A Gentleman Is A Livery Master Who Can Make A Speech, But Doesn’t

The Worshipful Company of World Traders’ Members’ Dinner fell on Burns’ Night, so I felt obliged to herd everyone in to dinner with some piping.  The Beadle did forewarn the members and guest (Bill Emmott) to enter swiftly or the Master would “play the piper”.

Courtesy of Michael Shapiro

and read on to see in what other way I failed to be a gentleman on the night…

Master’s Remarks

Wardens, My Lords, Distinguished Guest, fellow World Traders. What a delight to welcome you to this Members’ Dinner, our annual chance to get away from it all and kick our feet up informally in a Michelin Star Livery Hall in black tie.  My apologies that it being Burn’s night I felt obliged to have at least some Burns’ Night cuisine at the start. I hope we didn’t insult our esteemed chef, and our sincere thanks go to the Innholders for sharing their chef. As Jeeves was wont to say about Anatole, “God’s gift to the gastric juices”, perhaps we should poach him.

They say a gentleman is a man who can play the bagpipes, but doesn’t. I wonder if a gentleman is a Livery Master who can make a speech, but doesn’t. Dream on.

May I start with thanks to Mavis Gold, Charles Lucas-Clements, and Eric Stobart for their remarks, and a special thanks to Norman Rose for some extra-special Scottish music well-played.

A quarter-way into my term, I would like to thank all of you for your immense support. We have had three large set-piece events. Our King’s College Archives tour is hard to surpass, handling DNA Photo 51 and the Wheatstone Telegraph. Our bragging rights to other liveries is certainly that, “as we wore our 3D glasses Dr Brian May of Queen leapt out from the screen to ‘Greet the Worshipful Company of World Traders’”.

Second? The World Traders Stand at the Red Cross Guildhall Fair was the second most successful stand of all 35 livery stalls, who in total raised £170,000. We must thank those who helped out on the stand driving up sales – Amanda Shackell, Corinne Larsen, Fiona Taylor, Gaye Duffy, Janet Martin, Jyoti Shah, Katy Thorpe, Martin White, Mary Hardy, Mavis Gold, Merlene Emersen, Michaela Lorenc-Suhrcke, Simon Spalding, and Vinay Gupta – and praise those who donated items so generously – Mary Hardy, Harprit Siri (Pitu) and Brian Somers. But the highest honour goes to Adèle Thorpe for pulling the entire event together.

Third, our Bank of America Merrill Lynch event exceeded all expectations with 120 members and guests, quite a few of whom are enquiring about membership.

So am I pessimistic or optimistic for the next nine months? A number of people walk into a bar and are asked this question, “optimistic or pessimistic?”:
• the Scotsman says, “pessimistic, I came down to London because distance adds enchantment to bagpipes – and I just heard your Master playing”;
• the Englishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Remain”;
• the Irishman says, “pessimistic, Border”;
• the American says, “pessimistic, Trump”;
• the Italian says, “pessimistic, elections”;
• the German says, “pessimistic, Euro”;
• the Australian says, “pessimistic, North Korea”;
BUT the World Trader says, “optimistic, pessimism is for better times.”

Looking ahead, things are moving very optimistically in just the next three months:
• on 15 February we’re all playing with helicopters in Oxfordshire with 28 Squadron at RAF Benson;
• Tacitus Day, 22 February, is now a Day not just a Lecture, with our special guest, Dr Nathan Myhrvold.  Nick Mayhew, Zoë Buckingham, Jan Dawson, and the team have six events in one day, a press breakfast, Freedom Ceremony, Lloyd’s Register lunch, King’s College lecture for 400 students and friends, Tacitus lecture itself for almost 900, and two dinners. I calculate we’ll be touching over 1,400 people that day;
• Sue Hughes is organising an event on 17 March honouring the life of our apprentice Ollie Price;
• Lars and Merlene are organising our Commonwealth warm-up debate at Goodenough Collegeon 21 March with 250 people;
• Michael Larsen is organising our Guinness World Record attempt this spring;
• We hope to launch our report into The Economic Impact of Smart Ledgers on World Trade at the House of Commons on 17 April during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

And all with the support of Gaye. Don’t tell her, but I do have a few more surprises in store as you will all see, ranging from World Traders being recognised in next month’s City Debate to an article out today featuring our views in International Finance. And our trip to Dublin is fully subscribed with nearly 50 people coming to the Fair City.

We also have a huge range of internal successes which will be shared at Common Hall, much revolving around the intense work of the Communications Committee led by Zoë Buckingham.

Jim Davis once remarked that “Bagpipes are the lost connection between noise and music.” At the moment that might describe me, the lost connection between you and our distinguished Guest.

Our guest tonight is a good friend I’ve known since the late 1980’s, Bill Emmott. He has a most wonderful and impressive career, author of a dozen well-reviewed books on Japan, Italy, Europe, and global issues. We have purchased copies of his latest book, “The Fate Of The West: The Battle To Save The World’s Most Successful Political Idea”, which are on your seats. So we’ll wait patiently here for the next two hours while you read, before we begin questions…

Perhaps most famous for being Editor of The Economist for 13 years, as a taste of his many positions he has been Chairman of the London Library and a Trustee of International Institute for Strategic Studies, and is currently Visiting Professor at Shujitsu University, a Visiting Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford, and a member of Tokyo University’s President’s Council. Bill’s Wake Up Foundation uses film, text, and data for public education and school courses about the decline of Western countries and what can be done to restore liberal democracy. Bill has kindly agreed to a question and answer session after his remarks.

