed themselves. The tone for the evening was set early on when my esteemed editor pointed out that a flyer promoting this column had been placed on all the chairs. “We have the opportunity to sit on Lee Oliver’s face,” he proclaimed. Needless to say, plenty of people told me with considerable glee that they had indeed posited their posteriors on my mooey. People really are strange.
Mark Warms, general manager Europe at dinner sponsor Fxall, got the evening off to a promising start. Unlike Cognotec last year, Mark didn’t use his speaking slot as an opportunity to deliver a sales pitch. His ‘less is more’ approach was appreciated and it continued into the awards ceremony. There was next to no crowing in victory as Frances Edmonds handed out the gongs. Frances came to fame after writing a book a few years back about an England cricket tour she went on with her husband Phil, who was playing for the team. Phil has since gone on to build a controversial career in the City, while Frances has carved out a successful niche as author and after-dinner speaker. I found her to be extremely pleasant and witty.
Of course the audience booed Deutsche’s Zar Amrolia when he picked up his gong for topping the poll. It would have been almost rude not to, but it seemed good-natured and exactly what you’d expect from FX participants.
One of the evening’s highlights for me was meeting Bob Wilson and his wife Megs. Bob was goalkeeper in the legendary Arsenal football team that won the double in 1971, when, to quote the title of one book on the game, “Flair wore flares”. The double – winning the league and FA cup – was significantly harder to achieve back then. Just as in FX so in football, a bulge bracket seems to have emerged, making it hard for anyone other than the big boys to win anything.
While Bob clearly played a huge role, it’s what he and his wife have done more recently that really impresses me. The couple established a charity – the Willow Foundation (www.willowfoundation.org.uk) – after their daughter Anna died from cancer at the age of just 31. Their strength and dignity is amazing.
After dinner, a charity auction of football memorabilia was held to raise funds for the foundation. I would like to thank Deutsche, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch in particular for getting so involved. I would also like to apologise to Merrill for the cheap shot I took when the bank was bidding for the number 10 England shirt worn by Michael Owen. As Merrill temporarily pulled back from the bidding, I shouted: “Come on Merrill, you know you want it. It’s got a number 10 on the back – the number of global heads you’ve had over the last decade.”
As I said, a cheap shot. But I couldn’t resist it.
I’ll leave the final words to the Wilsons: “What a fantastic evening. The choice of colour and tasteful decor plus the fabulous screens made the Royal Oak look superb. Thank you also for giving us the opportunity to bring Willow to the attention of your audience. We very much appreciate the opportunity to conduct an auction that raised £12,000 – a considerable amount of money, which will provide 12 special days for seriously ill young adults throughout the UK. Please pass on our thanks to all involved.”
At this point, my memories of the evening start to get a little hazy. I do recall being harangued by a young man from Royal Bank of Scotland, who accused me of being biased against the institution. This clearly amused Brad Leek, global head of FX sales at RBS, who was at the bar with me and had kindly offered to take me home.
It took me a while to realise that although I had stopped talking sense earlier in the evening, my RBS heckler had last seen his wits hours before that. He insisted that I went on some kind of mechanical bull contraption, which I immediately fell off. He then took his turn and was promptly catapulted through the air. It looked genuinely painful, but he assured us he wasn’t hurt. “I landed on my wallet,” he quipped. The old ones are the best.
When I am out with the muckers from the FX market my usual inclination is to think there’s not much going on upstairs – but perhaps that only applies to me. I failed to climb to the next floor, where the games room was in full swing. Most of the carnage that followed can probably be laid at the feet of the vodka luge. Bankers young and old were tumbling to the floor. One poor chap, apparently from Bloomberg, was so violently ill that when he barfed, his glasses were caught in the projectile spray and ended up in a pool of sick at his feet.
And the young ladies of Euromoney certainly caught the eye of many a well-oiled banker; one even asked my esteemed editor if he could arrange to have the boyfriend of a colleague “taken out” after she had rebuffed his attentions for the umpteenth time.
I knew I was in trouble when I arrived home at 3.30am and realised I had left my keys in the office. Trying to sneak in by the back door, I disturbed the dog, which then proceeded to wake the whole house. The Annie Dotal (aka Mrs Oliver) evidence suggests it was I who was firmly in the dog-house.
But that can be as nothing compared to Euromoney Conferences’ own Nick Hayward. He’d had a fantastic day at the FX forum, which he had organised; but then he got a little tired and emotional as the evening wore on. First he spilt some red wine over his favourite shirt. Then he fell into a deep sleep in the back of a cab on his way home to Surrey. It certainly wasn’t love plus one when he woke up his wife as he staggered in through the door. Not least because she wasn’t expecting him home – in his weary state, poor Nick had forgotten that he had booked a hotel room for the night just a mile from the stadium!