Thursday, June 07, 2012
Bank On It - Thursday
‘Hey, how’s it going?’ Calls a familiar voice, as I make my way through the lunchtime shoppers to seek out another mind-numbing calorie limiting, meal deal.
Several options open up to me, as I try to place the dulcet tones. Pretend I haven’t heard and dodge past the Big Issue seller, while ignoring him too. A cursory. ‘Fine thanks, can’t stop.’ Before pressing through the throng heading for the park. Or engage briefly while glancing at watch and trying to place whom I’m talking to and if brushing them of quickly might cost me money. I turn.
It’s the crumbly-hipped banker with the charisma of a cold store. I offer a thin smile, the one graded for tradesman, office appliance engineers and those wanting sponsorship for another walk, jog, or cycle to cure cancer. He’s oblivious to an incipient brush off, but then he flogged Payment Protection Insurance to self-employed builders for years until they rumbled him.
‘Thought it was you.’ Continues the banker offering his hand. A hand I don’t want to shake if there’s no commission in it. I’m starting to feel like Howard Hughes – obviously without the money – and have to physically fight the urge to wash my hands after each contact with the public. I collect countless colds and bugs each season. The alcohol gel in the car glove box is used copiously after each appointment and come late afternoon I’m often tempted to ingest it. Just to kill the pain.
He’s grinning at me unpleasantly. I thought the bank would have made him redundant by now. A lifer with the industry, aged mid to late forties, too long in the tooth to learn new techniques and with all the sales ability of an amoeba. I get endless CV’s from similar hopeless cases wanting to become estate agents, alongside the South African realtors who have bailed out after they realised the servants wanted their house not their goodwill. They’re virtually unemployable.
‘How’s the market?’ Probes the man, not remotely feeling my buying signals are set to stop. It’s such a cheesy question but everyone asks it. At the paper shop, the petrol station, at barbeques and those other burnt meat occasions – funerals. They don’t like me but they want my knowledge. The fact I still can’t second-guess the market after three decades is something I, and countless media “property experts”, try to keep to themselves.
I give him the standard sanitised waffle about realistic pricing, good locations and demand holding up. But I’m boring myself half way through. He doesn’t seem to notice, but then he can talk for hours about APRs AVCs and MVAs.
‘I’m thinking of buy-to-let as an investment.’ Continues the banker. ‘Still good yields if you can buy cheap and I’m not sure even my bank pension is safe.’ Terrific, if even accountant-types aren’t secure what hope for the fiscally illiterate like me? He’s going to ask, I think, as I look at my watch more pointedly than I’d do if he were a paying punter. And sure enough he does.
‘If you’ve got anything coming on cheap, under market even,’ grins the man avariciously. ‘I’d be grateful to know.’ Please don’t tap your nose, says my inner voice plaintively, but the finger goes to the septum anyway. Surely he knows I’m charged by my client to get the best possible price? But when it comes to money and your own piss-poor personal pension fund, ethics are the first casualty.
‘I’ll give you some free gratis too.’ Says the man as I start to move away, pointing at my watch now. Nothing is free mate, apart from my no-obligation valuations. ‘The Euro is a dead man walking.’ Announces the banker conspiratorially. ‘The Germans are already secretly printing the Deutsche Mark again.’ And with that he leaves before I do, wobbly gait lost amongst the Primark bag carriers.
I’m still trying to work out what to do about my holiday currency when I get back to the office, to be greeted by negotiator S saying. ‘Boss on line 2 for you.’
What can the bean counter want?
‘How’s the market doing?’
Fund my hedge with the property e-book