My sincere thanks to all of you for such a wonderful year so far, and now over to Bill.

Wicious Wolpertinger – The Hunting Expeditions Of Several Years

In 2007 in Munich I presented the strategic work we had been doing for a client, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, to their assembled delegates from around the world.  PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification organisation, so not unnaturally, they chose to hold the event in the magnificent, yet slightly quirky, Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum München.  Though I had known about Wolpertinger for some time, this was the first time I was surrounded by so many of the vicious creatures.  Normally they are a bugger to find, let alone put down, so it was heartening, amongst all the tweed jackets and guns, to see many of the little fiends finally put behind glass.

Wolpertinger
Wolpertinger” by Rainer Zenz (1502) in the style of Albrecht Dürer – licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This inspirational event led to a lifelong passion to spend time at the end of the year helping to improve the planet, as people have discovered over the years from out-of-office messages:

2008 – Apologies if you’re trying to contact me as I’m shooting Wolpertinger in the Northern Bavarian Alps in hopes of stuffing them with haggis for the traditional Frankonian Hogmonayfather Day,  but I shall be back online in January.  And if you’re out snarking north of Würzburg, you can always try texting …

2009 – Apologies if you’re trying to contact me as I’m spending time with the family in the lowlands of the northern Bavarian Himalayas.  Naturally we’re hunting Wolperdinger, plucking Christmas tree gherkins and otherwise trying to nog up.  I shall be back in action in January 02010 (in the Long Now reckoning).  If it’s urgent or you’re trying to get dates to meet up, Monique Gore at the office would normally be happy to help, but she’s in New Zealand.   But if you want to, and you’re wearing protective clothing (vicious creature the Wolperdinger) and quite a good shot, you can always try texting …  And while we’re on these subjects, a fable for the festive season (sleep in) – “The Shrike And The Chipmunks“.  PS – sent from a snark-free zone.

2010 – Apologies if you’re trying to contact me as I’m in Germany fighting off vicious Wolpertingers in a desperate attempt to get the Euro, Pound, Dollar, and Yuan back on track.  Just another normal holiday for a socially-concerned family trying to save the international financial system while stranded in the high, upper, northern and slightly back(ward) Bavarian Alps.  Still, despite the casual exertions, every intention of being back online in January.  If you happen to have a Wolpertinger arquebus and a hipflask, do feel free to text … though I may be grappling with forces beyond my control at the time you do so.  “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip K Dick, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon

2011 – You will receive an intermittent service from now till January.  I’m away, as ever this time of year, ranging from hunting Wolpertinger up near the oxygen line in the remote forest Wirtschaften of the northern Bavarian Rhöner Alp system, to chequing out (sic) whether or not the jet d’eau in Geneva freezes.  But if you’ve had a rare sighting of Wolpertinger, do feel free to try and share some of the sauce that helped you see straight by texting …  And for those of a thoughtful nature this Season: what would our world be like without hypothetical questions?

2012 – Yet again we undertake our pointless and delightful annual expedition, this year via Stuttgart, to the hunting grounds of the ferocious Wolpertinger up near the oxygen line among the remote wilderness Wirtschaften of the terra incognita that is the northern Bavarian Rhöner Alp system.  If you’ve had a rare shot at a Wolpertinger, do feel free to try and share some of the sauce that helped you shoot straight by texting … “What you most need to unwrap isn’t hiding under the Christmas tree.” – aphorism of the Ancient Wild Wolpertinger Hunter.

2013 – Out and about on our annual wildlife conservation expedition in the frozen wasting lands of the Northern Bayerische Alp System trying to save a beast of lore and yore near the limits of unaided oxygen high above the sea line.  No equipment as we strive to keep the watering holes open which preserve this creature’s rare habitat.  Bare hands only.  Makes the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog look like child’s play, Nessie a Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as for the Yeti…  Albrecht Dürer’s 1509 snapshot reveals some of the terrifying details of this ferocious feral fella’, but of course he’s dead now.  Albrecht I mean.  Intend to return with bragging scars on 3 January.

2014 – Wearing my sustainability passions on my sleeve, yet again I’m on another Wolpertinger conservation safari this winter, due back at work in January. We intend to follow the migratory patterns of these vicious varmints from the flatlands of Salzburgerland to the Rhöntops of the Northern Bayerische Alp System.  With a ‘selfie’ handed to us by Albrecht Dürer, it should be simple to avoid skiing over the crazy critters at first, but we do intend to take the battle to them as they proliferate in the Wirtschaften further north on the edge of Thüringen.  Ahh, the tales we will tell!

2015 – And the hunt continues … Nasty brutes.  Be careful.  I always bring a medicinal flask of sprudel-waßer.  Works wonders if they bite…

In deep Bayern Mainelli’s hunt a vicious little creature,
So ye feel safe at home, with no fear of Wolpertinger.
It’s a special way to holiday, save drunken carol singers.

2016 – Well, 2016 has been anno mirabilis or anno terribilis for some, but certainly anno confusionis for all.  As the family decamps for our annual Weihnacht fortnight, I intend to take refuge in some excellent Wirtschaften and contemplate das Jahr der Verwirrung between Würzburg and Bad Kissingen.  As the brain clarifies the Schnapps, perhaps I’ll take aim at my traditional foe, the odd Wolpertinger, though of course they won’t seem that odd this year.

