Perhaps the topic of dishonesty should have been broached with a little more sensitivity. Then the chairman might not have got the wrong end of the stick with such incendiary results.

”Do you mind if we talk about thieving?” I asked the chairman of the implausibly-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management as we enjoyed a few pints of Not Terrifically Forward Thinking at The Using Up Of All The Best Evershed Tribunal Lines In Just The Two Weeks.

“Mind?” frowned the chairman. “Mind? Of course I jolly well mind. I have just about had it with this ongoing vogue for bashing anyone and anything involved with Her Majesty’s financial services industry. Believe it or not, not all of us are amoral, baby-eating buccaneers, who do this lark solely because all we have dreamt of from the cradle has been how to transform investors’ wealth into our own in the fewest possible steps.”

“I know,” I said.

“As it happens,” the chairman continued, “plenty of us, well, plenty of people I know believe passionately that investment is the best and indeed only possible way to improve the combined quality of life in this country, that “service” is not simply some meaningless part of our industry’s name and that value for money should underpin everything we do.”

“I know,” I said.

“Personally, I blame those people camping outside St Paul’s for cranking public feeling against us up another notch,” the chairman ploughed on. “Not that I don’t have a degree of sympathy with them because, even if they seem singularly incapable of communicating any coherent message, they have at least flagged up how capitalism has rather lost sight of what it should be doing.” (Scam continues below)

“I know,” I said.

“Even so, nobody is running a charity here,” said the chairman, continuing to pick up speed. “Goods and services need to be paid for, and if I decide Scam is going to charge a fiver every time we email or answer the phone to a client or double the fee on our tracker funds because we might as well also have a piece of that particular pie, then that is our right as a business and only the market can judge us.”

“I know,” I said.

“Frankly, anyone who thinks otherwise is not being realistic and … why do you keep saying you know all the time?”

“Mainly, I suppose, because I know,” I shrugged. “I mean, I am aware of all the issues you mention and am broadly in agreement with them.”

“Then why did you start this conversation in such an inflammatory way?” asked the chairman. “Why did you make a distinct reference to all of us in Her Majesty’s financial services industry being thieves?”

”If I decide Scam is going to charge a fiver every time we email or answer the phone to a client, then that is our right as a business”

“I think you’ll find I didn’t,” I replied. “I merely asked if you minded if we talked about thieving and … no … don’t get all indignant again. If you had only let me continue instead of conducting your own Nuremberg rally, not only would our combined blood pressure be a lot lower but you would have discovered I just wanted to talk about theft in – ’in’, mind, not ’by’ – the workplace.

“You see, extrapolating from a survey by the good, good people of, which apparently provides an online platform for businesses to help them manage expenses and cut waste, 22% of the population openly admit that they have taken home something from work they should not have.

“Drilling down a little, 28% of 18 to 25-year-olds admit taking something from work – so make sure you have your younger employees frisked after a trip to the stationery cupboard – while 25% of middle-class professionals admit taking something from work compared with just 15% of those who judge themselves working-class.

“I’m not sure if that makes middle-class workers bigger thieves or working-class people bigger liars. Still, while the most popular liberated items included toilet paper, office paper and pens, bigger-ticket work souvenirs have included a van, laptops, a projector, a television and something called a ’Fat Boy bean bag’ and – well, that was it really.

“Now, would you mind offering me an apology, or would you like the campers to extract it for me?”