Prop. Notes: Our Proprietor invents the Marlon Brando test for industry awards and misses some old City ways – The Property Chronicle
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Prop. Notes: Our Proprietor invents the Marlon Brando test for industry awards and misses some old City ways

Golden Oldie

I am a LinkedIn new boy or, in the jargon, a late adopter. I didn’t join until last year, and now I realise that its main use is to approach total strangers with whom you might do business. What it is not is an interesting platform for content. In fact, if I were in charge at LinkedIn I would ban all corporate puff pieces. 

They are boring, predictable and, I think, counterproductive. Every time I read another post where someone pats themselves, their colleagues or their clients on the back I think the worse of them. And anyone who tells us all about some self-serving industry award should be banned for six months until they grow up. 

If you are ever tempted to tell the world that you have won an industry award, ask yourself two questions. Firstly, does this award pass the Marlon Brando test? (In 1972 he refused to accept the Oscar for Best Actor.) In other words, if you told the organisers that the whole thing was BS and you were not going to show up and collect it, would you still win? Secondly, would you really quake in your boots if one of your commercial rivals won this award? 

The answer to both questions for 99.9% of all industry awards is no. In which case, do yourself and all of us a favour: enjoy the evening, but do not think anyone outside the four walls of your office and, maybe, your immediate family care. And if you’re wondering how to tell which awards really are worth entering, see Peter Bill’s advice later in this issue.

A couple of snapshots of a changing City…

Last summer I was playing in a golf day and a young lad came up to me to ask whether it was true I had worked at the old Swiss Bank hedge fund. I did and, during the 1990s, had a ringside seat as my boss effectively bankrupted the bank with a series of outsized foreign exchange bets. 

This was the era of rock-star macro traders like Soros, Druckenmiller (who had the best tweed overcoat I ever saw), Robertson, Moore and Tudor Jones, all of whom effectively woke up each morning and bet on their hunch. Those with a seat at the casino in those days had  a choice how to receive annual bonuses (cash or options). Cash was used as a deposit for London property. 

Two of my colleagues in the late 1990s went from being goodish salaried traders to plutocrats in two moves: step one, take that year’s bonus in ten year options and double your money then; step two, invest inflated sum into Prime Central London resi in 1996 and double it again by 2007. 

The few of us that had degrees were graduates in Oxbridge humanities. Very few hung around the same bank for more than five years. The youngster on the golf course told me he runs the successor desk to that fund at UBS. He has four colleagues; all have double firsts in maths from either Cambridge or Imperial College. All the trades are predetermined by proprietary algorithms that the four of them write and continually improve themselves. 

They never override those mechanised instructions. Their annual bonuses vest many years hence, so no immediate cash. None of them currently own a central London flat. They are incentivised not to maximise profit but to reduce the bank’s risk. They will need to remain with the bank for 20 years to cash in properly. The regulator doesn’t get everything wrong. 

And then there is the Bribery Act. 

Golden Oldie Prop. Notes

About Stephen Yorke

Stephen Yorke

After Cambridge University and a few years at the Commercial/Chancery Bar, Stephen spent two years in John Major’s Political Office at Number 10. He then laboured on the FX/ Bond trading floors of two investment banks during the 1990s. In 2004 he founded (and ran until this year) a small Real estate Fund management company. In 2017 he founded 'The Property Chronicle' and is now a new boy publisher.

Articles by Stephen Yorke

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