I’d say contact the office in my absence, etc., but they’re mostly absent too, which perhaps you should be in this post-truth, post-work, post-modern, era.  And as our world needs to stop leaking its sense of humour to prevent global warming, ask yourself, “what constitutes having an ‘advanced’ sense of humour?”, before reading the last thing that made me laugh out loud – Alt.Warmth.

Of course, in a Kneipian emergency you can always try texting while you practise your post-Brexit translation and diplomatic skills:

“Wenn wir”, sagtest Du, “die Menschen nur nehmen, wie sie sind, so machen wir sie schlechter; wenn wir sie behandeln als wären sie, was sie sein sollten, so bringen wir sie dahin, wohin sie zu bringen sind.”

 “When we take people”, thou wouldst say, “merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.”

 « Si nous», Vous avez dit, «seulement prendre les gens comme ils sont, nous les faisons pire; si nous les traitons comme si elles étaient ce qu’ils devraient être, donc nous les amener à l’endroit où ils doivent être mis.»

“Se”, Lei ha detto, “solo prendere le persone così come sono, li facciamo peggio; se li trattiamo come se fossero quello che dovrebbero essere, quindi abbiamo portarli a se sono destinati ad essere portati.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre (Book VIII, Chapter four, 1795) from Werke, Hamburger Ausgabe in 14 Bänden, Verlag C. H. Beck München, Herausgegeben von Erich Trunz.

2017 – During the dangerous (W)interval we head, as every year, to the darker side of Europe, deep Deutschland.  As the snow swirls before the locked gates, we ponder life, food supplies, and some reruns, while our traditional foes, the Wicious Wolpertingers, snarl round the corners of the Hof.  This year we employ special hunting equipment borrowed from the Deutsches Jagd und Fischereimuseum that we hope will prevent a repeat of last year’s sousing incident.  Those of you around on 1 January are encouraged to raise your glasses in praise of our saving-the-planet-again work.  If you can’t raise your glass, we may have failed, though you should be able to watch it all again during a responsible bingeing session of Mutant Angry Crystal Zombie Dinosaurs with Penguins.  That said, you may be a bit confused as Hollywood took terrible liberties with the plot (and who says I look like Brad Pitt?).

If you’re hunting too, and dying for a dram of Jägermeister (geddit), then do text, otherwise watch the lights stay on till 4 January.  And what better quote for a repeat New Year’s quest than Hegel’s, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” Oh well, in the interest of accuracy over brevity, it was actually:

“But what experience and history teach is this, that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”

“Was die Erfahrung aber und die Geschichte lehren, ist dieses, daß Völker und Regierungen niemals etwas aus der Geschichte gelernt und nach Lehren, die aus derselben zu ziehen gewesen wären, gehandelt haben.”

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte (1832).

With all best wishes to you and yours during this Winterval!

A Professor’s Lot Is Not A Happy One

And another Christmas party on 14 December?  No, our every-other-year Gresham Christmas Soirée.  It’s one of my favourite events since I first played my bagpipes there in 2005.  And in an ever-stronger-every-other-year tradition we recite Barbara Anderson’s wonderful rewrite of Gilbert & Sullivan:

The Gresham Professor’s Song

We’ve Ge-ometry, Divinity and Music ’Ty and Music
There’s also Commerce, Rhetoric and Law ’Ric and Law
And Astronomy, Psychiatry and Physic ’Try and Physic
The Monday lunch time series, and much more And much more
Our subjects we with difficulty cover ’Culty cover
We formulate some titles that sound fun. That sound fun
Ah, take one consideration with another ― With another
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one.
Ah! When our Gresham Lecture duty’s to be done, to be done,
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one, happy one.

When you’re told to start at six and end at seven End at seven
And you want to fit in ninety Power-points, Power-points
But by five to eight you’ve got to slide eleven Slide eleven
You’re cold and tired and feel your aching joints. Aching joints
Our feelings we with difficulty smother ’Culty smother
When our Gresham Lecture duty’s to be done. To be done
Ah, take one consideration with another ― With another
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one.
Ah! When our Gresham Lecture duty’s to be done, to be done
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one, happy one.

When the au-di-ence ask questions that are silly That are silly
Worse still, they ask us something that’s quite hard, That’s quite hard
We try to answer sat-is-fac-tor-ily. Factorily
If desperate we tell them we’re time-barred. We’re time barred
Our stipends just, with difficulty, cover ’Culty cover
The overheads required to get things done. Get things done
Ah, take one consideration with another With another
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one.
Ah! When our Gresham Lecture duty’s to be done, to be done
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one, happy one.

The Professor’s Song – courtesy of Georgina Calver

Perhaps you’d like to see a live rendition?  On the left is John Carrington (Chairman) with Professor Robin Wilson leading, and to the right Professor Tim Connell, Professor Frank Cox, and lyricist (?) Barbera Anderson.  Fortunately I’m so far left here that I’m out of frame; sadly for you, you can certainly hear me!

 

Globemonger Christmas

Well, it’s certainly been a busy year, selling Lady Daphne, running Christmas markets for a few thousand of our closest friends, travelling, publishing, and even running a business.  So becoming Master of the World Traders is pushing things a bit, but what fun!

