14 May 2007
Woo hoo! Finally a business trip!!!
Dominic wants me to go to Brussels on the 24th and attend a one-day workshop at the Dufresne office. As soon as he told me about it this morning I told him that I was fully enthusiastic and was sure I would learn a lot from the trip because the topic was something very close to my heart. Then he reminded me that he still hadn’t told me about the topic. (Minor goof up due to over-enthusiasm.) I told him that I heard ‘someone discuss it somewhere’ and somehow avoided embarrassment.
The workshop is on ‘US Housing Market: Growth and profit opportunities for Dufresne’. Dominic thinks that the workshop is on an obvious topic and entirely useless. But every Dufresne team working for a bank has been asked to send a rep.
I have no idea about the US housing market. But how complicated can it be? People need houses. Someone will sell the houses. Where will they sell it? At a housing market. Finished. I am sure I’ll manage.
He asked me to coordinate with Valentina for my Schengen visa. I flatly told him I would not. He told me that the secret was to email her everything. She would use a dictionary to translate and then do the correct thing. Telling her orally, apparently, is pointless.
So I quickly wrote her an email. The workshop is in two weeks and there is just about enough time to get a Belgian visa. I wrote the email to Valentina in plain English and used small words. I also cc’d it to Dominic.
Excited!!! I’ve never been to Belgium. It will be nice to get away from London for a while.
LLTLF update: The first charity show is on the 25th. Budgeted at a total cost of 245,000 pounds. Tom has already transferred half a million into the LLTLF account. I don’t know what I am supposed to do. He will tell me at some point.
Sugandh continues to roam around the office from morning to evening minding everybody’s business. Thankfully he ignores me mostly except for occasional LLTLF expense reports. Which anyways Jenny files in full without any errors or issues.
15 May 2007
Almost midnight! Man!
Dominic is making me work like a maniac before I leave for Belgium.
Travel agent came and picked up my passport. He should be submitting forms tomorrow. And I should be getting the visa latest in five days. Provided there is no goof up. But the travel agent seemed like a professional chap.
Going to Madame Tussauds this weekend to take a photo with the Shah Rukh Khan statue. Not only am I going to send it to Gouri, I am also going to print it, frame it and then courier the frame to her. Now that I have enough liquidity in the bank, as a boyfriend I think I should fulfil her requests.
She will be very excited.
By the way notice how I have stopped talking about Jenny? To me she is nothing. Just an attractive intern with excellent skin and an outstanding figure.
She means nothing to me. I have moved on 100%.
19 May 2007
So where am I supposed to go? Brussels. Which country is Brussels in? Belgium. What visa do you need to go to Belgium? Schengen. Who did I ask to help me get a Schengen visa? Valentina. What visa did she get me five days before I need to travel? A FUCKING CHINESE VISA! Why did she get me a Chinese visa? Because she thought I asked for a ‘Shanghai visa’. Is there such a thing as Shanghai visa? No. But why did Valentina think that? Because she cannot speak English, is unqualified to do her job, and has brains made of diarrhoea. YENTHORU KASHTAM! Scrambling now to reapply for a Schengen. Horrible mood. Horrible.
24 May 2007
Hello hello hello hello Diary. I am back after a spectacular visit to Brussels. I have so much to say. So sit down somewhere comfortable and listen. Now first of all I may have gotten a little carried away in the duty free section. The workshop got over at 5 p.m. and my flight was only at 7.30 p.m. So I came straight to the airport and thought of buying something small for Gouri and some chocolates for me. I was going to buy Toblerone when I saw that they were giving a small bag free with 7 boxes of Ferrero Rocher. Then I bought a box of some cheap local brand chocolates for the Dufresne project team. I know I have decided never to talk or interact with Jenny again. But on the outside chance that she comes back begging for attention I have bought her a box of raspberry liqueur filled chocolates. There was a special offer here also—two boxes free if you buy two boxes. So I bought two boxes.
For Gouri I decided that something like perfume or cosmetics will be nice. The shop had an excellent special offer here also. For just 115 euros they were selling a huge bag full of assorted cosmetics from L’Oreal. And if you also bought a men’s assorted bag you got 20% discount on the total. Which is an excellent deal.
By this time I had too much to carry. The Ferrero Rocher bag was only big enough to hold the Ferrero Rocher boxes. So I went to the luggage shop and bought a small suitcase with wheels (neck pillow free). By this time I had finished my shopping and still had enough time to roam around. Which is when I realized that I had completely forgotten to get Toblerone. (How can you come back from abroad without Toblerone?) Excellent discount on the biggest size bar. So bought one.
In order to avoid boredom I decided to buy a magazine or a newspaper. Sadly the bookshop is closing down and they had a clearance sale. It was madness Diary. They were just putting five books inside a plastic bag and selling the whole thing for 20 euros. I am not a voracious reader. But books are always good to have at home. So I bought two bags of books and one football magazine.
(Overall everything is almost half the price in UK after conversion. Superb.)
So now I was set with everything except dinner.
Dinner? Why dinner? Won’t I get dinner on the plane? This is what you are thinking Diary?
BIM is the shit licker’s official airlines.
BIM business class is exactly the same as BIM economy. Exactly the same seats. Exactly the same service and exactly the same food. Exactly the same air hostess. The only difference is that you get the food for free while the poor people in economy have to pay for it. Despite this the BIM thieves will pull a curtain across the two classes and make a big drama. Bastards.
