Thursday, 3 January 2019

Working title - ‘FiX Up’

This is a repost of an idea I had for a film three years ago, considering what happened last night in  some of the currency markets with the coputer trading algorothms opnce again blamed for chaotic moves, I though it would be worth rerunning the pitch. 

The Pitch for working title ‘FiX Up’

After seeing the age of the criminals who pulled off the record-breaking Hatton Garden vault heist and at the same time witnessing the outrage at the FX market's fixing scandal, I thought I could marry up the two genres in a typically British film, the pitch of which I have sketched out below. I was wondering if this could actually be pulled together into a film so if anyone would like to talk to me about making this real then please get in contact.

The tale is a familiar one of old criminals (lags) getting together for one last job, only in this case the lags aren't criminals but old school 1980's FX dealers. Imagine Oceans 11 meets Trading Places meets Sexy Beast meets Wall Street (only the Essex version). The old trading lags come together to have one last crack at the markets, but do so behaving as they did in the 1980s causing all sorts of financial mayhem and amusement as they apply 1980s trading skills in an electronic world. (All characters are of course fictitious and any resemblance to ..etcetcetcetc)


Sitting outside the clubhouse of a golf club in Essex, England, supping lagers, two old FX spot traders are discussing how things have changed since their day and despair over the news of FX fix fixing. They reminisce over the old days and decide that the traders of today must be completely stupid to be caught out doing something that they all did but nowhere near as blatantly. At this point, a waiter appears and while clearing the glasses catches their conversation and starts to chip in. He tells them that he was recently let go from an FX shop for not being profitable i.e. he didn't rip the clients off enough and regales them with a list of the absurdities of today's markets including algorithmic trading, arrogant Real Money fund desks, demanding Hedge funds, compliance officers and the regulators themselves.

The old lags start to fume at what has happened to their beloved market and decide that if a collection  of young muppets can so nearly get away with the FX fixing, but for being idiots, they would have a crack at showing them how it should be done, fiercing up the market one last time.

As with any good heist movie the target isn’t the public but the other evils in the market. The plot sees the old lags actions end up, Robin Hood style, benefitting the public good whilst taking down the modern evils on the way.

The two originators, Mickey and Danny, hatch a plan to get the boys back together.

The team cast list  (actor suggestions in brackets)

Mickey. ex-trader and now the groundsman at the Essex golf course (Ray Winstone)
Danny. ex-trader, recently made redundant from the back-office of an Aussie bank (Phil Collins)
Dave and Steve. ex-traders who are approached in one of those green taxi cafes in London as they are now drivers for  FX taxis (the two bald actors from Eastenders)
Bugle (real name Charlie).   As a young guy he was the 'muppet' on the spot desk but now is a corporate FX sales guy at a bank, about to be busted for peddling 'Charlie' to his clients. (Lee Evans)
Wayne. Now a compliance officer at a US bank. He doesn’t want to join, but they blackmail him with photos from a 1989 stag party. (Jim Broadbent)
Gerald.  A smooth investment bank type who used to be their boss in the old days who is now treasurer at a small private client bank but is about to be let go (Ralph Fiennes or Jeremy Irons).
Sparks.  Ran the primitive IT at the old shop but is now running a porn website. (Timothy Spalls)
Jimmy (but now prefers James).  The old economist cum strategist - nervous and lacking in confidence these days - he is now writing financial blogs and running a failing online private trading advisory service. His character regains its old force throughout the plot. (Colin Firth)
Beverley. Telex girl and everyone’s old fling. Now a house-mum in Romford (Patsy Kensit).
Archie.   An old-school french sales guy, always drunk but knows every important name in the European market as he has probably been whoring with half of them and slept with the other half (Gérard Depardieu)

Each one has a scene of them being approached and finally accepting.

When they gather Sparks tells them of a bank’s disaster recovery dealing room he knows of that has been mothballed and as the owning bank is going under due to regulator fines they seem to have forgotten about it.

The lags break in and start to set up. There are scenes of them all larking around trying to understand the new technology (even though it is old by modern standards) whilst Sparks gets angry and Gerald has to read the riot act.

They set up dealing lines with dodgy prime brokers using the credit card numbers Sparks has hacked from the client list of a high-class City strip joint.