The first month in office as Master has been thrilling. My diary notes over 25 separate World Trader events or meetings.  The picture below is from our Company Christmas party at Watermen’s Hall on 7 December.

 

We had a  wonderful Carol Service on 7 December at All Hallows by the Tower. The choir, led by Mary Hardy and Norman Rose, performed a wonderful set of carols reflecting on my family’s Italian, German, and shipping background. There were some genuine tears. We hosted the event jointly with the Guild of Entrepreneurs, a deepening friendship there.  Sadly, it was the last one with our Chaplain, Rev’d Bertrand Olivier.  Bertrand has been Vicar of All Hallows by the Tower since 2005, but leaves on a great promotion to be the next Rector of Christ Church Cathedral and the Dean of Montreal (Québec, Canada).

Afterwards, we adjourned to some excellent drinks and goose at Watermen’s Hall. We even sang our own faux Globemongers’ Carol, opening with “God rest ye Merry, World Traders, lest Brexit ye Diss-May; Remember refer’nda, don’t ever go away”. Everyone left in a great mood, strangely clutching smouldering gifts of little red fishermen. Sehr gemutlich!

And that carol text in full:

The Globemongers Carol

(Sung to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”)

God rest ye Merry, World Traders, lest Brexit ye Diss-May
Remember refer’nda, don’t ever go away
To save us from the Corbyn’s pow’r, yes we have gone astray
Four tithings of EU and tax, EU and tax
Four tithings of EU and tax

But here at Watermen’s Hall, we all are castaways
Remember Christmas parties, all end in disarray
Don’t save yourself from dining’s power, you might as well a’stray
O tidings of bromo and fizz, bromo and fizz
O tidings of bromo and fizz

From year to year we reappear, and wonder all the same
How to sell incense and planets, for that’s our Company’s game
The Ever Insane Globemongers, could be our newest name
O tidings of toil and play, toil and play
O tidings of toil and play


Cashing In On Christmas

Over the past two years Elisabeth and I became a bit deranged in our support for the British Red Cross Christmas Market at Guildhall.  We saw Christmas market competition everywhere.  If you look around City streets you too will see some cheeky red signs for a chain of Christmas convenience stores.  Their name?  Pret a Manger!

So what were the results?  Well, here’s a photo of HRH Princess Alexandra opening the event with the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor Charles Bowman:

You can see two co-Chairmen, Elisabeth and me, in the background starting to become more relieved.  Overall, how could we not be delighted with the event?  The Monday night ‘production’ was superb.  The stalls, livery and commercial, were stunning and fun.  HRH Princess Alexandra shopped as never before – over two hours.  There were some hiccups, errant and elusive stall tablecloths on Sunday come to mind.  Credit card machines worked significantly better than before, and always a few niggles.

Total income was circa £155,000, slightly behind 2015 yet remaining slightly ahead of 2013.  The Monday night had significantly higher ticket sales than ever before, showing staunch City support. A few remarks about Christmas retailing may help place the results in context.  ‘Black Friday’ (US retailers giving sharp price reductions after Thanksgiving) has plopped itself down just before the our Christmas Market over the past decade, while ‘Cyber Monday’ (another severe discount day begun a decade ago to encourage online sales) has plopped itself down on opening day.  And 2017 is the first time since 2006 that Christmas itself falls on a Monday.  This ‘Christmas on Monday’ effect is quite important as major retailers typically find sales lag by approximate three days.  Against the background of increasingly tough competition and price wars, our biennial ‘amateur’ pop-up market amazes many professionals.

What made the whole event so special for both of us was our entire City community coming together for charity and comradeship in such a convivial and generous way.  It is impossible to imagine a more wonderful way to celebrate Christmas than doing something for the common good with dear friends.  We shall always treasure that memory.  And that welcome text in full:

Your Royal Highness, My Lord Mayor, My Lords, Your Excellencies, Aldermen, Sheriffs, Masters, Fellow Liverymen, Ladies & Gentlemen.  Welcome to the Wonderful 2017 British Red Cross Christmas Market at Guildhall.  Yet again we have our traditional festive market and innovations sucha as a German Weihnachtsmarkt and a Foodiefest.

We cannot thank so many supporters enough.  We extend our sincere thanks for the long-standing royal support, and dedicated shopping, of British Red Cross Deputy President HRH Princess Alexandra.  We thank the entire Red Cross team, represented here by Lady Lamport, and project managers Laura Deacon and Kerry Thomas who led the work programme these past 24 months.

There is a very special relationship between the British Red Cross and the City of London, starting with the City’s stalwart support of emergency appeals.  The Rt Honourable the Lord Mayor Charles Bowman and Lady Mayoress Samantha Bowman are Patron and Chairman respectively of the City of London Sector of the British Red Cross.  The late Lord Mayor, Dr Andrew Parmley, and his wife Wendy, conducted several appeals to help us raise funds for these two days. 

Over the past two years Elisabeth and I became a bit deranged in our support.  We saw Christmas market competition everywhere.  If you look around City streets you too will see some cheeky red signs for a chain of Christmas convenience stores.  Their name?  Pret a Manger.

