Confessions of a recruitment consultant.
Here's something sent in by one of our recruitment consultant readers:
It was the mid-1990s, and the global economy was in overdrive. This recession of the early 1990s had faded, and the angst of the Russia crisis, the Asia crisis and the demise of hedge fund LTCM, was far ahead in the future.
The mid-1990s were once again go-go years for the markets, and banks and other financial markets players - and recruitment consultants - made out like bandits.
The call came from a senior HR type at one of the major international banks.
'Do you guys have a specialist who deals with the LME ?', HR asked, 'We want someone to run our base metal operation'.
Of course we had a specialist on the LME, my boss replied confidently.
'Well', she said after replacing the receiver. 'We're meeting a main board member tomorrow morning'.
''We', who's 'we' ?', I asked.
'Me and you - our LME expert', she retorted.
'But what the hell is the LME ?', I not unreasonably asked.
'I don't know', she replied with a shrug.
'It's the London Metal Exchange', one of the team shouted over, 'Good luck with your high-level meeting!'.
So, in those days before the internet, I recall us looking up the LME in the phone book and, on the way to the meeting, we popped in and my boss told the receptionist that her son was doing a project on base metals, and she wondered if it was possible to have a list of bank members.
With list in hand, we duly went off to the bank.
Nervous as hell, I was ushered in (with my boss) to meet the main man with a plan. Fortunately for us, this titan of finance talked in strategic terms, so our lack of detailed knowledge (any knowledge!) didn't reveal itself. The closest we came to being unmasked, in fact, was when I cockily got out the bank member list and asked whether the person we were searching for was likely to be at a certain bank. I couldn't have selected a more unlikely target, however, as that bank had just apparently revealed huge trading losses due to unprofitable metals deals.
Fortunately for us, though, our senior client fell about the floor laughing - me not realizing I'd made a bobo, and him thinking that I was simply being facetious. It was only after the meeting that I realized what a close shave that was.
Anyway, meeting over, we returned to the office. I then spent a long time looking at the bank list. After a nervous pause, I lifted the telephone and finally called the switchboard at one of the big banks.
Asking to be put through to their LME trading desk, my call was answered gruffly : 'Dealers'.
I took a deep breathe, and began my pitch:
'Look, I'm a recruitment consultant and I've just bagged a big mandate. I'm not an expert in this area, but I'm looking for someone to run the base metal trading operation for one of the big banks.
'(I mentioned the not inconsiderable compensation package on offer) Will this get me the number 1 guy in your place ?', I asked.
'No', came the reply.
'Will it get me the number 2 ?'.
'So who is the number 2 at your place ?'.
'Do you want to go out for a coffee'.
Well this guy was great. I went to school on him about the LME and found out how this part of the market operated. And with my new knowledge I was able to confidently amass a credible shortlist. The interview process ran its course and, much to my delight, the trader who taught me all I knew about the LME got the job.
The fee, although capped, was a huge one.
Those really were the good old days!