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What’s your gold story: Andy Smith

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A ndy Smith is an avid golfer, which he has more time to indulge in now he has retired. Before his retirement he was a familiar figure on the world’s gold scene, speaking at many conferences where he usually delighted in annoying the audience but getting lots of laughs at the same time for his acerbic comments. He worked as a precious metals’ analyst for several investment banks and hedge funds. He started his career as a government economist in the Transport ministry and then at the Treasury, where he honed his skills at spin-doctoring.

“Those expecting an epiphany – the discovery of the one true monetary/moral way a la The Wizard of Oz – will be disappointed. My conversion was slower, accidental, even a bit cynical. And it all started with a Big Bang…

My scenic route Damascus-wards began in 1988 in BP (‘Beyond Parody’, I still think) in a job I loathed. Near my wits’ end, I bumped into an old university chum from the mid-1970s, a Zimbabwean then running Phillips & Drew’s ‘resource equities’ desk. He needed a bona fide economist to provide ballast to, well, the commodity-related BS in sales. Interested? I scarcely paused to digest his hand after I’d bitten it off…

The Big Bang was then rumbling through The City, as London houses were atomised by foreign banks. ‘P&D’ was taken over by Union Bank of Switzerland and I had a choice: slink back to industry, even government, with my now slicker economist skills, or stay and make myself over. I went for the facelift. I wrote to the head of UBS precious metals noting that they, then the biggest bullion bank in the world, had no analyst and, luckily, I was that person. After a presentation in Lugano, at which I’m sure the 35mm slide projector was sabotaged to stress-test my brown trousers, I got the job I invented.

Cue 11 years UBS, 8 years Mitsui, 3 years Ridgefield Capital, 2 years PruBache – so, you can fool most of the people most of the time. It began by poking sticks at the animals, aka clients, the media, conference-goers – for everyone has a view on gold, full-on but more or less half-baked, most seeking affirmation or a good scrap. Indeed, my early years are best summed up by this troll on a gold chat line: ‘when he was circumcised did they throw away the wrong bit?’

This matured into a more respectful co-existence; unique in finance, this thing called gold has a pulse, and even suffers entertainment gladly. A broad church then, as befits a quasi-religious movement with legs. My best ‘enemies’ chose to keep me closer, and we are friends to this day. Along the Yellowbrick Road I’ve tripped through Bernal Diaz, Samuel Pepys, Ayn Rand, and been paid for it. Golden Years indeed”.

 

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