The Corporation donates this magnificent and valued venue and our Civic Team turns up in force with our Sheriffs Tim Hailes and Neil Redcliffe.  Of course, Neil and his wife Emma were the former Chairmen and handed on this Market in wonderful shape back in 2015. Our Chief Commoner, Wendy Meade, is resplendent here tonight, yesterday in mufti along with numerous members of the Civic Team, Aldermen, Commoners, and Guildhall staff.

Our wider City community includes the Pikemen & Musketeers, The Light Cavalry, Colin Sayer of Seasoned Events, Livery Companies, Ward Clubs, the City Livery Club, Guild of Freemen, and City Guides – who have supported the Market these many years.  City stalls donate 100% of their takings to the Red Cross.

As Master World Trader this year, what distinguishes this event is that the Steering Committee and Main Committee, run a genuine market, and we thank the numerous Patrons who gave their support, their time, their goods, and their cash.

We also thank the stallholders, accountants, runners, lifters, drivers, and musicians.  A wonderful addition has been the numerous Embassies participating, while celebrities such as Loyd Grossman and Cyrus Todiwala give glamour to the Foodiefest and Aleppo Supper Club.  The BBC Antiques Roadshow Team are here in force, as is artist Jeremy Houghton.

Jean-Henri Dunant witnessed 40,000 dead or wounded at the Battle of Solferino, that led to him forming the Red Cross in 1863.  Just seven years later the British Red Cross began.  The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are, as part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters, and emergencies.  Today the British Red Cross has 32,500 volunteers and 3,500 staff disbursing a quarter of a billion pounds annually.

But none of this would be possible without support from the public and you here tonight, all of us.  Our Christmas Market helps to make a difference. May the British Red Cross flourish until we do have Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men.

So join me in wishing everyone here for these two days Merry Shopping and Happy Christmas.

Thank you.

From Archives To Modern Lives – Deep In The King’s College Scientific Archives

From Archives to Modern Lives: Frontiers of Trade and Technology
A survey of past and present innovation in association with King’s College London Archives, Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Surprisingly for some, London is, and almost always has been, a science city.  From the Gresham College days of the Tudor ‘New Learning’, Francis Bacon, the foundation of the Royal Society and on to the Industrial Revolution, genetics and even ‘fintech’, London has been at least as much about science & technology as it has been about trade & finance.

The World Traders had a wonderful day indeed.  Our main event, from 15:00 to 17:30, consisted of fully-illustrated presentations by six distinguished speakers, each at the very top of his or her own area of expertise. They referenced key objects of lasting scientific importance from King’s College London.

We handled numerous artefacts ranging from the original Wheatstone Telegraph of 1837 to the original DNA photo, “Photo 51”, to Barbara Cartland and Ted Hughes and Alan Ginsburg materials. Dr Brian May (yes, of Queen!) is an enormous fan of stereoscopy, heading up The London Stereoscopic Company http://www.londonstereo.com/, and created a 3D film for us. It feels like serious Livery one-up-person-ship that we can brag, “as we wore our 3D glasses Dr May leaped out from the screen to ‘Greet the Worshipful Company of World Traders’”.

The reception and dinner were on the eighth floor of Bush House in Aldwych (a building recently taken over by KCL, previously occupied by the BBC) with dramatic views from the City to Wesminster.

Wheatstone’s Cryptographs and Cipher

The full programme:

15:00 for 15:15      Reception, 1st Floor, Bush House, 101 (Auditorium)

15:15 – 15:30          Welcome
Deborah Bull, Assistant Principal King’s College London

                               Introduction
Dr Jessica Borge & Dr Geoff Browell

15:30 – 16:15         Computer Code
Artefact:                  Wheatstone’s Cryptographs and Cipher Post/ Telegraph TBC
Dr Jamie Barras
Professor Mischa Dohler

16:15 – 17:00          Life Code
Artefact:                   Photograph 51 TBC
Professor David Edgerton
Professor Karen Steel

17:00 – 17:45          Visual Code
Artefact:                   Wheatstone’s Stereoscope TBC
Denis Pellerin
Professor Reza Razavi

17:45 – 18:00          Concluding Remarks
Dr Geoff Browell

18:00 – 19:00          Drinks, 8th Floor, Bush House (South)

19:00 – 21:30          Dinner, 8th Floor, Bush House (North)
Guest Speaker: Dr Carina Fearnley

Master Of The World! … Traders…

What an honour, and a delight!  I was so pleased to be installed as Master of the World Traders on Wednesday, 25 October.

The Installation Dinner was a significant event for Elisabeth, my daughters Maxine and Xenia, our friends, and me.  The Company assembled a glittering array of guests, expertly marshalled by our Clerk and Beadles into a warm combination of ceremony and celebration.  At the ceremonial court we thanked Robert and Barbara for their hard work and most successful year, admitted 11 freemen and 5 liverymen, taking the Company over 300 members.  We awarded our first Honorary Liveryman of the Company to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland, who was our Tacitus Lecturer in 2015.  We dined, basking  in wonderful music by CLS Close Harmony, later hearing Baroness Scotland’s thoughts on trade and the Commonwealth.  As the Germans might say, “sehr gemütlich”!

My dear friend, Immediate Past Master, Robert Woodthorpe Browne, performing the installation ceremony.

