A Christmas Carol for the finance industry

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 December, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 December, 1994, 12:00am

MIDAS is no Ebenezer Scrooge, but if he hears one more cute little bunch of school girls singing Christmas carols in those pure-as-driven-snow voices, he is going to make Natural Born Killers look like Mary Poppins and flail through them with both arms swinging.

Running the gauntlet of Pacific Place the other day, Midas happened upon a semi-circle of 12-year-olds with nice long socks, pulled back hair and voices like sheet-metal being drawn.

People gathered around and looked admiringly at the little mites while they struggled through The Holly And The Ivy. Midas burped loudly in the gaps.

Before them was a frumpy and frenetic music teacher, gesticulating madly and self-importantly, her bunned hair slowly coming loose and a thin layer of sweat forming on her upper lip, twinkling on her moustache.

To the left was an earnest young lad playing the flute in a way that would make James Galway give it all up and turn to the bottle.

On the other side was a piano player whose sole skill appeared to be total colour blindness when it came to black and white.

And then, of course, there were the parents. Doe-eyed with love and admiration because their sprog had managed to remember four words on the trot, they held hands, remembered their own pathetic childhoods and dreamed of futures to come.

Anyway, the net effect of the lot of them was to make Midas murderous. But just as he was reaching for the baseball bat - it hit him. Not the baseball bat, the explanation.

Midas suddenly realised the meaning behind such gatherings - it is all a cruel pastiche of the financial industry.

Think about it - the innocent faces, the awful braying, the incompetent practitioners, the panicked boss, the excruciatingly innocent observers.

Consider. The little girls are the fund managers and stockbrokers - outwardly alluring but rapacious little devils inside, sounding sweet but talking with words as ensnaring as razor wire - braying and giggling with sweets melting in their pockets.

The frumpy conductress is the global strategist - desperately trying to lock in control but slowly becoming more and more dishevelled as the realisation strikes that, ultimately, all the degrees and training mean nothing when it comes to controlling the uncontrollable.

The flute player is your average analyst - huffing and puffing and doing very little but make dribble come out the other end.

The piano player is your technical analyst - scientifically superb, but so wrapped in the maths he can't tell black from white.

And the parents? Well, Midas is afraid to tell you that they are you and I. Blinded by faith, willing to suspend disbelief and slave to a desire that makes fools of us all.

For parents, that desire is love. For the average member of the investing public, it is nothing less than greed.

Show any of us an investment professional and you see mirrored your avaricious self. That, of course, is why everyone loves to hate them.

For people who are happy with their greed, that's fine. But in this season of goodwill to all men, when greed is not good, the finance industry is seen for what it is - simply shallow materialism. Merry Christmas one and all.