Hedge funds for the rest of us

23 October 2006

Poor old Chad, I think that's what he said his name was. He was on the line for 30 seconds at least before resorting to insults. But it's an indication that boiler-room salespeople just don't have the stamina anymore to get through those vital first minutes before losing it.

I think it might have been the point where I said, "That's two lies you've told me. Want to try for the third?" that sent him over the edge. He got off to a bad start, using cold-call lie number one: "Hi, I'm from X. I'm checking to see whether you got the information pack we sent you."

As a journalist, I get PRs trying the goldfish-memory tactic every once in a while. ("If you recall our conversation the other week about meeting our client's marketing VP..." "No, I don't. But I think you'll recall I said no...") So, I'm used to it. That people try this one on never ceases to amaze me. I can only assume that, sometimes, it works. I told Chad or Chet or Jeb that he hadn't sent me anything.

For some reason he decided to then tell me he was ringing from "London, England"*. Which was curious because the caller display had INTERNATIONAL lit up on the LCD. (Why BT can't get it together to display most international numbers is still a mystery to me - it works the other way round.) I wasn't sure why he was trying to convince me he was ringing from the UK rather than some dingy basement in New York as all he was doing was convincing me that lie number two was in progress.

It all went wrong for Chad or Charles or Chuck at that point. I was less than convinced of his location so he offered to tell me the number of Dean and Bradshaw, the hedge fund for which he was selling so I could check them out. "Hey, I'm not going to give you that number because I think you're a dickhead."

I was waiting for the click, brr moment. But there was more. Which was nice, as I was a bit curious as to why a hedge fund was calling me for a financial injection. And I had to give our less than friendly boiler-roomee some credit. He was still trying to sell even after having called me a dickhead and somehow surmising that I must be a divorcee and that I've got to learn to trust somebody some time. I don't think he was expecting me to start laughing at that point, although he had a half-decent grasp of reverse psychology.

"You know, you sound like kind of a young guy. Most of the people I deal with are over 45. I guess you probably don't meet our criteria for investors," said Chad or Brad or Brett or whatever his name really was. Yes, I suppose it was worth a try. Try to insinuate that I'm not man enough to invest in a big boy's hedge fund in the hope that I will demand he takes fifty grand off me just in down payment. Having not had my brain sucked out and replaced with lemon jelly, I agreed with him: "I guess you're right."

No, the people that 'Dean & Bradshaw' (nice choice of name I have to say, got that ring of legitimacy courtesy of the D&B connotation) ring probably wouldn't know a hedge fund if it came after them with a large pair of secateurs. In some ways I regret having employed cold call tactic number one. I'm still curious as to what the patter is for selling what purports to be a hedge-fund investment over the phone. And I wasn't quick enough to think of the perfect retort when he said: "I guess you don't know what it's like being a broker for a fund like this. I only have to make two of these calls a year." Unfortunately, the rejoinder of "Yeah, I do actually. I used to work for Long-Term Capital Management" eluded me until after the call was over.

* A little tip for non-locals. Nobody who has spent more than a couple of weeks here calls it London, England. It's a city of seven million people. You're unlikely to mistake it for London, Ontario.