Declaring My Candidature For Sheriff Of The City Of London 2019/2020 –

17 March 2019

Election of Sheriffs for the City of London – Monday, 24th June 2019

Candidature of Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli FCCA Chartered FCSI(Hon) FBCS

To the Liverymen of the City of London

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Common Hall

With a sense of honour and enthusiasm, I offer myself to the Livery for election at Common Hall to be held at Guildhall on Monday, 24th June, at 12 noon.  My colleagues on the Court of Aldermen support my nomination, as they did last year, as their candidate for the ancient office of Sheriff of the City of London for 2019/20.  If a poll is demanded, I would like to ask for your support by voting in my favour at the ballot on Monday, 8th July 2019, also at Guildhall.

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Gresham Professors – Stand-up or Stand-down?

A talk given to one of my favourite communities:

 “Stand Up Or Stand Down”

Gresham Society AGM & Dinner

14 February 2019, National Liberal Club

The Gresham Society is a very serious organisation.  A Gresham lecture is supposed to be a serious intellectual occasion.  A Gresham Society address therefore should be an especially heavy and ponderous event.  I hope to disappoint.  Tonight I want to explore the role of humour in Gresham lectures.

On the way here Bob McDowall and Ian Harris asked what I would be speaking about.  When I told them, they said that was what they really like best about Gresham lectures, people getting up and speaking on new subjects about which they know nothing.

To start my exploration I asked the greatest living Gresham College lecture listener, Barbara Anderson, for some observations.  She had a few:

First, humour crops up where you least expect it.  Geometry.  Roger Penrose talking string theory while fumbling with his wet overhead acetates that he then overturned, smearing the projector, while the image turned out to be upside down as well.  Our universe is in safe hands.  But the Geometry humour prize must go to Robin Wilson who repeatedly proved in each lecture that the shortest distance between two puns is a straight line.

Second, humour gets us over awkward spots.  I remember Will Ayliffe talking about third world cataracts while showing a video of a piece of wood penetrating an eyeball for crude surgery.  He got us through all the squirmy, squeamish bits by diverting us with jokes and waving around his EpiPen.  I remember asking Will why he always waved around an EpiPen adrenaline injector at his lectures.  He explained that he treasured it.  “My best friend gave it to me when he was dying; it seemed very important to him that I had it.”

Third, humour can be a cheap shot for regaining audience attention.  Keith Kendrick, Gwen Griffith-Dickson, Raj Persaud, and Glenn Wilson, are a bit like the Father Ted character Father Jack Hackett, tossing the word “Sex” into their talks at regular intervals.   I myself particularly remember a Gresham Society talk a decade ago on “Sex” research, with the rueful throw-away line, “… and then there was my Canadian graduate student so earnest in researching S&M that he built a dungeon in his basement.  A shame that after the murder trial and the jail term he failed to complete his PhD…”

And then there’s Tim Connell, but we don’t have the time to analyse that.

Barbara concludes that it’s less about humour per se, more about having a way with words that makes difficult subjects amusing and therefore understandable.  I agree with Barbara, but want to dig a bit deeper.

Comedy is a fundamental literary genre juxtaposed with tragedy.  Comedy sets up tension by having more than one outcome.  Tragedy ends up only one way.  In a comedic tale an unstable situation is resolved for the most laughs.  In a tragic tale, everyone dies.  Of course, the real tragedy for me is having to live through it time and time again at the opera.

Of the six basic human emotions, comedy gets happiness, surprise and disgust, leaving sadness, fear, and anger for tragedy.

