By Garry Evans
Euromoney in the 1980s and 1990s was a wonderful place to start a career. Padraic Fallon and Neil Osborn, my predecessors, had the strategy (which I emulated when I later became editor) of hiring smart new graduates, sending them off to interview senior bankers early in the job, and seeing if they could produce an interesting article on a complex subject from what they learned.
Those who were able to do this, thrived. Those who couldn’t, didn’t last long.
Many of Euromoney’s young hires from my years as editor (1990 to 1998) went on to distinguished careers in journalism: Joanna Pitman at The Times, Geoff Dyer at the FT, Ben Edwards at the Economist, Felix Salmon, a well-known financial blogger, Matthew Barrett at the BBC, and Rosemary Bennett, also at The Times.
My own entry ticket into Euromoney was Japan. I returned to the UK in 1986, fluent in Japanese from having studied economics at Kyoto University. This was the time when Japan was first starting to boom, and Neil Osborn had the idea of launching a Japanese version of Euromoney.
The deal he offered me was: ‘Help me with the Euromoney Japanese Digest and I will train you to be a financial journalist.’ The Japanese edition went on to be successful – and profitable – for a number of years, until it eventually succumbed to Japan’s post-1990 malaise.
Euromoney was a tremendously exciting place to work in the 1990s. Financial markets were booming, the former communist countries in eastern Europe turned capitalist, dozens of banks were taken over in the big financial centres, a raft of innovations (derivatives, financial engineering, new underwriting techniques) needed to be explained and analyzed. There was a lot of travelling and not only to New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo. I visited ‘financial centres’ as varied as Kiev, Chisinau, Algiers, Murmansk, Manila, Abidjan, Islamabad, Valletta and Manama.
The Euromarkets in those days were populated by colourful characters. With Euromoney as their house magazine, they were always happy to share their insights and plans. One interview that sticks in my mind is Stanley Ross’s reminiscences of how, as a forex trader in the 1960s, he had made arbitrage profits on the slightly different price of cable (dollar/sterling) between London and New York, by rote-learning the trade codes and learning to type telexes faster than other traders. Unbelievable today, in our age of high-frequency trading.
The annual meetings of the IMF/World Bank were a yearly highlight. They alternated between Washington DC (dull, but efficient) and somewhere more exotic (and often chaotic): Bangkok, Hong Kong, Madrid.
In Bangkok in 1991, the government had to declare a three-day holiday to avoid finance ministers and central bank governors getting caught up in the city’s infamous traffic jams. The meetings were an unparalleled way to schmooze with the top echelons of the financial world.
Euromoney had then, as it has today, extraordinary access to the top players in finance. We regularly interviewed bank chief executives, finance ministers, even presidents and prime ministers. It was always a thrill to have an in-depth discussion with such people as Alan Greenspan, Bob Rubin, Sandy Weill, Alan ‘Ace’ Greenberg, Eddie George, Jean-Claude Trichet, Ana Botín and many others, and get a feel for how they guided the financial world.
The most memorable interview I did was with Fidel Castro, president of Cuba. In June 1992, Euromoney organized perhaps the first Cuba investment conference in Havana, after the country gave some signs that it wanted to open up to foreign investment. The Cuban side suggested there might be a possibility of securing an interview with the president.
I duly wrote out some questions and, still without any confirmation that the interview would happen, jumped on a (rather rickety Air Cubana) airplane to Havana.
In the conference centre, Castro’s minders were still vacillating about whether or not I would get to meet him. Then, with no notice, I was told: “It’s on”, and was led out of the conference hall. I assumed I would be whisked away by car to some secret location, but it turned out that Castro had been in the next room all along.
My impression of him was very different to what I had expected from having seen his famous six-hour podium-thumping speeches. He was quietly spoken, thoughtful in his answers, and didn’t take offence at my tougher questions.
It was a somewhat bizarre experience talking face-to-face to one of the icons of 20th century history. One question-and-response I particularly remember is when I asked him why Cuba wouldn’t copy China’s moves to reform and open up to private enterprise while remaining communist. His answer was that Cubans were not Chinese.
Garry Evans was editor of Euromoney from 1990 to 1998. He is currently senior vice-president at BCA Research.