The text of my Toast To The Guests:

Master, Wardens, High Commissioner, My Lords, Aldermen, Ladies and Gentlemen.  This wonderful evening in Sir David Lewis’ and my Aldermanic Ward of Broad Street, next to Austin Friars and the Dutch Church, means so very much to Elisabeth and me, for it encompasses past, present, and future, friends and family.  Our feelings tonight are the subject of so many songs, from Karen Carpenter to one of my daughter’s favourites, Imagine Dragons, “We’re on top of the world”.

In 2006 past Master Jack Wigglesworth asked me to fill the spot Baroness Scotland had tonight with her insightful comments on the Commonwealth and Trade.  It was in this very Drapers’ Hall that he and Carlotta turned up the volume on their own CD and press-ganged me into the Company.  We’ve all had the honour of watching our Company grow under the stewardship of ten masters since, till this year we surpassed 300 members today under the direction of Michael Shapiro.  Our immediate immediate past Master, Wendy Hyde, invigorated our City connections.  The immediate past Master, Robert Woodthorpe Browne and his wife Barbara connected us with the varied and fascinating markets of London.

Baroness Partricia Scotland QC, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, receiving her Honorary Freedom of the Livery

For me, the present is coming to grips with being Master.  This City is full of Ironmongers, Fishmongers, Costermongers, Cheesemongers, and even Fearmongers.  What is Master of the World Traders?  Perhaps we should be the WorldMongers or GlobeMongers.  Around the same year that I was doing that talk for Jack, one of my daughters had to speak at school about her parents’ professions.  Did she want to talk about Daddy the scientist, the accountant, securities professional, or computer expert?  Certainly not Daddy the management consultant.  Who could ever explain that?  No, she chose the easy option and belted out to the entire class at full volume, “My Daddy is a World Trader”.

Now that I’m Master, I hope to explain our Company to everyone.  Wouldn’t it be nice to fulfil David Bowie’s lyrics – “You’re face to face, With the man who sold the world”.  I think my catchphrase might be “Psssst.  Hey Buddy, want to buy a planet?”

But the future is a tough sell these days.  We have creaking constitutions, Brexit, America First, WTO problems, let alone North Korean missiles, nuclear proliferation, hurricanes, and pandemic bugs.  Strangely, there are people who try to put a value on Earth.  $3,000 trillion is one number.  $5 quadrillion another.  Could we find some other species to sell it to and get thrown into the vacuum of space with huge wads of cash?  Could we use the proceeds to buy a slightly more upmarket planet with even nicer fjords in a better neighbourhood?  No, we need to succeed with what we have.  Ian Harris and I wrote a book, The Price of Fish: A New Approach to Wicked Economics and Better Decisions, pointing out that our core challenge as a species is “To live successfully with each other in a shrinking planet”.  Technology is essential to that hopeful success and thus our theme this year is “Trade & Technology”.

Mankind uses tools to control our environment, our planet, and our aspirations for our universe.  Technology is our distinguishing feature.  But it’s not all progress.  Douglas Adams notes: “Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.”  “We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.  How do you recognize something that is still technology?  A good clue is if it comes with a manual.”  As Tears & Fears sang, “Nothing ever lasts forever, Everybody wants to rule the world”.

Before you should be a small gift from Elisabeth and me – technology that should help you get “a detailed grip on the big picture”, or perhaps a “big picture grip on the details”.  It’s a lens cloth or ‘screen wiper’ to help you see technology more clearly.  Hopefully it’s still held together by a humble clothes-pin.  In so many ways, technology is about taking back control from the environment, for clothes-pins that’s control of the wind.  Jérémie Victor Opdebec sneakily took out a patent for the dolly peg in 1809.  Two guys from Vermont blew that old tech apart.  In 1853 David M Smith’s “new and useful or improved…spring clamp for clothes lines” became the modern articulated peg, somewhat anthropomorphic and erotic according to the Economist, in harmonious opposition “the two longer legs may be moved toward each other and at the same time move the shorter ones apart”.

As a Professor, tonight I have to ask you an examination question about installations – How many World Traders does it take to install a light bulb?  The Answer: None, Adam Smith’s invisible hand will do it all.  Unfortunately the joke’s wrong, free markets need help.  If ever a year cried out for World Traders, it might be this.  Just the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) next April and our Brexit uncertainties place trade & technology in the forefront of the nation’s future.

All liveries are committed to civic commerce, community, and charity based around fellowship.  So what are World Traders going to do in 2017 and 2018?

Our theme is “Motivate, Create, Celebrate”.  On commerce, we respond to members who asked for more intellectual content about trade, going right back to our founding by Peter Drew in St Katharine’s Dock.

  • Trade has been as much science as finance. You must book 15 November– “From Archives to Modern Lives: Frontiers of Trade and Technology”.  You’ll have a chance to hold Photo 51, the original DNA image, and celebrate London technology from Thomas Gresham’s New Learning to the Royal Society and the modern era at Kings College.
  • On 21 March we debate “Technology & Trade In The Commonwealth”, with the post-graduates at Eric Tracey’s Goodenough College, co-hosted by the Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment Council.
  • On 22 February Dr Nathan Myhrvold delivers our Tacitus Lecture for Nick Mayhew, Jan Dawson, and the team. The renowned and controversial scientist, founder of Microsoft Research, and now founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures with over 95,000 patents and strong views on patent trolling and geo-engineering is also an extreme cuisine scientific foodie colleague of Heston Blumenthal.
  • We are commissioning a research publication on the value of smart ledgers to world trade, are working with an ISO group on a qualification for World Trade, and will have number of other events looking in on the natural, life, formal, and applied sciences & technologies of our City.

