When thousands of bankers reportedly disappear, a special committee is called in to investigate. Will it solve the mystery and save the UK economy? Or have the City jobs vanished forever?
That all sounds like a case for superintendent Andrew Fenwick, the hero of the acclaimed crime novels of Elizabeth Corley, who in her far more tedious career is also vice-chair of Allianz Global Investors.
The premise would be quite neat, of course, as she will be up in front of the Treasury select committee on Tuesday, to talk about the UK’s future economic relationship with the European Union.
Corley’s appearance – along with HSBC chairman Douglas Flint and London Stock Exchange boss Xavier Rolet – comes as City firms hint that they are planning to shift loads of jobs to Europe in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote (aka, seeing what concessions they can get out of the government).
Last week, Andrew Gray, head of Brexit at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is advising several financial institutions on this matter, said announcements could start in late February. This must have rather irritated Corley’s fellow panellist Flint, whose bank once enjoyed a near-monopoly on making threats about leaving the UK. Now his rivals have brazenly nicked his ruse.
Another case for Fenwick, perhaps?
Bonus ball goes on
This week marks the start of the most serious banking stress tests of them all – the ones where the strain put on bankers’ braces, as they trouser annual bonuses, is scrutinised to the full.
Yes, it is the beginning of the banking reporting season, where no one takes much notice of profits, but instead focuses on the far more important issue of how much these delightfully self-effacing characters have earned for themselves.
JP Morgan kicks off a season that sees bankers sashaying along the corridor to the boss’s office to be given their “number” – a number that dictates what flash motor they can buy – and how much the rest of us love them for it.
Last year is not expected to be unveiled as a blockbuster for bonuses, but even average years for this trade look like stellar ones for mere mortals. Meanwhile, bonuses never seem to vanish when bankers make a complete Horlicks of things and shave a few points off GDP.
Or as JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon, once put it: “I want to acknowledge our mistakes … and try to stop stepping in dogshit – which we do every now and then.”
Retail’s moment of truth
Total like-for-like sales were down by 0.1% in December from a very weak base of minus 5.3% in December 2015. At the time, that was the worst monthly result seen since 2008.
Yes – that’s the cheery new year’s message for the retail sector delivered by BDO on Friday, via its high street sales tracker report.
The gloomy news from the accountancy firm tied in rather neatly with a similar downbeat statement last week by Next – once the darling of the retailing sector – where boss Lord Wolfson’s usual cautious setting veered towards dejection.
Wolfson said that the slowdown in spending on clothing and footwear, which began in November 2015, was likely to continue this year, while the retailer’s post-Christmas sale (frequently cited as the textbook example of how to do such things) had flopped.
That doesn’t mean that everyone else on the high street had a shocker, of course, but we’ll have a better idea of who did after an action-packed series of announcements this week.
We have trading statements from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, plus a host of more general retailers including Joules, SuperGroup, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Booker, Ted Baker and Dunelm.