9/11; the day that will live forever.
In the last century there was a saying that everyone knew where they were the moment they heard that John F. Kennedy the U.S. President had been assassinated in November 1963.
That event has been superseded by the events of September 11th, 2001. Without doubt most people will know here they were when they heard that two planes had been deliberately flown into the World Trade Centre buildings in New York.
It is not an event that should or indeed could be trivialized by mention of its effect on financial markets, but it is a day that should always be remembered, in infamy, as a day that changed the world forever and eventually spawned the attitudes, prejudices and acts that dictate the world we live in today.
I was sitting at my desk in London when the first plane hit. The rumour spread very quickly that a serious incident had taken place in New York, but it wasn’t until the second plane hit when the news services had managed to react. As the significance of what was happening unfolded, we were all told to close any outstanding positions and be very cautious with client orders.
My business disappears.
9/11 had a direct and very significant effect on my career. I was working at the time for a major German Bank in London who had been trying to build a foothold in the Middle East to diversify its business to become a global player. It was one of the few AAA rated banks left and wanted to leverage that rating by becoming more visible. I had been hired four years earlier to provide a trading platform for the bank to build relationships upon.
This whole strategy was decimated by 9/11 as in typical fashion, “the baby was thrown out with the bathwater” it was entirely correct and understandable that credit limits should be suspended while the situation cleared. However, the bank decided fairly quickly that it was going to withdraw back to Europe where it felt safer.
I left the bank in October 2001 and, ironically, found myself back in Saudi Arabia where the plot had apparently been hatched, financed and masterminded.
A simple act of kindness
An ironic postscript to this story I believe sums up the fact that there is no such thing as an evil race or evil country it is always down to individuals. When we had been living in Riyadh a while, my wife was out shopping with an American friend when they were approached by an elderly Saudi gentleman in a supermarket. He told them, in broken English, how sorry he was for what had happened and that the people who carried out those heinous acts where neither Saudi or Muslims. That simple act had a profound effect on both ladies and has stayed with them ever since.
Personally, I made several friends while living in the Middle East. I lived in Riyadh, Dubai and Doha, Qatar. However, and this is true of almost any country, there will always be an element wants, indeed demands change. It is how they go about demanding that change that marks them out.
In May 2003, I was very close to a major terrorist incident in Riyadh which brought a significant change to that country’s attitudes across many areas. The most incredible change was that such events as terrorist attacks were reported in the press and accepted as part of a malaise that was affecting the country. Up until then they had been brushed under the carpet and not discussed or even acknowledged.