On community, our Learned Clerk, Gaye Duffy, will nimbly execute a complex series of traditional events, but we want to be an even more tech savvy Company.  Our Communications Committee, led by Zoë Buckingham, has already developed a member-led website, will soon implement a new membership system, and also deploy charity and events systems inclusive of non-members.  We shall experiment more with social media and online meeting technology and produce a short World Traders’ video.  Our overseas trip this year will be to Dublin where the Irish government and the Industrial Development Authority are hosting us at Iveagh House, we’ll stay at Trinity College Dublin, one of my alma maters, and we’ll participate in Bloomsday, the annual celebration of Joyce’s Ulysses.  Our Education Committee under Sue Algeo is educating us at Gresham College events.

On charity, perhaps in anticipation of our Dublin Trip, Simon Maddox, the Events Committee, and the Court call on all members to support our attempt to break a Guinness World Record – “The Most Nationalities In A Simultaneous Popular Music Sing-along”.  Our attempt is scheduled for 16:00 on Monday, 27 November 2017 at St Lawrence Jewry Church, Guildhall Yard, just before the grand opening of the British Red Cross Christmas Market at Guildhall.  The challenge song is John Lennon’s “Imagine”, along with a Christmas Carol and a ‘trade song’ (suggestions welcomed). London Business School set the last record in 2016 with 72 nationalities; we need 101 for obvious reasons.  The proceeds go to the Red Cross, St Lawrence, and our charitable trust.

One of my favourite comedians, the surreal Steve Wright, said, “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to have to paint it.”  Robert and Barbara painted a magnificent world in their year.  Elisabeth and I can’t top that, but perhaps we can paint a tech perspective on trade.  One thing I’ve learned about our Company over the years comes from Take That – “If you stay by our sides, we can rule the world.”

Tradereaps economic benefits from specialisation and comparative advantage, creates prosperity, distributes success and wealth, and collectively enriches all of our societies and communities.  Trust underpins all trade and investment, firmly based on the City of London’s motto, “Meum Fidem, Meum Pactum” (“my word is my bond”).

As I said, all liveries are committed to civic community, commerce and charity based around fellowship.  Our fellowship is cemented by having our friends over as guests.

I ask the Company and Guests to rise together and drink the Company’s toast inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural address of 1801, “COMMERCE AND HONEST FRIENDSHIP WITH ALL.”

11 new freemen and 5 new liverymen take us over 300 members.

May I thank one and all most sincerely for your immense support.  I had some big trepidations, possibly only surpassed at a certain ceremony with Elisabeth some two decades back, but wound up enjoying the evening enormously and being so proud of our Company.

London Forever! Reality Or Rhetoric?

The Financial Services Group of Livery Companies asked me to provide an inaugural FSG Lecture in memory of its Founding Convenor, Jeremy Goford, Past Master Actuary“London Forever! Reality or Rhetoric?”  I was pleased to deliver it on Wednesday, 20 September 2017 at
Mercers’ Hall, London.Though I met him late in life throiugh the livery movement, Jeremy and I enjoyed many conversations and disputations on the auditing, accounting, and actuarial professions, especially their use of numbers. Jeremy’s love of our City was palpable.  I was delighted that the Financial Services Group of Livery Companies chose to honour his memory with this inaugural lecture,  While you can read the full transcript, with slides – Jeremy Goford Memorial Lecture – London Forever – Reality or Rhetoric 2017.09.20 v1.3

a summary was published in Fintech Finance on 25 September, reproduced below:

London Forever! Reality Or Rhetoric?

This month, Z/Yen Group, published the 22nd edition of the Global Financial Centres Index.  GFCI 22 showed almost all major financial centres following the downward lurch of London and New York in GFCI 21.  In the top 20, only Frankfurt rose, quite significantly due to many London bank announcements of headquarter moves.

Finance only exists to support the ‘real economy’ of commerce and trade.  This telling tumble among financial centres is due to fears over trade, not finance.  ‘America First’, isolationist rhetoric damages perceptions of future US trade, while Brexit rhetoric harms perceptions of UK and European trade.

With so much changing, it is right to ask whether London will forever be the premier global centre for professional, business, and financial services.  Financial centres do rise and fall, from Amsterdam to Izmir to Zanzibar.  The 1375 Catalan Atlas of the known world by Abraham Cresques of Mallorca has an inscription: “This lord is Musa Mali .., so abundant is the gold which is found in his country that he is the richest and most noble king in all the land.”  Musa hailed from Timbuktu in today’s Mali.

London’s five centuries of success are due to a sustained confluence of several factors, the ‘accidental’ ones being maritime location, early infrastructure, Continental wars, and the rise of the USA over the past century.  Our index comprises well over 100 ‘intentional’ factors, but I would emphasise the business environment, a trading culture, and the rule of law.   However, people like simple answers, not statistics. So just two things, structural intensity and fair treatment.

All cities are intense, but structural intensity is special to the City of London.  With only 9,000 residents and 450,000 commuting workers, it’s a 98% chance anyone you meet on the street is working.  And Crossrail’s success will raise that chance to 99%.  A temperate climate, twisting alleyways, and numerous drinking places ensured that from the time of the Tudors financial workers met each other frequently.  From pubs to coffee shops to Americano & Cappucino networking centres, supplemented by air transport and IT.

