Off the record: Celebrating 50 years of Euromoney

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In 2005, Euromoney started its Off the Record column, because we had noticed that many bankers could not stop themselves from spouting hyperbole, humour and hubris when the conversation went 'on background'. Here are some of the choicest sound bites from the last 14 years.

“A marriage of German flair and Italian efficiency”

A commentator’s description of UniCredit’s $16 billion takeover of HVB Group in June 2005

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“OK, if there were a big credit event, and if it coincided with one of the dealers going down, there would be a problem. How many ‘ifs’ do they want?”

In January 2006, this credit derivatives banker took issue with a Fitch report arguing there was too much risk in the market. It turned out there were more than enough ‘ifs’

“Private equity has the liquidity, hedge funds have the brains – the only thing us banks have left is credibility...”

Not much has changed since an investment banker told us this in February 2006 – apart from the last bit perhaps

“Have you seen the share price this morning?”
“No. Why?”
“Looks like we’re bust again”

Two Royal Bank of Scotland bankers were overheard in a lift at the Bishopsgate HQ in November 2008

“I was on the trading floor. My PA called across to me and said ‘The Fed’s in!’ All the dealers scrambled for their phones. She shouted again: ‘The Fed’s in. They’re waiting in reception for you.’ Suddenly the whole floor was trying to unwind their positions”

From May 2006. This global head of FX sales brings back memories of when you could have fun on an FX trading floor

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Euromoney: “Aside from focusing on your clients, which I think most of your rivals would say they do, what differentiates the service you provide?”
Banker: “Client focus, I would say”

We’ve heard a lot about banks putting clients first over the years at Euromoney – but never more so than on this occasion, in January 2007

“I kinda want them to have a medium-sized catastrophe”

A Europe-based head of securitization showed little sympathy for continuing US sub-prime woes in April 2007. If only the ensuing catastrophe had been a little smaller

“We are the best bank in this market because... Actually, we had better make that off the record, as it’s probably not true... though I hope you think it’s true”

Awards interviews are always fun. This senior debt banker got himself into a pickle in 2008 after forgetting that our awards interviews are on the record

“May I suggest the XXX across the road? Either that or we can go somewhere a bit more casual – the main thing is just that they serve alcohol”
“Let’s just meet at the restaurant. I will be the guy lying in the back corner nursing a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels...”

Typical responses from contacts responding to lunch invitations from Euromoney in the days following Lehman’s collapse in September 2008

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“I was going through passport control and they asked me the purpose of my visit and what I did. For the first time in my career, I thought: ‘I can’t say I’m a banker, I’ve got to say something else – maybe I can tell them that I’m a doctor’”
“No you didn’t. You told them you were a masseur”

Two DCM bankers summed up the change in perception of bankers after the financial crisis in January 2009

“If I were Bob Diamond, I’d offer to pay Fred Goodwin’s pension because if he hadn’t bought ABN Amro, all the senior Barclays guys would be out of a job”

From March 2009. It’s easy to forget now how many sliding doors moments there were during the financial crisis

“That’s probably worth something on eBay. [Pause]. But I’d be careful. It probably comes with $250 million of debt attached”

In the summer of 2009, a banker comments on the Lehman Brothers pen Euromoney is writing with

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“He was a single-handed business prevention unit”

In December 2009, one debt banker recalls without fondness a former head of his credit committee

“We are leaders in the market this year. We have arranged a number of swap deals, as well as world-class entertainment for our clients, such as singing opera quartet Il Divo”

Client focus was clearly a key aria for this bank pitching for one of our Awards for Excellence in 2010

“Fucked if I know”

The surprising response of a CEE banker in December 2010, who was telling us with huge confidence about his pitch for a global rouble-denominated bond from the Russian Federation, when we asked what the rouble/dollar exchange rate was

“We might make proper businessmen of you yet”

A leading regulator makes an arch comment to a group of investment bankers in 2012. They’d been discussing how they could make sufficient returns on equity. The regulator suggested that efficiency might be a place to start

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“He must have photos of the CEO with a goat or something”

An investment banker in 2012 was struggling to understand the continued career ascendancy of a former colleague

“We have spent the last 12 months focused on advising and executing clients”

We were a bit worried in July 2012 when a bank that has radically reduced the number of core clients it covers told us how it was achieving its strategy

“Rosy scenarios are for politicians. As a banker, your first, last and best friend is paranoia”

An investment banker in January 2014 declined our invitation to give his best possible business outcome for the medium term

“We’d rather you use the word ‘innovative’ rather than ‘aggressive’”

We think the attitude of this banker rather summed up the investment banking industry in 2014

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“Chauffeur-driven limo on stand-by and a lot of poncing around?”

A senior banker’s response when we asked why anyone in 2015 would want to be chairman of a beleaguered, UK-based bank

“Best wishes for a great 20165!”

This bank chief executive was either engaged in some very long-term planning, or there was a typo in his pre-Christmas 2015 email

“He’s a man with all the answers. Unfortunately he doesn’t know what the right questions are”

A top executive at a leading European bank questioned the credibility of the firm’s new leadership in 2016

“I told Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos that if they wanted to run a company trading at less than 10 times earnings, then be my guest!”

After a tour of the leading lights of Silicon Valley in 2016, this bank chief executive wasn’t so sure tech giants such as Apple and Amazon really wanted to become banks

“Salespeople are expensive. Computers are cheap. I haven’t paid a bonus to a computer yet!”

In 2016, this head of markets was a big believer in automation and technology

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Banker: “We are top six in all investment banking league tables”
Euromoney: “Top six is an unusual claim. How many are you top five?”Banker: “I’m not sure that’s relevant”

An awards pitch in 2016 faltered

“We are client concentric”

Did this banker want to run rings around his clients, we wondered in March 2017?

“Thank you for meeting us for lunch. Now kindly sign this non-disclosure agreement”

A bank rather ruined the dessert for one of our journalists in March 2018

“Ruthless is exactly the verb I would use”

A leading bank CFO may have got his 2018 restructuring spot on, but he had some work to do on his grammar

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“The excrement is adjacent to the ventilation”

An emerging markets banker gave us his considered opinion on Turkey’s macroeconomic outlook in September 2018

“I’d hate to be my number two!”

The frank response of a leading emerging market bank chief when we asked him if he enjoyed being chief executive in March 2019

“I handed out bonuses to hundreds of people in 2007 and told them that they would likely never earn this amount of money again in their entire lives. Only one said thank you”

More than a decade after the GFC, one leading banker had particularly bitter memories of pre-crisis banking culture when we spoke to him in April 2019