Humour serves many roles, for example as a literary device to help remember definitions.  What’s the difference between erotic and kinky?  “Erotic is when you use a feather.  Kinky is when you use the whole chicken”.  Or classifying animals.  How do you tell the difference between a brown bear and a grizzly bear?  Climb a tree.  The brown bear will come up after you.  The grizzly can’t climb.  He’ll tear the tree out by the roots.  Ambrose Bierce took this to the limit with his Devil’s Dictionary.  One snippet – “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”

Humour can embed concepts. A Gresham professor droned on about linguistics, “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. But there isn’t a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative.”  A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”

According to Gresham College’s biggest competitor, Wikipedia, there are three dominant theories of humour – tension relief, superiority, and incongruity resolution.  A lecture has a lot of tension.  Will they turn up?  Will they listen?  Will they understand?  Will I have to buy drinks for everyone afterwards?  The biggest tension though between the lecturer and the audience is understanding how each other think.  Here’s one from a Commerce lecture:

One day a teacher asks her student Johnny, ‘Johnny, if there are two birds on a wire and I fire two barrels from a shotgun, how many birds will I hit?’.  ‘One, Miss’.  ‘Johnny, please listen, if there are two birds on a wire and I fire two barrels from a shotgun, how many birds will I hit?’.  ‘One, Miss’.  ‘Why Johnny?’.  ‘Well Miss, after you fire the first barrel the second bird will fly away.’  ‘Johnny, that’s the wrong answer, but I like the way you think.’

The next day Johnny comes into the classroom.  ‘Miss, my Dad says that I must save my allowance.  One bank offers me an educational booklet.  The other bank has a very pretty teller.  Which bank should get my account?’  The teacher blushes, and says, ‘Well, perhaps the one with the very pretty teller?’  Johnny replies, ‘No Miss, the one with the biggest government guarantee, but I like the way you think!’.

Keith, Gwen, Raj, and Glenn would probably have used the funnier, original, “Sex”ier joke about three women licking, sucking, and biting Italian ice cream, but the point is that tension release helps us see that other people may have different points of view.

On the other hand; you have different fingers [Steve Wright].  Turn to superiority.  Aristotle and Plato believed we used humour to feel superior to the ugly, the inferior, and the unfortunate.  We flaunt superiority in sarcasm or with jokes such as “There are 10 types of people in the world.  Those who understand binary and those who don’t.”  Of course Plato was in turn a victim of Diogenes the Kynic – Plato had defined Man as a featherless bipedal animal, and was applauded.  Diogenes brought a plucked chicken into the lecture-room with the words, “Behold Plato’s man”.

Yet I am most intrigued by the third theory of humour, incongruity resolution.  Here we also set up a tension, and then resolve it.

Steve Wright – “If you had a million Shakespeares, could they write like a monkey?” or given that alcohol is a solution, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate”.

From tension springs creativity.  Arthur Koestler proposed three domains of creativity – art, science, and comedy.  Creativity is the “shaking together of [already existing but] previously separate areas of knowledge, frames of perception or universes of discourse”.  Koestler wryly expresses the continuum from artistic inspiration, to scientific discovery, to comic inventiveness by the reaction induced, respectively the AH reaction (art), the AHA reaction (science) and HAHA reaction (comic).

Incongruity resolution exposes ‘scale changes’.  Scale changes are Zen-like moments of enlightenment.  You delight in changing scale when you move from believing that some carnival magician is just sleight of hand to the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, he or she is deploying genuine magic.  You delight in changing scale when you move from the wind-in-the-face exhilaration of a roller coaster at a fairground to staring at the loose rattling bolt inside the carriage with the terrifying realisation that some overworked carnival employee bolted it all together last night.  Scale changes inspire enlightenment, whether through the art in fractals, the power laws in science, or the sudden jolt in a double entendre.

My favourite jokes rely on scale change.  A couple book a flight on a four engine aircraft.  The husband looks to starboard to see one of the engines on fire, only to hear the Captain on the loudspeaker, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are dousing a fire in a starboard engine, but don’t worry, this aircraft is designed to fly safely on just three engines.  However, we will be one hour late to our destination.”  A little later, the husband turns to port to see one of the engines on fire, only to hear the Captain on the loudspeaker, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are dousing a fire in a port engine, but don’t worry, this aircraft is designed to fly safely on just two engines.  However, we will be three hours late to our destination.”  Still later, the husband turns to starboard again to see the second of the starboard engines on fire, only to hear the Captain tremulously on the loudspeaker, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are dousing a fire in a third engine and, while this is my first such experience in over two decades of flying, don’t worry, this aircraft is designed to fly safely on just one engine.  However, we will be six hours late to our destination.”  Hearing this, in frustration the husband turns to his wife – “If that fourth engine goes, we’ll be up here all night!”

