Last night, I was privileged once again, as FastMarkets CEO, to be a guest of the London Metal Exchange at its annual dinner. This spectacle demonstrates – as if 2012 hasn’t already done so – what a great show we can put on in London.
What’s more, for the first time I cleaned up on the LME dinner table sweepstake. Let me explain. There has long been a tradition that LME dinner goers bet on the length of the guest speaker’s speech. This year, the guest speaker was Lord Mandelson, perhaps the ultimate “marmite” politician, who was always going to bring out divergent bets. But anyway, I was closest on my table with a bet of 21 minutes and 30 seconds – and so scooped the jackpot.
Would I have won without the accurate sighting shot of a senior LME person on our table? Probably not, but you take your luck where you can get it in this life. There is still the small outstanding issue related to a side OTC – or should that be OTT (over the table)? – option contract, which I think needs to be settled over a pint!
But what of the occasion itself? For me, the erudite Charles Li, chief executive of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEx) hit the right note: a marriage between what London has for so long done well and the scale, reach and resources that his exchange can deliver.
The business logic of the LME’s sale to HKEx is indeed compelling and, at FastMarkets, we look forward to greater opportunities to sell our FastMarkets Professional service into an ascendant Asia.
And yet at the same time, it was difficult to ignore a sense of wistfulness amid the undoubted enthusiasm. In breaking with tradition and making his speech, Charles Li was signalling the transfer of power from west to east – a baton was tangibly passed. But, as Mandelson reminded us, the UK is “intensely relaxed” about the LME being sold to HKEx.
Surely, as long as Charles Li’s masters in Beijing ultimately come to reciprocate this openness, then such thoughts should be put to one side. For if this marriage proceeds smoothly, everyone who has an interest in the LME, and that includes us at FastMarkets, will have hit the jackpot.