Share and share alike

I sold some shares this week. Which is odd, because I’ve never bought any. Well, not in the “here’s some money, give me shares” kind of way. I just kinda drifted into being a filthy capitalist, thanks to three lots of building society freebies and a share-save scheme at work. I should point out the former wasn’t even due to carpet-bagging: one was an Alliance and Leicester account I’d had since school, the second was courtesy of the Norwich Union life insurance policy on my mortgage, and the third (in a nicely circular way) was because the share-save account was held in the Halifax. All three thus fell into the category of pleasant surprises — it’s lucky I didn’t bin them, exhibiting my usual tolerance for windowed envelopes from financial institutions.

The share-save scheme was equally jammy: back when I signed up, the odds of me staying where I was for another five years seemed close to those of me playing football for Scotland, being awarded a Nobel Prize, or fathering a child. But while those three things are still as unlikely as ever (despite some heroic performances in goal for Dynamo TaB), I somehow managed to survive here without pissing anyone off too badly. In fact, I’ve just passed my eleventh anniversary here, which in the IT industry makes me eligible for a statue in the foyer, a blue plaque, and a Dilbert calendar.

It kinda snuck up on me; I didn’t wake up one day, look at the share price and decide to spot-weld myself to the desk. Following the share price has, however, become a daily obsession, as I watch my virtual wealth rise and fall. Indeed, rather than making me work harder (as company share schemes are supposed to), it probably had a negative impact on my productivity, given the amount of time spent staring at the screen, trying to send the price up by the power of thought alone. Every penny gain was a cause for rejoicing, every drop…hell, it’s not real money yet, anyway.

I got the first lot of shares last July, but it was only a week or so ago that I realised I’d better sell some, or risk letting the damnable taxman get his grubby hands on some of my profits. [I’m getting the hang of this capitalist-speak, no?] Now, working for a bank as I do, dealing in shares is a Byzantine process involving the filling in of multiple forms, but I negotiated the maze and sold them on the Thursday afternoon.

Which was fine, until we announced over the weekend we were buying a French bank, and the share price plummeted. Hmmmm… I should have been pleased at having saved four hundred quid, but…bank employee dumps shares two days before announcement? Can we spell “insider dealing”? Of course, I hadn’t a clue it was going to happen, but it suddenly struck me that trying to prove your ignorance of something is a strikingly difficult concept. Visions of Rogue Trader 2 flashed across my brain – at least Ewan McGregor could keep his Scottish accent for this one. Should I go on the run, and head for Rio? Lock myself up in the house and prepare to sell my freedom dearly? Set up

Of course, I took the fourth option: meekly going to work on Monday, and the cheque duly came through, unaccompanied by a visit from the Serious Fraud Squad. I put away the flight schedules, and went back to watching the share price, with the prospect of another four months of screen-staring before the final lot of not-really-bought stocks turn up. My career as a (potential) fugitive was over. Mind you, I haven’t tried to cash the cheque yet — so if there’s no editorial next week, maybe you should take a look at…