WHEN it comes to pepping up weighty speeches with witty references to popular culture, the boffins from the Bank of England aren’t exactly known for being trailblazers.
But Andrew Haldane, the Bank’s executive director for financial stability, tore his peers’ stuffy image to shreds in a speech in Hong Kong this week by managing to cram in references to everything from Al’Qaeda to Facebook, astronomy and even attempts to break the world record for toppling dominoes.
Haldane was tackling the “$100bn question” of how to avoid another crisis – where that figure represents an estimate of the cost of the recent recession on the US economy.
One of the most important factors, he argued, was restricting activity in the complex banking system – illustrated by comparisons to Al’Qaeda (which has “exhibited considerable systemic resilience in the face of repeated attempts to bring about its collapse” due to its loose network of small terrorist cells) and dominoes.
“In the mid-1980s, an attempt on the world domino-toppling record had to be abandoned when a pen from one of the TV film crew caused the majority of the dominos to cascade prematurely,” Haldane continued. “20 years later a sparrow disturbed an attempt. Although the sparrow toppled 23,000 dominos, 750 built-in gaps averted systemic disaster and a new world record of over 4m dominos was still set. No-one died, except the poor sparrow which (poetically if controversially) was shot by bow and arrow…”
Has the man ever considered a new career path in teaching bored A-level economics students?
A sterling spot, if ever there was one, courtesy of an eagle-eyed reader dining recently at steak restaurant Hawksmoor on Commercial Street.
Hawksmoor, for those unfamiliar with the exclusive eatery, prides itself on supplying its customers with the very finest steaks, though they don’t come cheap at upwards of £20 for the least pricey cut.
So who should be spotted in there, licking the juice from his chops, but Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT union (or if not the man himself, then a remarkably fine impostor…)
Crow, of course, is currently leading Network Rail workers into a strike battle due to hit the High Court today, screeching protestations about hard work, poor conditions and low pay. You can’t fault a man fond of practising what he preaches, can you?
Does Clem Chambers, the gregarious chief of stocks ‘n’ shares website ADVFN, ever give himself a break? Chambers, whose literary debut The Armageddon Trade reached the Amazon bestseller list last year, has his second novel, The Twain Maxim, out later this month, on the centenary of author Mark Twain’s death.
But I hear he’s already hard at work on the third book in the series, which is due for completion this summer and release next spring.
“Well, you do have to do a book a year,” he tells me nonchalantly, revealing that the name of the next instalment will be The Excalibur Trade – a riproaring tale of a hero who comes into possession of the Japanese crown jewels. Watch this space.
More on the saga of Matthew Greenburgh, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s renowned rainmaker, who has now retired from the bank to pursue inspirations of the academic variety.
Greenburgh is known to be considering a PhD in English literature as one possible option, though I hear he may yet decide to go in an entirely different direction, having shown aptitude in early education for both artsy and scientific subjects. (He previously studied philosophy and economics at Worcester college, Oxford, arriving at the college in the same year it began to take on female undergraduates.)
At least Greenburgh has the best part of a year to decide on a preferred direction, with a deadline of January for his applications.
FUN IN THE SUN
Hats off to Far Eastern BNP Paribas analyst Michael Greenall for the bravest attempt at “work” that The Capitalist has ever seen.
Greenall used a recent research note on the new Universal Studios theme park in Singapore as an excuse to visit the resort in question, uploading all of his annotated holiday snaps onto the note itself. Happy days.
Frightening goings-on over at iBall, the fun-loving offshoot website of Interactive Investor.
IBall yesterday evening uploaded a new video to its site revealing the existence of a new “Ultrahedge” quantum computing system, designed to be able to hedge anything the financial world can throw at it.
But the video comes with a warning: namely, that the brainy computing system – seemingly the answer to investors’ every woe – can begin to turn on its creators. Eventually, the machine realises that the weakest link in the system is the human race itself, which it promptly starts to hedge into oblivion...truly scary stuff.
Wait a sec, though. What’s today’s date again? Oh, yes, I get it...