MPH in the face of adversity yesterday at the Canary Wharf offices of inter-dealer broker BGC Partners, as fate chose the firm’s annual charity day to bestow upon it an inopportune instance of telecommunications failure. Half of BGC’s poor brokers battled for the entire day with faulty phones, with the system swapping calls between the various open lines willy-nilly and, in some cases, cutting off the lines entirely for hours on end.
All credit to the hardy chaps and chapesses, then, that they kept smiling despite the problems. The event was initiated after the firm’s parent Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 staff in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks in New York.
“This is always a day of mixed emotions, of celebration and remembrance,” said president Shaun Lynn. “It is a time to remember those we lost, at the same time turning it into something positive.”
BGC hopes to announce this morning that it raised around $10m (£6.48m) for charities worldwide.
Kicking off the day’s dealing on the celebrity front was London Mayor Boris Johnson, who arrived at the crack of dawn looking bleary-eyed and demanding a bucket of coffee. A short while later, a fully-caffeinated Boris hit the phones, regaling the brokers with tales of his youthful aspirations to go into the industry.
“This was the trendy thing to do when I was growing up,” Boris boomed, “and I thought I’d definitely end up doing something similar as it was the only way I’d make any money…” Instead, of course, the mayor went into journalism and then politics, culminating in his pipping Ken Livingstone to take over City Hall a few years back. And who should turn up as another guest at the charity day but “Red” Ken himself, though he arrived as far apart as possible from Boris as the last guest of the day.
Ken, who seemed confident of beating Boris to the Mayorship if he is chosen to run for re-election as the Labour party candidate, couldn’t resist the chance to have a mischievous dig at his arch-rival.
“I’m interested in selling Boris Johnson,” he quipped on the phone to a trader, before chuckling at The Capitalist’s suggestion that BGC’s brokers would have loved the pair to come in at the same time and treat them to a competitive arm wrestle.
“I don’t know about an arm wrestle but I reckon I could take him at press-ups,” he countered, throwing down the gauntlet.
Joining the pair on the day were a raft of other famous faces. Chef Gordon Ramsay kept a lid on his notoriously colourful language as he doled out culinary advice to traders on the other end of the phones (“Everyone wanted advice on roasting a joint – which is always to let it rest – and one person even asked me about blanching courgettes,” he quipped), while footballing veteran Sir Trevor Brooking bantered with West Ham and rival fans alike.
Presenter Jonathan Ross and entertainer Christopher Biggins boasted of closing £1bn two-week gilts deals, while DJ Johnny Vaughan tapped into the testosterone-heavy atmosphere by cheekily attempting to “sell” his radio co-host Lisa Snowdon’s pert rear end.
Ex-Scots footballer Kenny Dalglish also dropped by, as did cricketer Phil Tufnell, rugby star Steve Borthwick, TV presenter Amanda Holden, pint-size comedian Ronnie Corbett, Girls Aloud singer Nicola Roberts and – a surprise smash hit with the staff – the Cheeky Girls.