Jeff’s surprise resignation a couple of weeks ago means his patch is up for grabs, and I’m putting in the groundwork to secure it.

I figure I can meet all the clients and prospects in the Asean markets in a couple of days, and then hit North Asia more seriously. So begins a hectic schedule of drop-ins, chit-chats and base-touching.

Integrity Asset Management’s Asia CEO will soon know that there is nobody more committed to the firm than William T Fitzgerald. Why else would I be at Hong Kong airport at five in the morning, enduring the queues and faffing about with the Fulbright scholars at security?

Business travel is an essential for every modern executive, especially in this region. If a passport lasts you longer than a year, then you’re nobody in this business.

Gavin Price, wanker extraordinaire and competitor emeritus, inevitably commences small talk with: “Have you been travelling recently?”

There is only one response: to imply that you have just taken to dinner the heads of global outsourcing from at least two central banks or sovereign wealth funds. The tricky part is to then change the subject, because you have never actually met these people.

On the other hand, to suggest you haven’t been pounding the pavement in the past fortnight is akin to admitting you're a total loser.

Jeff was constantly on the road, natch, so I expect to add all Asia-Pacific to my itinerary once I succeed in taking over his old job. Chek Lap Kok and Changi will be my true homes. No problem, I have my routine down pat.

Check in online, naturally, and arrive at the airport 40 minutes before take-off. Sure, some businesspeople want to build in a safety buffer, in case of traffic. Those are the competitors eating my dust. Besides, missing the odd flight is like getting cut with a knife: painful at first, but leaves you with a cool scar you can show off. People who never miss flights probably don’t have many to catch to start with. Dorks.

Ignore those martinets who insist you stand in the same dumb queue as all of those losers who aren’t about to go meet Temasek in four hours’ time. They of little imagination deserve to be treated with respect, but firmness. That air of importance, freighted with urgency and being about to miss the flight, should get you out of those long lines.

True, the visit will be brief, but this is an absolute must. Go straight to the lounge, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars. Circulate, circulate! And always while speaking on your mobile. Then, should you bump into anyone worthwhile, flash them a smile and the ‘call me’ sign.

Never be the last person onto the plane, but aim for being in the last 10 – that way people will see you but not feel inconvenienced by you.

Obviously, it has to be business class, at least. Integrity’s company policy was amended during the GFC to permit that status only to A- or B-grade execs and/or for flights of over five hours. I’m still C-grade (no, I can’t believe it either) and today’s flight to KL falls just short of that mark. Dilemma!

Well, dear diary, I had to use one of the oldest lines in the book to get Colinna to comply: “Our client is on the same flight and I need to sit next to her on this flight.”

It worked, so I’m turning left in just a few minutes’ time. Perhaps it’s not a good sign when you have to lie to your own PA to bend the corporate rules. Jeff is grade-B, so you know where things are headed for yours truly...

Travelling class and air-mile count are vital status symbols in this business, almost as much as your latest annual gross sales or number of months’ bonus. I don’t mean in the George Clooney sense of personal accomplishment, but more as a measure of success.

People don’t readily tell you their salary, but most will tell you their mileage count and airline status on first meeting, especially if they are Diamond. In fact, primarily if they are Diamond.

Jeff was out of the country so often that the junior guys in the office used to call him Marco Polo. They were laughing at him, of course, but I was always quite jealous; I hope I inherit that title along with his market coverage.

Lord only knows what Jeff did on those trips, though. I could find no meeting notes, contact lists or old presentations on the system, so this time I’m just hooking up with those few people I’ve met at the AsianInvestor conferences in the past year.

To be honest, my own meeting notes from North Asia aren’t quite up-to-date either, but I’d be sure to get everything typed up if I were to be leaving the firm. Nothing screams unprofessional like a sloppy handover, so I’m sure the bosses will be impressed at my initiative in taking this trip to start rebuilding those bridges.

It’s time to board, so I drain the cup of tepid coffee-flavoured sludge and head for the gate. I had just winked playfully at the cute chick on boarding-card duty when my phone starts to ring. It’s Kim, Integrity’s regional CEO. Evidently he has been texting and emailing for the past hour, but I was too busy to reply initially, and now more messages have flooded in.

“Where r u??”

“We need 2 talk”


For today’s harried executive, flying represents a blissful escape from this constant electronic bombardment. It’s the one time you can legitimately leave the grid.

I switch off the phone, ready for my four hours of pampering. Given the mission ahead, it’s important I have a restful flight – travelling can be such a stressful business in itself.

William T Fitzgerald is a fictional character, as are all the other individuals and companies in “RFP Diary”. Any resemblance to the living or to real firms is purely coincidental. Will’s adventures continue fortnightly.