London City Broker
This weeks blog guest is not from the Gold Game but goes way back in my career as he was one of the big bosses of a firm I worked for in the heady days of London’s Open Outcry markets, Richard (Dick to his mates and his enemies) Matthews who started in the City in 1973 and worked my way through the markets finally ending up as a floor broker and trader on the futures markets although more time was spent in the various City of London drinking establishments than trading back in the day. Dick remains committed to the old city and fervently believes that London will remain Europe’s premier financial center (#DespiteBrexit).
1. I have known you for over 30 years when we both had hair but for those that don’t know you, can you tell us a little bit about you by way of an introduction and we can then dig through to find out more!?
Of course, but it’s all boring these days as I’m semi-retired although I seem to be as busy as ever! It’s nice that people want to listen to those of us not in our first flush of youth – however I feel I must say that people in the UK are not so interested as our European cousins. I wonder if that’s a cultural problem. I’m still an early riser and am normally up by 5.30 am and I’m afraid the first thing I do after grabbing a coffee is look at the markets, actually its also the last thing I do at night! I guess after all these years it’s not going to stop now. I spend the first part of the morning writing a daily blog followed by a swim in the sea (all year round) which wakes me up enough to face the rest of the day!
2. When did you first start in the City and how did you get into that role?
I started in 1973 almost straight from school. I had wanted to go to University too study Art, but my father offered to match my savings if I worked for six months which would then have given me enough money to travel. My first job was in the old Covent Garden fruit and Veg market which taught me how to get up early and swear! After a couple of months or so one morning on my way home on the tube I picked up a discarded copy of the FT and saw an advert saying “ Boys and Girls come and make money in the City” I applied and got a job as a trainee at Phillips and Drew who at the time were a top stockbroker – after a couple of weeks I was given some chalk and told to keep the blackboard up to date with the latest prices that were called out – remember this was pre computers and Reuters! I just loved the atmosphere and never went to University and my Dad never matched my savings! HAHA
3. Can you tell us one of you fondest or funniest stories of the 80’s that is a reflection of that time?
Gosh that’s a difficult one! I have so many great and warm memories of some of those days and not just on the floor. And also, I go back to the 1970s! Remember offices were very different then and they were just as wild as any trading floor. I remember one broker Adrian Scott-Jones who was affectionately known as “loopy” – at the time our office was on the corner of Gresham Street and Coleman street near Wood Street Police station where the police horses were stabled and if he ever heard the hooves he would open a window and starting blowing a hunting horn. These were the days of long inhouse lunches which, for some reason, at RP Martin would end in chaos and often include Adrian trying to play the Bagpipes in the office. The floor was another matter – there were just so many funny people but for me the most consistently funniest, and one of the best traders was Nigel Ackerman a man with a wicked tongue. But remember these were the days when if it was raining, I would send a junior trader out to sit on my motorbike to keep the saddle dry. Great days but sadly gone forever
4. How did you manage to get involved in the futures business from the early days?
When Liffe was first mooted I was at RP Martin (now acquired by BGC) who were at the time a top money broker but felt I was stagnating and a couple of us decided to have a bash at this new-fangled instrument called a future! Actually, there were four of us – three stuck it out and had good careers and one went back to broking. The one that returned to broking was perhaps the best broker of us all, a guy called Gary Bone, who sadly passed away a year or so ago.
5. You worked for one of the world’s largest FCM’s called REFCO (Ray E. Friedman & Co) that went through a huge IPO and then a complete fraudulent collapse (not your doing obviously) but can you talk through those times from the insider perspective?
I was jointly running Babcock and Brown who got into financial problems and had to phoenix as part of the deal they were forced to sell any parts of the business that had risk attached and therefore they had to sell the futures business. My partner and I didn’t have the money to buy the business, so we went looking for a partner and from the choices we had REFCO were the best option. It was a great ride but dealing with REFCO in the US was an education in terms of attitude towards the regulator. London’s compliance was very very tough, but Chicago was a little less so!
The business grew and grew as the market expanded but it was a terribly confrontational set up with the London floor competing with the London office for the same clients whilst also competing with Paris and Hamburg. Dreadful in a way that you competed with each other and didn’t work with each other. When Refco went under several years later I remembered thinking how odd that a client in Bermuda was paying the Refco office less per lot than Refco were crediting us with….I guess even in the mid-nineties there were some troubles.
6. You saw the markets go from open outcry to electronic trading almost overnight, how did you adapt in that environment and redevelop your career path?
I left the Liffe floor in 1996 and it seemed that within months the market had become electronic. I tried working from an office but didn’t enjoy it and ran a small trading arcade in Marbella for a time which was fun but there were severe limitations on the speed of communications so that never really worked as well as it should. I realised pretty quick that my job and way of earning a living had disappeared for good and started looking at other ways to survive. The one thing I did learn to my cost was that away from a trading floor people have other morals and it took a long time and quite a lot of money to accept that
7. We know that unfortunately you support the Gunners, but few people know your 2nd team is West Ham, how did you cope with your father-in-law Bruce Forsyth who had a love of both Arsenal and Tottenham your most hated team in a grudge match?
Ah West Ham – that’s in honour of my East End blood! My dad was actually born in Millwall on the Isle of Dogs but I could never switch to a team in South London. That’s true about my late Father in Law who actually loved sport and we would enjoy a bit of banter when Arsenal played the team from North London’s dark side!
8. What other types of business are you involved in these days that you can talk about publicly?
Haha – I predominately work as a consultant on FX but recently I’ve been involved with my old mentor David Buik in making a series of podcasts called Great Wave of Change https://greatwaveofchangepodcast.com. We started looking back at our careers in the City and how things have changed but it has expanded so that we are now covering a wide range of careers and industries from the media through sport and politics. So far we’ve had a great response to our requests and have Baron Michael Spencer, Piers Morgan , Nick Ferrari, Martin Semmens and Lee McQueen lined up amongst a few old mates from the City I guess the one thing they all the subjects have in common is longevity and a will to win. Watch out you might get invited …although you possibly know too many stories to embarrass me!
9. What can you tell us about some of your charity work?
I was always brought up to try and help those less fortunate than myself which I think is important. As you know I love swimming and am training for a big charity swim next year. I’ve been invited to take part in the Guernsey to Sark relay event, and no we don’t float in the see waiting for the baton! And I’d like to swim from Europe to Africa, which is not as bad as it sounds! if I can find a partner to join me but failing that I will do a 5k sea swim and see how much I can raise. Mind you I did question my sanity when I was standing on the beach in 2c wearing my swim shorts this morning!