Silver bullet

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The Jolly Contrarian’s Glossary

The snippy guide to financial services lingo.™

A bullet with Frank's name on it yesterday

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In such conditions, a sense of hopelessness overwhelmed many soldiers, leading them to believe that every incoming shell was inscribed with a man’s name. In the soldiers’ imagination, such a fate might be averted by having one’s name already engraved on a talismanic bullet — an especially poignant kind of trench art.

Trench Art: A Brief History and Guide, 1914-1939, Nicholas J Saunders.

It is said that combat troops would often carry with them a single bullet with their own name engraved on it. A superstitious amulet; a warder-offer of the soldier’s deepest fear: “the bullet with my name on it can’t hurt me, because I’ve got it”.

In financial services we have silver bullets, too, and they are just as good at warding off evil: not very.

The silver bullet is a certain type of fellow employee. Hard to describe in the abstract, but you know him when you see him: the weak gazelle.

He is (frail) flesh and blood; he is the survivor, the bullshit artist, the fellow who, in twenty-five years managing securities financing operations, has never quite got to grips with the idea that a stock loan is title transfer — the credit officer who doesn’t quite apprehend that a bank account involves credit risk, because your money isn’t just kept in a special jar with your name on it somewhere at the back of a huge vault — he who somehow, doggedly, hangs on to his job, like lichen, anchoring his mortal coil to cold inhospitable rock as Hurrican Right-Size rages about him.

This chap — who shall remain nameless, because I really don’t want to hex him: he is in his own way an unknown warrior, inexplicably not yet in his tomb — is my succour and my prayer for relief: as long as he survives, may my own days yet be without number, for my grim comfort is that there remains at least one warm body between me and the wall I will eventually be lined up and shot against.

Yet the fact that this chap — the one that says “due dilly” with a straight face, and throws around hymnal metaphors — the fact that he is still here while so many better men and women have already limply slid down that wall, leaving a copper stain behind them on the whitewash, gives the lie to this conviction.

But still, however little it may practically be worth, I have my silver bullet.

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