Howard Davies's diary: "Synchronised slowdowns are about as exciting as synchronised swimming"

RBS's chairman tries to explain Brexit to Americans.

by Howard Davies

My carbon footprint was very light in September, but rather heavy in October, leaving me with a lot of offsetting to do. The main reason was the IMF meeting in Washington which, so far at least, is a three-line whip for bankers. The conference itself this year was a downbeat affair, as the Fund’s economists set out to make our flesh creep with dark warnings of a "synchronised slowdown" ahead. 

Synchronised slowdowns are about as exciting as synchronised swimming. The smell of bad debts ahead hung over the room. We put metaphorical clothes pegs on our noses. 

But the real business takes place around the formal sessions, in corridors and airless hotel rooms. It is a form of speed-dating. I had 33 scheduled meetings with clients, would-be clients and counterparties. At 32 of them I was asked what was happening on Brexit (the 33rd didn’t happen as my oppo got stuck in traffic near the White House). It is a challenge to find 32 different ways of saying "search me", so eventually I gave up. 

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