Monday The day I have been dreading for months arrives. Wearing a freshly ironed shirt, polished shoes and a clean handkerchief, I present myself at the lift door with an undue level of trepidation. The first day at school after nine months of sunning myself in the Caribbean and I feel a distinct level of despondency. The fun is over, now it’s back to the rat race. I fear the dreaded induction process, or “indoctrination” as I used to call it in my old place. I fear forgetting everybody’s name and making the inevitable faux pas with the new boss. I fear I have forgotten what a bond even looks like.The induction process begins with a brief tour of the office: “The toilets are over there, and this is where the teabags are kept. Your desk is here.” And that’s it. Induction is meant to be a torture lasting half the first week with tedious videos telling you where the fire exit is located. Within 10 minutes people introduce themselves and the office is so small I can remember their names, or most of them. Everyone is smiling. I wonder if I have knocked at the wrong door. The boss is based in Scotland and a sufficiently brief phone call ensures I can’t put my foot in it on day one. Tuesday Now comes the really scary bit – it is time to investigate the bond markets. Amazingly Bloomberg starts after the second attempt though it demands a fingerprint log-in, which seems a little Big Brotherish. I stare at a few bond yields and again feel rather despondent. Nothing has changed. I still remember the old favourites and they’re all yielding the same as when I left them. I look at some histories and see that spreads have tightened aggressively and then widened out, but to me it feels like nine months in a time capsule. (And what a marvellous capsule it was!)
Wednesday Adrian Frost decides it’s time I was potentially useful. He throws me a copy of the stocks in the Artemis High Income fund. I feel somewhat daunted staring at this top-performing fund and fear I’m expected to improve on the best. “I need to spend some money, the cashflow is insatiable!” – a very novel phenomenon to me. I decide discretion is the better part of valour and plump for an old favourite, Royal & Sun Alliance bonds. I place my first order in the new shop. Pride overtakes me as I feel a fully fledged member of the team.By the end of the day we are in a full-blown meltdown. Bonds are falling like stones. The market fears GM is about to seek Chapter 11 and everything suffers as panic sets in. Looks like my new school may be a short-lived experience. Thursday I confess my sins humbly to Adrian who grins wildly and tells me that the change in price is irrelevant. I feel a little comforted though slightly disconcerted that my favourite asset class is at best irrelevant in his eyes – always the problem with equity managers. Dick Turpin rings. Am I doing anything for lunch? I accept his offer. Friday The hangover is appalling. Vision is difficult. I don’t care if Royal & SunAlliance has gone bust and am concentrating solely on remembering where the toilets are located. Saturday A day of sailing with friends to celebrate a full week of work after so long. I look back in pleasure. I have had the best career break anybody could ever wish for and now I feel I’ve joined the top table of investment houses. I feel utterly refreshed and invigorated. It’s daunting but it’s also incredibly exciting. I feel privileged to be part of the team and look forward with genuine excitement to the future. Monday Royal & SunAlliance bonds are upgraded to investment-grade. Phew!