Risk Latte - Watching disciples of Tom Peters on Bloomberg TV

Watching disciples of Tom Peters on Bloomberg TV

Rahul Bhattacharya
March 27, 2007

Lucy Kellaway, a columnist with the Financial Times, recently got an email from someone (obviously in the banking or finance sector) saying, " Lucy, watch me on Bloomberg TV today! "*

That's not bad! Why didn't I think about it before? I could've written to a dozen or even scores of influential journalists and columnists around the world saying watch me on Bloomberg TV or see my article in your paper. It is another matter that neither am I a banker nor does Bloomberg ever bother to call me on their shows. But the idea is great, or pathetic, depending on which way you look at it.

Every day we watch hundreds of "suits" on Bloomberg, CNBC and other financial news channels every day. They talk about markets, products, economies, price targets, and just about everything. A few talk passionately but most talk dispassionately but always with an air of confidence, no matter how tentative that confidence is. And as Lucy points out in her column today in the FT, they are all building a brand - themselves. Each face, each suit wants to be a brand; a brand that can help them to go to conferences and seminars that can help them move higher up on the corporate ladder and ultimately be recognized by all and sundry.

They are all disciples of Tom Peters.

As referenced in the same article, Tom Peters, some ten years ago wrote an article called " The brand called You " in the magazine Fast Company. And like Lucy, I am sure all of us get this urge to start building a brand around ourselves. But we need a decent suit first and the phone number of the Bloomberg TV's bureau chief. Of course, we can simply spam him and say, " Interview me on Bloomberg today!"

But why do we try so hard to put our face on the AsiaWatch or Squak Box or whatever else is there on these channels? Is John Wasteland, working for a Barclays or a Lehman, a brand or just a name on a name card. If John Wasteland worked for a company named SipLatte, would he still be called by Bloomberg TV to express his views on Dollar Yen or the strategy of the Federal Reserve? An even more potent question is: whether we really learn anything about Dollar Yen or Fed's strategy by listening to John? Whatever the answer to that question, we do listen to John, pretty religiously - before leaving for office, in our hotel rooms, while sipping Latte in an office tower or while counting from 999 backwards inside our office elevator. Surely, John has something to offer us in the form of information or even entertainment. Surely, there must be a brand value somewhere otherwise we wouldn't bother with watching him. And how many John Wastelands appear on a Bloomberg or CNBC every day? Would you recognize any one if you see them in the elevator or on an airplane?

But I guess we all of us need to build our own brands; and the urge must be insurmountable amongst the bankers and the investment bankers. I don't want to write this blog any further beyond a few more lines** I do believe there are a few brands in this industry as well; true brands, not just a name on a name card. We have some very famous brands such as Nassim Taleb, Jamil Baz, Stanley Druckenmiller, Emanuel Derman, Jim Gatheral, and of course, good old Mark Rubenstein. Some may even argue that Wilmott, Espen Haug, Bruno Dupire and a few others are also brands (mind you, we are talking about brands and not Nobel Laureates). And perhaps they are. And they are brands in their own light, and not by virtue of the organization they work for. They don't have to write pathetic emails to Lucy and say please watch me on tonight's AsiaWatch.

If you are willing to make one exception then the rest of the nine hundred and ninety nine thousand guys are just names on some name card, a nice suit; that's all.

*Financial Times, page 8, Monday March 26, 2007
**a lot of people think, and some have even told me, that I am a cynic or a loser or both who couldn't make it and so writes about these things. I am neither, but I am quite happy with people passing judgment on me.

© Rahul Bhattacharya
This column is written by Rahul Bhattacharya and reflects his own views about life and business. It does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of other members of Risk Latte Americas Inc., Hong Kong (“the Company”) and the Company accepts no responsibility for any factual errors contained in the column and strongly advises readers not to pay much attention to it.

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