The current economic crisis and the photographs of embattled traders on the floors of stock markets around the world brought my mind back to the day when I too shook up the market.
It wasn’t the stock exchange but the floor of the world’s oldest insurance market Lloyd’s of London.
In those days when I and the world were extremely young I worked for the “intelligence department” of that august body. Technology such as faxes and the internet had not even been thought of yet alone invented. However we did have a bank of telex machines giving instant access to the Lloyd’s agents worldwide and machines spewing out reports from various news agencies.
There modern technology stopped. The telexes and news stories were edited by our seniors and betters and a team of oiks like myself then wrote out the news in longhand script on individual foolscap sheets of paper. Several times an hour a waiter, a term dating back centuries to when Lloyd’s was a coffee house, would take these sheets down to a notice board on the floor where they would be pinned up. The brokers would then gather round to read the latest news.
The Torrey Canyon tanker went down off the Cornish coast in 1967 whilst I was thus employed but I staked my claim to fame when a building caught fire in Bombay with a huge claim for the property and stock. I duly wrote up the tragic tale that was pinned on the board then minutes later was hurriedly returned by the waiter from a panic stricken trading floor.
Had a whore house really burnt down in that Indian city and was Lloyd’s involved in insuring such establishments and its stock in trade? I am sure that one way or another it does insure such buildings but its stock, probably not. However I had to hurriedly rewrite the piece as it wasn’t a whore house at all –but a warehouse!
Hence 20 minutes later the trading floor returned to a state of calm, brokers loosened their stiff collars with relief and the Lutine bell remained silent for another day.