I suspect you, like me, believe that humour provides a deep look into the soul of our fellow Man.  We like to think we have a profound connection to the personalities of Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Clemens, Winston Churchill, or even Marie Antoinette from one of their quips.  Funnily enough, we have Albert Einstein to thank for a deep look into Margot Asquith’s soul.  “By way of pleasantry I must relate to you one of our mutual friend Lady Oxford’s latest. Having met Jean Harlow (the original platinum blonde) at a party the latter exuberantly began to call Margot Margott stressing the final t.  Margot (severely) — ‘The final “t” in my christian name is silent, unlike your family name’.”

As we start to move back to our drinks, I remember James Thurber, “One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough.”  Enough jokes, does humour help us gain an insight into Sir Thomas Gresham?  Having read John Guy’s wonderful biography, humour is in short supply.  Still, requiring lectures in English, as well as Latin, gun-running, stitching up his fellow merchants and the City, Thomas must have had some sense of humour.  I think that, comparatively, he was a tolerant man.  Religious tolerance, cultural tolerance, and intellectual tolerance.  And, if you look at your gift tonight, a commemorative coin Ian and I have had struck, you’ll see he remains tolerant about Gresham’s Law on the obverse and reverse.

For me, one of the greatest characteristics of the English people’s is their tolerance.  Allowing people to make fun and share humour in fair play.  Normally for the Gresham Society the “B” word is Bourse.  But tonight I just might point out that the current B word down the road seems to be leaching tolerance from our society.  It is not alone.  Political correctness taken too far, ‘woke’ snowflakes, and many other trends threaten tolerance.  And when humour is increasingly removed from social discourse, you know that tolerance is under threat.

So, “Sex”, any Gresham lecture that includes humour to get attention, get over awkward spots, aid definitions, or induce scale change enlightenment is a blow for tolerance and fair play.  So long as there is a genuine public space for humour, everything will be fine in the end.  And if it’s not fine, then it’s not the end.

Mark Twain described a dying man who couldn’t make up his mind which place to go — both have their advantages, “heaven for climate, hell for company!”  So may I ask you to raise a glass to the hellish company of the “Gresham Society and Sir Thomas Gresham”, with the refrain, “MAY GOOD LECTURES DRIVE OUT BAD.”

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 Wolpertinger, 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 Wolpertinger) 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!

Mary Celeste as Amazon (1861)

2018 – You may be asking why you are receiving an ‘out of office’ just before year end.  As is well-known, we have now entered the Glorious 12(th) (Days Of Christmas).  This constitutes our traditional hunting season against the onslaughts of the Wicious Wolpertinger.  Man battles the forces of chaos to render a tiny shred of order amidst the insanity of modern life.  Many of you will be aware of the continuing saga of one man against the unnatural, but newbies may appreciate some background: Wicious Wolpertinger – The Hunting Expeditions Of Several Years (an almost circular quest, no?).

Oddly, on our return to Blighty each new year, friends express incredulity when we state that we’ve actually seen Wolpertinger, let alone despatched many at great personal cost to avert the looming Wolpertinger conquest.  So this year we take battle directly to the unseen.  Realising that the disappearance of Wolpertinger corpses could have no other explanation than the same one as the mysterious bodily disappearances of the crew of the Mary Celeste, this year our battleground will be that tragic vessel’s last known location in the Azores.  Technically, that would be off Santa Maria Island, but somewhat deficient in restaurants, spas, and golf courses, reluctantly we shall engage the enemy from somewhat further behind the front lines in Terceira, toasting the demise of each undetectable denizen with an appropriate libation.

We intend to tend our war wounds in Oporto for a few days afterwards before proceeding to celebrate Silvester Abend in the Franconian Alps (thankfully, after numerous expeditions these Alps are now mercifully cleansed of the little beasties) and returning home for Monday, 7 January.  Who knows what tales we shall spin tell upon our return!  If it’s an urgency, such as celebrating a direct hit and needing to buy me a Mijinhas, you can try texting.  Meanwhile,

« Le vrai rêveur est celui qui rêve de l’impossible. »
„Der wahre Träumer ist derjenige, der vom Unmöglichen träumt.“
“The true dreamer is the one who dreams of the impossible.”
Elsa Triolet (1896-1970), French-Russian writer.