The food in the morning was shit.
So I went to a cafe in the duty free and bought a sandwich and coffee. Then at the very last moment, just before they began boarding, I noticed that the electronics store had a superb offer on hairdryers. (I need to replace the one in the apartment which Gouri destroyed.) So I bought one and got a nice spike buster for free.
So far so good. I did a lot of shopping. But not too much.
But just as I was about to enter the plane the woman at the gate told me that I had too many bags and had to put some along with the luggage. Nonsense. I argued for two minutes and made a lot of noise so that the airline fellows will try to avoid a scene and let me go. But then they said that I was free to go on another flight if I wanted to.
So I agreed and warned them that BIM’s London office would get a complaint from me. They asked me to pack my shopping into one or two bags and give it to them.
FAAAAAAAAACK. I went back to the duty free to get a new bigger bag. I just grabbed a big bag, put everything inside it and gave it to the BMI staff.
Thankfully everything reached London safely. No chocolate has melted and no bottles have broken. Relieved.
I tried to remove the life jacket from the plane and bring it with me. As revenge. But it got stuck under the seat and wouldn’t come out.
Now for the workshop itself.
Diary I was genuinely impressed with it. Usually workshops are a complete pain in the ass. You get a lot of stationery and free food. But otherwise useless.
But this was very good. Dufresne flew down a banker called Andre Spelcik from Briar Atlantic who gave us a complete overview of the US housing market. There was a lot of data and analysis in his presentation. And some of it was very complicated. But truly the opportunities in the US are insane. Briar Atlantic made a profit—YES A PROFIT—of 1.3 billion dollars just on the US housing market last year. You should have seen my face when he said that. Then he explained how they made this money. They used something called a Credit Derivate Something where the underlying asset is housing loans. And then people buy and sell this and everyone makes money.
I won’t bore you with the details. But he said that there is still a LOT of money to be made. And Dufresne could help a lot of clients to invest in the market.
During lunch I tried to network with him. Turns out that some of the guys on his team in New York also studied at WIMWI. He said they were very good and really intelligent. Andre asked me why I was doing consulting instead of banking. I told him that I personally wanted to try consulting for a few years, get a taste of all sectors and then diversify into banking at a later date. My dream, I told him (please note the gentle cut down legside for sneaky four) was to eventually work for a profitable bank in New York, preferably involved in the US housing market, where I could hopefully work with WIMWI alumni and develop a long and successful career. He laughed so much and told me I was a ‘wise ass’. ‘Then hire me!’ I said half playfully. He walked away smiling.
Imagine if I could invest in US housing Diary. Hmmm...
After lunch we had a short technical session where Andre taught us how these Credit Default Somethings are structured and priced and bought and sold. Whenever he made eye contact I nodded vigorously. But I did not understand anything. After that came the best part. He showed us how to use things like graphs and analyst reports and Bloomberg Terminals to do basic investing. Some of my hair on the back of my head are still standing up. I think they will be like that permanently now.
When the taxi came to take me to Brussels airport I left very half-heartedly. (I asked Andre for his visiting card. But apparently he forgot to bring them to Brussels. So I asked him for his email address or phone number. At that very moment he got a silent call on his phone. It looked like a very important call. So I gave him my card and he has promised to drop me a line later.)
Even now I can feel a bolt of energy and excitement running through my body. Seldom have I wanted more to work as an investment banker trading in the US housing market. It is not that I want to make that much money. That is a welcome side benefit. But imagine the power to generate that much profit...
Sigh. Should have joined Goldman Sachs when I had the chance.
Sugandh saw me in the lobby as I dragged my bags inside. He was really surprised when I told him I’d bought all this from Brussels. He asked me how much all of it cost me. I told him that I really don’t keep track of how much I am spending when I get into one of my high-end shopping moods.
Was that jealously I saw in his eyes as I got into the lift? Poor fellow.
MAJOR GOOF UP! I was so engrossed in the US housing market that I got my mathematics completely mixed up in Brussels airport. I was under the impression that an euro is approximately equal to an US dollar.
Actually it is equal to a pound! WHAT THE FUCK! AND THAT TOO AFTER SPENDING AN ENTIRE DAY IN FRONT OF A BLOODY BLOOMBERG TERMINAL WHERE THE EXCHANGE RATES FLASH ALL THE BLOODY TIME!!!
So this means I am replacing the apartment’s hairdryer with a new one that is probably more expensive than all the other furniture here.
Damn damn damn pissed off.
And on top of all that Gouri is acting up as well. As usual she has managed to destroy my peace of mind with a single SMS message:
‘Robby, I would like an Apple laptop. Love, G.’
Because, you know, my grandfather is the owner of Apple company. So I sent her this message back:
‘G, that is an excellent idea. Go ahead, Einsty.’
I am not an ATM. The woman needs to understand that.
No reply so far. Hopefully things will stay like that.
Good night. A mixed day overall in the light of this exchange rate fluctuation. Packing chocolates for office now.
Not packing chocolates for office. I am not spending an average of 7 euros per head on a bunch of robots and arrogant bastards. They can buy their own chocolates.
Sidin Vadukut is the London correspondent for Mint.