24 Jul Brokers surplus to requirements
Regular readers will be all too painfully aware I am a golfer, which sadly no longer comes with the caché it once did. Time was when golfers were men of substance. Men with purpose. Men who strode the fairways with confidence, deciding the fate of lesser nations during an afternoon’s fourball and a bottle of claret.
I’m not entirely sure what happened, or when, but all that went missing and, last time I checked, we seem to have diminished to a gaggle of sad old men pretending that what are doing is a sport, rather than simply an excuse to spend seven hours out of the house on a Saturday drinking with our mates.
I am, if nothing else, sufficiently emotionally balanced to be entirely at ease with that.
This week just past saw the Open Championship, the most splendid of all golfing tournaments, which on an annual basis sets the bar against which all other golf tournaments measure themselves and are invariably found wanting. And, yet, despite dodgy logistics, the IRA, and a venue that had not been used for 68 years, this year’s event took one look at that high bar, gave a contemptuous snort of derision and then hurdled it with air to spare.
Spielberg could not have written a better script – a stupendous golf course, miserable weather, the largest crowds seen in decades, and the ‘British’ Open, being played in Ireland, and being won in storming fashion by a fat, hairy Irishman with a dodgy swing. The Guinness I suspect will be flowing for some time yet.
And, at the risk of an Irishism, it started right at the start. The 2011 champion, Ulsterman, Darren Clarke, was given the honour of getting the field away early on Thursday morning. Well retired in disgraceful repose, Clarke is clearly past his prime, carrying a good 30kg more than his doctor would like, but still with a splendid head of hair.
He struck the opening shot at 6.20am, straight down the middle. Lit his first cigarette of the day at 6.21am – oblivious to the television audience of several billion who may have thought that a bit inappropriate – and then handed that to his caddy to hold as he calmly directed his approach shot straight at the pin. One putt for birdie three, then waddled on to the next tee. What an easy game.
Some short time later was the turn of another Northern Irishman, wunderkind Rory McIlroy. Young, handsome, superbly fit, supermodel girlfriend, zero body fat, bulging pecs, private jet, non-smoking, probably tee total – a golfing god. The crowd swooned at his magnificence.
First shot hard left over the fence out of bounds; third shot not far from the first in the high hay; fourth into an unplayable bush near the green; sixth onto the green and two putts for a quadruple bogey eight. It all went downhill from there, and he wasn’t alone – pretty much every international superstar was sent home early and every old, fat man on the planet loved it.
Golf, sadly, is now more science that art: gymnasiums, dieticians, psychologists, swing coaches, course maps and technology that would make NASA wince; it has become a game of numbers. We are not far from the point, at least in America, where the game could almost be played blindfolded. Plop the player in front of his ball, dial in the number, choose the club; and fire. It has become, at the top level, a mathematical game of pure execution, that players and coaches think they have solved and quantified. And because they think that, there is now a recipe of how the game is played.
All feel, touch finesse and nuance has been intentionally removed. Players are taught from a young age to swing in the same way, at the same speed and in so doing, expect the same result. And to be fair, 49 weeks a year, on horrible, one dimensional American golf courses, it works, and they buy private jets.
But then for three weeks a year, when the circus moves to the links of Britain and Ireland, all that process goes out the window. Only the outcome matters, with a million ways to get it done.
For so many years now that I have forgotten the number, the raising of equity funds for mining ventures has been forced to follow an exact recipe. JORC and other nonsense must be followed, three pages of disclosures and warnings drafted, independent reports commissioned, presentations verified by lawyers, scripts written, offside warnings given, shares suspended, and then the company carted about town to be prodded by investors like some prize turnip. The whole silly affair takes weeks to prepare, weeks to implement, probably leaves the poor company £100,000 poorer for it, and there is not, at any stage, a guarantee of success.
The whole circus is presented as protecting the investors, which perhaps it did once. But it has long since morphed into a gravy train for the broking and legal lads.
The issue, of course, is that the process has been completely captured by the middlemen, while the really important people at either end are sucked dry. The company just wants money and the investors just want to invest – a match made in heaven, one would think.
I know I am biting the hand that feeds me now, but compliance aside, the original and only real selling point of a broker was his client list – knowing who the investors were and being able to grant access to them. But, of course, knowledge is hard to protect as once given it cannot be taken back and so in theory, once an introduction had been made, the company and investor now know each other, and the broker is no longer be required. And we can’t have that.
And, so, this pretense of compliance and protection was created, ostensibly to protect the investors, but in reality to protect the brokers by pretending that our ongoing involvement was necessary to the transaction, when really we are still little more than glorified dating agencies. And, like dating agencies worldwide, we now find ourselves threatened by the financial version of Tinder.
Crowd funding has been around for some time now, and there have been a few attempts by miners to dip into this murky pool, but without much success as those who tried were perceived as looking at crowd funding as a last resort having failed in the traditional method. But one little lithium outfit down in Cornwall seems to be making a go of it. At the time of writing, Cornish Lithium seems to be but £4,000 short of its £1 million target, and all without a broker, banker, lawyer, PR spiv, analyst, independent geologist or stock exchange in sight.
This will not go unnoticed.
Some weeks back, the venerable Thomas Cook was on the edge of oblivion. Founded in 1841, it made its name by figuring out how to collect remote information, and so acted as a bridge betwixt the buyers and sellers of travel – a talent now rendered obsolete.
I won’t predict the death of broking just yet, but Cornish’s success will lead to more and a trickle will become a flood. I suspect 10 years from now, we will look back at July 2019 as the moment the game changed. Whether we celebrate or mourn the day, will depend on how we change in response.
Read original article here.