Obverse and Reverse – Flip The Coin

I was delighted to see the final struck coin for next year’s quincentenary celebrations of Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579).  We, Z/Yen, ordered them to contribute to the celebrations.  The coin was designed by Xenia Mainelli (yes, a relation, one of my two cherished daughters).  Much has been written, but we particularly look forward to Dr John Guy’s forthcoming biography (a pre-read was fantastic), and John’s Gresham lecture at Guildhall:

Sir Thomas Gresham (1519 – 2019)
Old Library, Guildhall
18:00 – 19:00, Thursday, 13 June

Bookings here from 15 April – https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/thomas-gresham-1519-2019

If you want my amateur take ahead of time:

Sir Thomas Gresham: Tudor, Trader, Shipper, Spy and the Ladies of Dulwich

Good Money Drives Out Bad / Bad Money Drives Out Good

And why the contradiction?

Robert Mundell (Nobel Laureate Prize for Economic Sciences, 1999), “Uses and Abuses of Gresham’s Law in the History of Money“, Zagreb Journal of Economics , Volume 2, Number 2, 1998.

World Record For World Traders

London, 29 October 2018: The Worshipful Company of World Traders is delighted to announce that it has broken the Guinness World Record for the “most nationalities in a simultaneous popular music sing-along”.http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/415296-most-nationalities-in-a-simultaneous-popular-music-sing-along

On 8 October 2018, with support from Goodenough College and Voices of London, the Worshipful Company of World Traders set a new record with 245 people from 84 nationalities singing “Imagine”, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, and “Mama Mia!”. London Business School set a record for 72 nationalities in 2016.

The attempt was the brainchild of Master of the World Traders 2017-2018, Professor Michael Mainelli, who decided that the World Traders could do something to celebrate inclusion during times of apparent division, “Our Company motto is ‘Commerce and honest friendship with all’.  With trade wars popping up everywhere, our idea was to show global unity here in London with everyone around the world.  The World Traders are delighted to be the first Livery Company of the City of London to achieve a Guinness World Record.

Setting a Guinness World Record is a demanding task. Independent Witnesses with experience of checking passports are requisite, and so the World Traders recruited Martin Lloyd, author of “The Passport: The History Of Man’s Most Travelled Document” for the attempt, as well as a legal witness from Mishcon de Reya. We also needed six Stewards, each responsible for a zone with a maximum of 50 singers, who had to verify that all the singers participated.  Stewards and witnesses had to sign a confirmation that they were satisfied with the all aspects of the event that were under their jurisdiction.  Mary Hardy, the Choirmaster, and Norman Rose, the pianist, ran everyone through their paces twice over.

Lars B Andersen at the tensest moment.

Lars B Andersen, the Liveryman of the World Traders who coordinated the record attempt, said: “In the end, we uploaded more than 53 GB of data in 44 files to prove that our attempt was valid. After a lot of work planning this event, we were so pleased to hear that Guinness World Records approved our record on 24 October.”

Rebecca Matthews, Director of Goodenough College, commented, “Goodenough College is home to postgraduate students of over 80 different nationalities. We are incredibly proud of our strong links with the Worshipful Company of World Traders and share the same belief in (intellectual) ‘Commerce and Honest Friendship with all’.  As such we were pleased to be able to celebrate our unique diversity by taking part in this World Record attempt. I know that our many talented Members were honoured to be able to represent themselves, their home nation and Goodenough College on the evening, and it was a fitting event to demonstrate the unique culture fostered here at Goodenough.”

Divine Service Prior To The Election Of The Lord Mayor

1 October 2018 at 10:45 – This service is held at St Lawrence Jewry, the official church of the Corporation of London.  It precedes the election of the Lord Mayor and is attended by the Masters of the livery companies.

