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Monday, 15th April 2024
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151 Days and counting Back  
Since its first edition in June 1987, Finance has carried the feature 'A Day in the Life'. Customer surveys have shown that it is probably the most consistently read article in Finance over the years.
It has chronicled the days of 151 people in finance and financial services, written to show what was involved in their work, with a dash of personal life thrown in and the odd quirks and flourishes that show personality.

Readers, from whom the writers were drawn, have displayed a wide variety of reactions to the column. Some like it, some don't. In a curious way, those who love to hate 'A Day in the Life' read it as avidly as those who find it interesting to read about the daily chores colleagues. However the writer chooses to relate to fellow finance specialists the events of a typical day, a personality comes through. There are the modest and the careful, the self-confident and the mischievous, the proud and the self-effacing, the technical and the reflective. Over the course of years, they build up to a fascinating collage of real personalities in the finance area.

One could occasionally pick holes with timing, ideal commutes and homecomings - the wife waiting with a chilly, crisp G&T featured in earlier years. But the point of Day in the Life is not to produce an alibi, let alone an evidential statement of absolute verisimilitude. It is to illustrate fundamentally what finance and related functions involve, and to add colour by letting personality shine though. For these reasons, we are keen to continue it in the newly-designed Finance from January 2000.

Since this is a special month for Finance, being the last in the format of an A4 magazine, we thought we would reproduce a selection of 'Days' from past editions. What stands out is that there were days before e-mail, mobiles and the internet; when short interest rates were up around ten per cent; when the Irish government bond market was not the sea of tranquillity it now is; when the phone started ringing at 8.45 on a busy day; when the IFSC was a whole new world; and when a customer arriving in a bank branch without an appointment would be in 'for a cuppa and a chat' - and that would figure in a 'Day in the Life'. There are also some constants - just look at Neil Francis' entry from January 1992.

In finance, as in life, the present is king. We move on, but first take a quick look at a fairly random selection of extracts from 'Days' gone by.

June 1987, Philip Halpin (investment manager at Abbey Life Assurance)

As usual, I start the day by reading the morning papers.
Time to turn on Reuters. Sterling, boosted by the reserve figures, was heading toward DM 3 level. The long end of the [Irish gilt] market is looking very quiet and dealing is at 10.12%.

September 1987 (Jim Goodall, mortgage manager, Irish Mutual Building Society)

The telephone rings - if it rings this early, it is a sign of a busy day.
The telephone rings. It is a branch agent, a bank is quoting 11.5% for a home loan, can we compete? Of course we can.

October 1987, Maurice Roche (Chief Equities Analyst at Allied Irish Securities)

Arrived in the office in College Green shortly after eight. The boys in the dealing room are trying to get their prices up on screen before Goodbodys.

Went out to CII to talk to their expert on meat processing. Trying to find out if there are any flotation prospects out there. Answer is a very definite no: the Larry Goodmans and Paschal Phelans of this world don't want any institutional types looking over their shoulders.
Brought absolutely no work home with me and went to the pub for a pint. It seems like the only place you can get any strategic thinking done these days.

May 1990, Damien Young, bank assistant, Bank of Ireland)

I am finished for the day. My initial impression is to wonder why everyone in Ireland does not finance their borrowings in foreign currencies, particularly Deutschemarks. The differential at first sight is around 3.5 to 4 per cent and even with a bank margin added on to it would seem to nee a lot of uncertainty in exchange rates to wipe out the advantage. In addition, I read that it is possible to hedge a risk if rates look like turning very nasty. With exchange controls being progressively unwound, it seems to me that foreign currency loans could become a lot more popular.

November 1990, Gerry Murphy (Assistant General Manager, First National lBuilding Society)

Meet John Smyth, general manager-development in the restaurant for a quick coffee and discuss possible issues that will arise at the interest rate meeting agreed for 10am. We also discuss a new product which we have developed - Windfall 2000 - to be launched first in the Sunday Press. Windfall 2000 is a new product which guarantees a fixed return of 150 per cent in nine years and eight months which is equivalent to a compound rate of 9.85 per cent.

May 1991, Ann Fitzgerald (Secretary General of the Irish Association of Investment Managers)

Alarm bell goes off. I hate getting up in the mornings and will never get used to the early start of the private sector.

Catch up on phonecalls. Three are from members of the Association. We have 20 members who manage over £15bn of investment funds between them.

I return a call to a director of a plc. There is more and more interest from companies in what the Association is doing. They are beginning to see that it can add value to the market and that it gives them a useful opportunity to 'suss' out the views of institutional investors, often on a no-names basis.

December 1991, Ian Talbot (general manager of North Wall Street Investments)

Lunch in 'The Commons'. I share the Sommelier's look of disappointment when everyone else says 'No thanks' to wine. To cheer him up I decide to have a glass anyway.

I give in on the fee. Maybe I should have passed on the wine.

The tax authorities in Sweden have refused to approve the implementation of the protocol to the Double Tax Treaty, which would have ensured the preservation of existing benefits of the IFSC for Swedish investors until 1996€.Situations such as these are major challenges to the continued success of the IFSC and we have to hope that the IDA, the Department of Finance and the Government will continue to defend the IFSC.

January 1992, Neil Francis (leasing executive with Gatehouse Leasing)

I am heading down the Rock Road, those nice men from the Corporation are digging the road up, just past Merrion Gates. There follows a bout of banging my fist against the steering wheel, swearing and cursing, and inability to contain this gut wrenching frustration over why these people habitually tear up this road in the middle of a rush hour in the morning.

February 1992, Willie Horton (manager, strategic development, ACC Bank)

A new day dawns with the arrival of our two beauties (5 months and 22 months) into the bed - Bill Clinton's accusers better not hear about this four in a bed!

Jim Skelly, general manager retail banking, and myself talk through our product development plans for the ahead. We have a long discussion on our new fixed rate domestic, commercial and Section 23 mortgages that we are still in the middle of launching, and consider a suitable replacement for our guaranteed investment account.

November 1992, Bernard Hanratty (vice-president of Citibank)

Edinburgh is the next city to be targeted for a 'Dublin is the best place for offshore funds in Europe' lecture. Not only were my colleagues in Edinburgh contacted to confirm meetings, but also the IDA, accountants, and lawyers were contacted to glean from their most recent experience in that market. This practice of sharing information is not at all unusual. Even if I find myself with a competitor at a conference talking to a prospect for fund management at the IFSC, you'll find that we speak with one voice. Only when the prospect arrives in Dublin do we worry for whom dinner has been reserved, as opposed to those who were allocated an hour long meeting late in the afternoon.

July 1996, Peter Lynch (group finance director, Adare Printing plc)

In the office, Peter Tarrant, group financial accountant is normally in and working. I start to work through my in-tray, which is ten inches deep in paper from my absence in the UK for the last few days on an institutional road show.

We had over £6 million until the Prontaprint acquisition three weeks ago. Now the cash is starting to build up again. There isn't much money in a fraction of a percentage over short periods but the principle is to extract the last penny. Normally, I deal with AIB, ICC and Anglo-Irish Bank, but would deal more with ABN AMRO where possible as Donie Kerin has good instincts.

I pull the fees file on Prontaprint to see where all the external advisors are coming in with their charges. An acquisition like that can generate costs of £800k to £1 million.
It's an early night but I long ago learned that work is mostly grind, not glory. It isn't that you work hard and late one night, but that you are prepared to do it year after year.

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