Lessons from a Rogue Trader

(For the arts and crafts society, a rogue trader is the suave, smooth-talking financial trader who takes potentially high risks and dances with Lady Luck at somebody else’s expense, literally. He’s the guy who either makes millions overnight, or flushes down twice the bucks)

Acting independently of others, and perhaps even recklessly is the trademark sign of a charismatic alpha-male who revels ‘throwing his weight around’. The arrogance with which Nick Leeson sank Barings Bank is unmistakably the sign of an alpha-male who does not need the authoritative stamp of ‘genius’; yet plays only to win.

In their constant delusional inebriation, the naïve arts and crafts societies were as clueless as the Bush administration, while the financially sound disband the thought of associating with a con artist. But perhaps the time has come when cunning minds like Nick Leeson and the fabled Gordon Gekko can rescue Wall Street from the brinks of poverty.

Not dipping my feet into the utilitarianism versus deontology argument, I would agree that the real-life Gekko symbolises con artistry when he bankrupt UKs oldest investment bank. But what fascinates me is not the crime, but the dexterity with which he played. The mechanisms of the fraudulent minds are much more intriguing than a messy palette.

When the FBI wanted to break into Alcatraz, fondly known as “The Rock”, it was solo escapee artist Sean Connery who led the team through the maze of tunnels and into the prison. And it may actually be wise to realise the only way out of our self-inflicted recessionary maze is the ingenuity of con artists like Nick Leeson. Not to be shunted, but rather appreciated, the man who advises companies on risk management and corporate governance speaks from the other side of the wall.

And I listen to him – if he says there is a loophole, it’s because he snuck billions through it.


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