I’ve always been politely amused by the touching adaption of a well-known hymn for the City:

O Praise ye the Lord, fraternities all,
With each patron saint, with Lawrence and Paul,
Praise God in this City, in his name we strive,
And pray for our liveries, long may they survive.

O Masters of guilds,in livery adorned,
Your mysteries keep and strive to be formed
In charity, service, and care for the poor,
Bring God his due honour, and praise Him the more.

Prepare ye to serve, all Aldermen too,
In each of your tasks be faithful and true;
With eye to the Father, and ear on your ward
With all this City, O praise ye the Lord!

This year’s Lesson and Sermon were taken from Luke 16:1-9:

The Unjust Steward

1And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 

For some of us, it seemed too a propos a lesson on ‘client monies’.

“You Never Stop Trading” – Institute Of Export Awards Ceremony

Institute Of Export
Keynote
Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli
23 May 2018, Mansion House

“You Never Stop Trading”
Minister, Aldermen, Fellow Masters, Ladies, and Gentlemen.

The City of London, what better place to graduate in trade and export. The Inspector of Ancient Monuments assures me that London’s archaeological evidence proves over 100,000 years of trading. Bloomberg across the road sits above two millennia of Londinium. We convene for this graduation ceremony over a millennium old stocks market. You are at one end of Cheapside, ‘cheap’ being Anglo-Saxon for ‘market’. One New Change at the other end by St Paul’s is its modern shopping mall. Gresham’s Royal Exchange opposite is over 450 years old.

The word ‘monger’ is old Saxon-German for trader or trafficker. Think, ‘drugmonger’. This trading City is therefore full of Ironmongers, Fishmongers, Lightmongers, Costermongers, Cheesemongers, and even Fearmongers. What am I as Master of the World Traders? Perhaps I should be a WorldMonger or GlobeMonger. Pssst, hey buddy, want to buy a planet?

From Adam Smith onwards, thinkers have increasingly recognised that commerce is about much more than just making money. Commerce is about exchange between people. Commerce is about social interactions where people trade ideas, opinions, or merchandise. Good commerce is a positive sum game. Trade reaps economic benefits from specialisation and comparative advantage, creates prosperity, distributes success and wealth, and collectively enriches all of our societies and communities. Trade is a force for good.

This year’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Charles Bowman, promotes the Business of Trust. His research sets out five principles for trust – five good principles for new graduates. Remember the mnemonic C-I-V-I-C:
• Competence and skills – doing what you do well;
• Integrity – being honest, straightforward, and reliable;
• Value to society – recognising and meeting wider societal needs;
• Interests of others – respecting the interests of customers, employees, and investors;
• Clear communication – being transparent, responsive, and accountable.

Trust underpins all trade and investment, firmly based on the City of London’s motto, “Meum Fidem, Meum Pactum” (“my word is my bond”). Trade should be win-win with other people. As the UK increasingly focuses on trade, remember that no-one should ‘export to’, everyone should ‘trade with’.

So CIVIC, I repeat:
• Competence
• Integrity
• Value to society
• Interests of others
• Clear communication

What I admire about you is that by starting, and finishing, your studies with the Institute of Export you exemplify all five CIVIC principles. You have studied to increase your Competence. Your Integrity in enshrined in your learning. Your Value is inherent in your increased professionalism. You couldn’t trade ethically without taking the interests of others to heart. You have worked hard on communicating your thinking and ideas. You deserve today’s awards.

The Jesuit scholar, Timothy Radcliffe, talks about universities and further education as places where we “learn to talk to strangers.” As you trade with strangers, they become colleagues, and later colleagues become friends.

