RFP: Diary of an institutional salesman, part 15

Will clarifies the exciting world of economics.

It’s that time of year when our macroeconomist does a world tour with his latest ‘book’ – a PowerPoint collection of charts he talks through to anyone who’ll listen. This is our fifth meeting today, and I’ve almost chewed straight through my little finger just trying to stay awake. There’s nothing worse than when your head nods off and you jolt back upright – never do this in front of clients, folks.

We’re clearly not selling anything; we’re just showing off our smart colleague. Fifty weeks of the year he’s locked up in the basement of the Atlanta office just doing his own thing, nobody paying the slightest bit of attention to his ramblings. For the other two weeks, he comes out of the cage and we let clients feed him bananas.

Or maybe it’s the other way around: the economist feeds clients bananas…and lemons.

Corporate HQ loves this stuff. It’s meant to be our differentiator, our edge. Except every shop has one of these mad scientists. Five meetings, one big waste of my time.

Now I know I’m supposed to be just the dumb sales guy, but even I have picked up a few things over the years. Here’s a brief translation service:

This was a four-standard-deviation event

We didn’t see it coming, until way too late, but if we assign some numeric data to it, you might think that we were somehow in control here.

We’re seeing an uptick in our global leading indicators

Our fingers are crossed for a rebound and we have found that the Romanian non-metallic exports per capita index has spiked up 13% in the past month. This may sound irrelevant, but it’s the only positive sign we could find, and we looked pretty hard.

There’s no free lunch in this game any more

Hindsight is a wonderful thing – there probably never was a free lunch, but when you look back it all seems so god-dammed obvious.

We think that, from Q4 onwards, it will be a stock-picker’s market

Please, please, please – we are bleeding to death out here despite buying all these fabulous companies. It has to be ‘our turn’ soon.

We believe that the Chinese consumer is the route out of the current malaise

The pope is indeed Catholic and bears do tend to defecate in wooded areas.

Earnings season will be upon us soon and we have a constructive outlook for corporate profits

We’re a long-only equity house – did you really think we’d say anything different?

The world needs a new econometric model for the rest of the 21st century

The world needs more economists. Please don’t tell me I’m dispensable.

Markets will be range-bound with upside opportunities as well as downside risks

I don’t know what’s going to happen.

‘Event risk’ – any sentence with this phrase will do

I really don’t know what’s going to happen.

The whole investment industry has found it very tough these past few years

If everyone screwed up, then maybe we can all keep our jobs?

An improvement in world economic sentiment would lead to stronger markets globally

I’ve noticed you’re almost asleep by now, so here’s another statement of the bleeding obvious to fill the void.

We predict that, sometime in the next 3-5 years, the S&P will touch 1,300 again

Nostradamus has nothing on this guy. Even my college Stats 101 tells me this is almost a certainty.

We’re entering the realm of the New Normal

A real cop-out. “This bandwagon has left the station but we’ve just enough time to jump on the last carriage.”

After Lehman went under, we were deep into Black Swan territory

No, no, no. Don’t do it. Don’t play the Black Swan card. Nobody made it past the third chapter, but we all assume we know what it means.

I awake with a start. Econodrone is still ploughing through the last few pages. Only one more meeting to go, then I’m free to get back to my real job.

The whole thing makes me think of the classic George Bernard Shaw quote: “If all the economists were laid end to end, they'd never reach a conclusion.” Let’s update that to the William T. Fitzgerald version: “If all the economists were laid end to end…. Scrap that, these guys will NEVER get laid.”


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.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.