During the decade that I've worked in equities sales, I've come across clients from all over the world. In London, especially, there are traders not the U.K., the E.U., Asia and the U.S. Among them all, Britons stand out for being particularly difficult to deal with. They have an attitude problem.
The British traders I speak to are almost always conceited. Maybe it's because they're in their home country: they feel an innate sense of superiority over those of us who aren't.
When you call them up, you're made to feel like you're asking for a favour. I've stopped bothering to ask how they are because they usually give you a curt answer like, "good", which is followed by an awkward silence. If a trade doesn't go as planned or there's a hitch in the execution or settlement issues, they'll hang up on you or curse and scream. British people have a reputation for saying sorry, but this doesn't really apply to British people who work in finance.
A typical example of British trader manners came recently when I called a British client to tell him that a request he asked for was now ready, I couldn’t even finish the sentence before he started shrieking. I couldn't hear most of it. but I managed to pick up, "Are you f’ing kidding me?," and, "You guys are crap!". He finished by shouting that I should never calling him again and put the phone down. There was no reason for this as far as I could see. I was left in shock, but when I told a colleague what happened he told me the bank had recommended a stock that didn't go his way. The guy was punishing me for it.
It's not just Brits' phone manner though. British traders have a general air of self-importance. For example, when you try to arrange a meeting, their schedules are almost always packed. Yet when I do visit them at their offices they're almost always talking to their "mate," or looking at the sports pages.
British people also seem especially prone to hiring mediocrities. I've seen numerous cases - both for brokers and traders - when a mediocre person gets hired just because they happen to have a friend who will vouch for them. In the case of brokers this often means a, "mate," on the buy-side who says he'll send a lot of business their way. Because of this, I've seen exceptional candidates turned away for no good reason. This happens with all nationalities, but with British people it seems endemic.
This doesn't mean that you can't deal with Britons if you work in finance. It does mean that you have to learn the art of getting on their good sides. You're going to have to do a lot of ass kissing and rolling over, accepting the abuse. You're going to need to do all the legwork to build the relationship - find out which sports and hobbies they're into so that you know what they like to talk about. You'll also have to drink, a lot, in pubs - these being the preferred haunts of British traders after work.
Of course, there is an alternative. This is to try avoiding British traders wherever possible and to deal instead with European clients who tend to be far more courteous, far less bibulous, and more interested in having a genuine two way relationship. This is the approach I've taken. Life's too short for dealing with mediocre people who think they're something special.
Lucien Bazalgette is the pseudonym of a broker in London
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