But education and trade don’t stop here. All of life is learning and trade. In fact, I’ve improved a bit of Shakespeare to get that point across. Indulge me:
All the world’s exchange,
And all the men and women merely traders;
They have their wares and their merchandises,
And one man in his time plies much commerce,
His acts being short changes. [Jacques: As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7, lines 139-143]

I run a technology and finance research firm that is about 90% exports, so this year, the World Traders, young and old, Journeymen your age to ancient Liverymen like me, have focused on “Technology & Trade” as our theme. We are studying how technology transforms trade through debates, workshops, and even research into blockchains, published at the House of Commons last month as “The Economic Impact Of Smart Ledgers On World Trade”. You too will continue to learn through life, or stop living. An old quip goes, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”  Or as Seneca the Younger stated, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”

So, as graduates, should you be optimistic or pessimistic? A number of nationalities walk into a bar and are asked, “are you optimistic or pessimistic?”:
• the Englishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Remain”;
• the Scotsman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Referendum”;
• the Irishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & 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.”

And you have such great opportunities. The world is changing as never before, socially, technologically, economically, and politically. It may be a bit crowded now, seven billion people is over double the world I was born into, but even that will change as we are looking to demographic numbers reversing direction about 2050. You will have outstanding chances to use your learning. You will never stop learning and trading.

May I ask you, the graduates, to go forth inspired by the motto our Worshipful Company of World Traders traded with Thomas Jefferson from 1801, “COMMERCE AND HONEST FRIENDSHIP WITH ALL.”

May I wish all of you the success you will earn.

Thank you.

It’s Not All About Winning, Unless You Win

I had a wonderful time at the City Debate last night, Tuesday, 6 March.  Here’s a photo of all of us at the start:

CSFI & CISI City Debate:

  • Antony Jenkins (10x)
  • Nikhil Rathi (London Stock Exchange)
  • Michael Mainelli (Z/Yen)
  • Ruth Wandhöfer (Citi)

You can spot Ruth on the left, with Angela Knight in the centre who chaired proceedings, and Alderman Alan Yarrow both as Chairman of CISI and as Lord Mayor Locum Tenens.  The pre-debate vote was neck-and-neck, 51% “no” (Antony and my side) and 49% “yes” (Ruth and Nikhil’s side).

From the questions it appeared a hostile audience to Antony and me.  I had that queasy feeling you don’t like when you’ve volunteered for a competition just for the fun of it, then suddenly realise you could lose in front of all your friends.  How can one’s self-esteem ever recover?

Now you can see me in full ‘must win’ mode, or as my friend George Littlejohn would have it – “Michael could be up for playing Churchill come the next biopic.”

City Debate 2018

Thus it was a genuine surprise, and relief, to find that we moved the audience significantly to our side, 73% to 27%.  Whew.

In case my position had anything to do with swaying opinion, I set out the case against, below:

“This House Believes That Fintech Will Save The City” (NOT)

Lord Mayor Locum Tenens, Your Excellencies, Fellow Aldermen, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

You heard Antony’s compelling words.  My argument balances his.  If Fintech doesn’t destroy you, then … Fintech will remain, a small comfortable parasite on the technology and trade centre that is our global City.  So what is the City, what is Fintech, what needs saving?

Yesterday, the Inspector of Ancient Monuments assured me that London’s archaeological evidence proves over 100,000 years of trading.  I ask you, many of you too also ancient monuments before me, to join together and take a long-term perspective.  Bloomberg across the road sits above two millennia of Londinium.  We convene over a millennium old stocks market.  Gresham’s Royal Exchange opposite is over 450 years old.

With the tragic exception of Edward I’s expulsion of the Jews in 1290, what distinguishes London is that, by comparison, it has treated all comers from outside the walls fairly, so long as they adhere to “meum fidem, meum pactum”.  Lombards, Huguenots, Rothschilds, Warburgs … Mainellis.

We are an SME City.  24,000 businesses provide 483,000 jobs in the square mile, with 1,200 more each year.  Yes, 250 firms provide 50% of the jobs, but they work with 23,750 deal-making SMEs.  Large and small produce 3% of UK GVA from less than 1.5% of the workforce, three quarters of the UK’s services trade surplus, some £68bn.

Urban legends mislead us.  The City was a deal centre before and after WWI, but was a feeble financial centre from 1939.  The finance legend was kept alive by Italians and Americans, Autostrade in 1963 creating Eurobond markets on neutral territory.  When Thatcher lifted exchange controls in 1979 and Big Bang broke cartels, financial services boomed.  Most of today’s behemoths were SMEs 30 years ago.  Bloomberg dates to just 1981.