While the UK’s £61 billion trade surplus from financial services is exported via electronic pipes, deals need face-to-face trust to start, and often to complete.  We need to keep raising that intensity of contact as the City of London Corporation is doing by planning for significantly more pedestrians.  Video-conferencing supplements deals, but we still need to meet, often unplanned.

The belief that all comers will be treated fairly has been a London success factor since the 1290 mistake of expelling the Jews.  London’s subsequent welcoming history needs no recounting, from Lombards of old to welcoming back the Jews in 1655 to today’s Syrians.  All were increasingly treated with the same commercial rights as Englishmen.  Rule of law is crucial, but long before anyone goes near a court, any nation that wishes to prosper must trade from an open and competitive environment.  Competition needs a well-educated populace with a state sector preventing cartels, barriers-to-entry, information asymmetries, and agency problems, while not crowding-out markets.

If we get our own house in order, trade will come.  Brexit doesn’t change the basics.  You can’t be an international centre without international people.  Successful people want to live in successful places.  Successful places are cosmopolitan.  Reputation is vital: 20 years to build and five minutes to ruin.  We have problems certainly.  If Britain is open for business, try opening a bank account.

We have problems certainly.  If Britain is open for business, try opening a bank account.  With or without Brexit, we need to stimulate investment in quality education and training, health, infrastructure, broadband; sort out the airports (plural), make the nation as ‘visa less’ to get to as possible, make financial account-opening a one minute process, create a competitive housing market, simplify the tax system, and so on.  Brexit adds the complexity of ‘transition’ being woefully unclear, ‘trade’ structures breaking down, and welcoming ‘talent’ uncertain.  So we need swift decisions on timing, on terms-of-trade, and talent, for example stop prevaricating on EU nationals’ and students’ status.

Our reality must rise to meet our rhetoric, but it was ever thus.  In the history of London we see the truth of Aldous Huxley’s comment, “The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.”  Making London a great place to live solves most problems.  We need to be honest about our faults and not let false rhetoric impede fixing them.  We are deficient in some areas, but not desperate; in danger of having our Emperor’s clothes disrobed, but with time to knit some new garments.

We’ve been being told for well over a year what we supposedly voted for in a non-binding referendum.  Whatever, the vote was certainly a vote for change.  Quality guru W Edwards Deming sets a low bar for the lazy: “It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.”  I am sceptical about claims that we businesspeople will find fabulous fortunes hitherto overlooked in far-flung foreign lands, but I am very positive the closest opportunity is change for the better at home, toward improved structural intensity and fair competition.  Londoners are certainly not lazy.

Trade reaps economic benefits from specialisation and comparative advantage.  Trade creates prosperity, shares success, and enriches our environment.  Trust holds all trade relationships together.  The clearest sign of trust is that people want to live and work in London and the UK.  If we keep that, we keep everything, including the top spot a century from now in Global Financial Centres Index 222.

Equilex – 22 September 2017

So there you are, waiting for the Christ’s Hospital annual St Matthew’s Day parade through the City of London.   St Matthew’s Day, traditionally 21 September, is held to save the souls of accountants, bankers and tax collectors, i.e. money men (well, to ruin a good theme, perfumers too).  Over the past decade, thie service beforehand and the parade have been great fun, following the students through rain or shine as one of the finest marching bands in the UK leads you forward.  It all ends at Guildhall where the students meet the Lord Mayor and receive their ‘largesse’, a coin fresh from the Royal Mint, before heading to lunch.

As an Almoner, you’ve been inside St Sepulchre-without Newgate, the musicians’ church for the service.  The service is always uplifting.  Surrounded by hundreds of pupils who really know how to sing, you can let loose with total abandon and release both of your notes.

Outside the church just before 12:30, you spy a strange shape on the footpath creeping towards you.  Suddenly you realise it is the shadow of Lady Justice (iustitia) from the Old Bailey on the opposite side of the street.  You swing round 180 degrees and point and shoot.  And you take this snap:

Glorious, eh?  And then you realise it’s the equinox.  Excellent timing and titling.  And many thanks to your mobile phone.  Then you can return to events and marching through the streets:

Who knows, perhaps a small, smelly splinter of my soul was saved.

Liquidity Ditty – LiquiDitty – The Poem Drops

Ten years ago I gave a lecture on liquidity at Gresham College – “Liquidity: Finance In Motion Or Evaporation?”  – London, England (5 September 2007).  I recommend the transcript as easiest to read with the slides.  The lecture was actually scheduled back in February 2005 (yes) as I looked ahead ujneasily towards a liquidity crisis.  The timing turned out to be too good as I came back from summer break after BNP Paribas started the financial crises news and things lurched onwards to Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, RBS, etc.

Engraving of a flea, Micrographia by (fellow) Gresham Professor Robert Hooke, 1665.

In these days of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) this lecture seems to be coming back in popularity and I wonder about a reprise.  Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist ending the lecture with a little ditty of my own, based on Jonathan Swift’s construction around a flea, The Siphonaptera, that seems worth sharing again:

Big pools have little pools

which suck out their liquidity,

and little pools still lesser pools

and so on to aridity.

 

So, financiers observe, small pools

suck larger pools liquidity,

yet tinier pools drain other drops,

and so on to aridity.