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Christopher Wilson: Building The Bullion Business

Christopher Wilson: Building The Bullion Business

December 19, 2016

Chapter 44 in the exclusive series for Dynamic Commodities- becoming a commodities trader

Salomon Brothers was all over Philipp Brothers like white on rice. The precious metals and options area was no exception. In the options area, the now dominant division of the firm sent two quants (quantitative analysts) to analyze Sid’s business. He called them Dan Schwartz and “the girl.” He was none too pleased with their questions and suggestions.

Meanwhile, a Salomon investment banker arrived on the scene at the same time. Christopher Wilson was a tall, dark and handsome British transplant. His specialized in marketing to central banks, monetary authorities and supranational institutions like the IMF, World Bank and even the Vatican in Rome. Chris Wilson had it all, including degrees from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and Oxford or Cambridge (I do not remember which). He also did a stint in the Gurkhas, a select group from the British military. The British military only recruits 230 trained riflemen each year out of 17,000 applicants for the Gurkhas. Hence, Chris was the most polished individual I had ever encountered. His accent was not only proper; it was mesmerizing. He was Salomon’s version of James Bond.

Salomon sent Chris to Philipp Brothers to help John Gruen build up the central bank bullion business. He would hop all over the globe. Furthermore, in doing so, he was helping to increase bullion deposits, build relationships  as well as create and structure profitable transactions. Chris was the man who could help a central bank monetize their gold reserves.

In the office, Chris quickly became one of the boys on the desk. He had a wicked and dry sense of humor. He immediately bonded with Gruen, so Sid did not trust him in the least, even if he did come from Salomon. As the quintessential marketing man, Chris had an innate ability to speak on a topic or business even if he had no idea about the subject. Chris sensed the tension from Sidney, who was his polar opposite.

Cut from different cloths, traders and investment bankers have different skill sets and tend to be at odds with one another. The investment banker brings the clients to the firm and gets them to do transactions. The trader prices those transactions and takes the financial risk. The banker’s job ends where the trader’s begins and the latter does not always make money on the deal. However, both want to take credit on a profitable deal. The banker wants credit for the customer business while the trader desires recognition for the profitable pricing. As you can see, both job functions want payments at bonus time, which causes tremendous friction.

Sid particularly resented that Chris referred to him as “Kidney” rather than Sidney in his proper English accent.

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Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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