You’ve heard of a Baker’s Dozen, 13?  I recently learned that a Banker’s Dozen is 11.  Just seven banks, not even 11, gets you to over 95% UK market share.  Cartels remain.  Domestic banks pursue a decades old, yet rational, strategy of hampering account switching.  If you want to be a success in retail Fintech, go to a country with over a thousand banks, Germany, or over six thousand banks, America.  Make some marketing director’s career rather than annoy a UK bank strategist.

Our retail fintech story is government lies for children, baubles with no Christmas tree:

  • M-Pesa in Kenya dates to 2007, eight years before the UK notices Fintech.
  • Retail Fintech kids unable to afford desks sit in Level 39 beside the compliance & admin battery hens of Canary Wharf, while Berlin, a quarter our size and not a global financial centre, raises more Fintech finance than we do.
  • China has 13 Fintech unicorns to our four. Even that requires forward-dating things like WorldPay, 1995, just to  fake our numbers up.

Then we put our regulator in charge of a sandbox, letting government bottlenecks choose our winners.  Any country whose regulator is in charge of innovation has deep problems.  The wider City is lawyers, accountants, maritime, insurers, not a fintech pimple.

Google Trends awards the term ‘Fintech’ around 100 points.  In January 2015 it was an insignificant six points.  Our government claims creation of a sector it didn’t even notice four years ago, putting some mobile app lipstick on the antiquated systems of some oligopolistic banks.

I came to the City in 1984 to put computer technology into Messels, then Shearson-Lehman-Amex.  We old-timers should celebrate the progress of automating wholesale finance.  We’ve been doing real Fintech long before this insulting term was mashed up.  It’s as facile as saying your heartbeat keeps you from dying.

London is a science & tech city.  From Tudor ‘New Learning’ to Gresham College, Francis Bacon, the Royal Society, Industrial Revolution, Wheatstone telegraph, or DNA (the work was done at Kings, not Cambridge), London has been at least as much about science & tech trade as it has been about finance.  Technology-Media-Telecomms is a significantly larger percentage of firms under 100 employees than finance, insurance, or professional services.  Our centuries of tech drive regtech, instech, arttech, filmtech, songtech, medtech, edtech, traveltech.

Finance moves with technology too, from cuneiform to papyri to tally sticks to spreadsheets to databases and now databases-plus, smart or distributed ledgers, blockchains.  But smart ledgers are ‘wide tech’ for identity, documentation, and agreement exchanges, not just payments.  Tech is for all sectors and the City of London is the most intense place on the planet to do tech deals.

So does the City need saving from Brexit, the wider UK, perhaps AI?  To paraphrase Streisand, “people who need to trade with people, make London the luckiest City in the world”.  As long as we focus on face-to-face, commercial, global deal-making that AI and telecoms can’t replace, deal support will thrive, from financial and professional services to hotels, culture, healthcare, or entertainment.

With or without Brexit, we need quality education and training, health, infrastructure, broadband; airports (plural); an in-visa-ble as possible access to people; a functioning housing market; a simple tax system.  If Britain is open for business, try opening a bank account.  What always needs saving is the rule of law, innovation, and open deal-making.  We are deficient, but not desperate; in danger of having our Emperor’s clothes disrobed, but with time to knit some new garments.

In conclusion, profound changes would be needed to even start to be a standalone Fintech centre.  Silicon Valley, in total, is still only half the size of London.  Fintech propaganda hides three decades of wholesale finance automation.  Our real strength is over 500 years of wider technology and open trade.  Sell Trade in Tech not Fintech.

So, do you vote for deep tech or mobile gimmicks, do you vote for City deals or for Canary Wharf turkeys, do you vote for people or machines?  Our centuries of success are built on growing SMEs in open, global trade, not some three year old government mashup.  Please vote for yourselves, the deal-makers of London, not this facile motion.

References

https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/business/economic-research-and-information/research-publications/Documents/research%202016/Clusters-and-connectivity-finalV2.pdf

https://www.cbinsights.com/research-unicorn-exits

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.

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!