They start to trade and gain market credence by behaving as normally as they can though they often nearly let slip (such as asking for USD/DEM) which Sparks and Gerald have to cover via IT hacks and Gerald's connected shmoozing. E.g. when starting up they don’t know what an EBS is and nearly cause a flash crash by hitting it in anger (ends with Mickey throwing it out of the window and declaring that from now on its phone only like the old days. Cue more blackmailing calls to old-school voice broker types).

As they get bigger   investment bank sales desks hear of the volumes they are doing (facilitated by tip-offs from Archie to his sales mates)and start to court their business wanting direct access to this new client instead of via prime brokers. Wayne knows how to fool the Know Your Client regulations and Sparks links their credit references to those of a large Far East sovereign wealth fund, so large dealing lines are obtained.

Once all the credit lines are in place, it all sets up for the sting which is based around a set of data releases, could be non-farm payrolls or an important CB rate announcement (a bit 'trading places').

The announcement is way off expectations but instead of doing what would be expected they do everything that theoretically they shouldn’t.   James “ECB cut 1% much much lower than expected.. so boys what do we do with EUR/USD?… well, we should sell the sh*t out of it .. so… MINE MINE MINE”. The resulting price action confuses the hell out of the algorithmic trading models and new world theorists (cut to the odd 21yr old quant at a large investment bank muttering 'this shouldn't be happening'),

Cut to shot of the back of a chair in a chic glass office with a young preppy exclaiming to the occupant "We don't understand it, sir!" The chair swings around as its occupant, fingers steepled, quietly utters "I do". It is one of the old school macro hedge fund giants who was also around in the old days and was the lags' old nemesis (probably played by Ben Kingsley). The Hedge fund is called 'Nemesis'

The game then develops into a battle of old-fashioned phone trade spoofing with analogies to real battles. It’s mayhem and the weaponry expands as the old lags realise that the Hedge Fund Nemesis has more than they are used to - ‘Shit he's got f’king options, he’s using options! Where the f’k is Willy?" Willy is a retired prehistoric options trader who they call in last minute only to find he is on oxygen in a nursing home, but he starts to help via mobile phone and manages to talk them through countering the option attack via a massive option barrier battle with him directing the spot desk through his oxygen mask (highlights option market manipulation).

It is now 3.30pm and the old sales lags, Bugle and Archie, are preparing for the 4pm fixes. Sparks has hacked the financial chat services of other major banks and the old lag sales guys are now using them to offer all the real money fund accounts reverse spreads on the fixing prices, but only on sell orders.

Cut to Real Money dealing desk hearing this and giving the lags all of their sell orders despite a junior there asking how it can be possible to offer reverse pricing and says something dodgy is going on, but the Real Money traders saying they don't care, as they only have to outperform the fix and get paid themselves on the difference. Thus they fall into the trap.

Come to the 4pm fix, they manage to coordinate it so the hedge fund Nemesis is about to unleash hell on the boys filling their bids, but the boys pull the bid just as Nemesis screams SELL. The market melts on the back of it right into the fix. This screws the Real Money fix orders and the regulator, now seeing the fast move and receiving screams from the Real Money sector start to track down who was responsible - leading to the Hedge Fund Nemesis.

The rapid move in the fix also triggers a regulatory investigation as to how so many orders were affected leading to the exposure of the real money execution desks accepting reverse pricing.

In the background is the battle of the computer algorithms who can’t understand 6 standard deviation moves and there are scenes of barely out of teens quants and their ‘this shouldn’t happen’ cries. As the old lags notice stop losses coming in from the algo sector, they realise they have found the algo’s Achilles heel and crank up their 'do the wrong thing’ trading.

Meanwhile, Sparks has hacked into Bureau de Change style holiday money changers via his old porn site dropping viruses into their front offices (cut to bored young FX teller in a Heathrow Bureau de Change late at night surfing porn).

By now the traders are raking it in over the algos but when the team’s profits hit $1 billion they start to transfer their profits back to flat by providing stunning FX rates via all the usual rip off holiday money FX joints (cut to scenes at airports/train stations/post offices of queues of people taking currency out)

  When their P/L is down to zero they plan to pack up the dealing room and scarper. But it’s a race against time as the authorities are closing in having tracked Sparks' hacks and compliance officers finally seeing cracks. They make it out just in time but not until after the police are seen on the CCTV breaking in down below. Sparks shouts that the Feds are in. Mickey shouts “The Fed’s in?” and instinctively buys 300m USD/JPY before being stopped.

There is a resulting huge media storm. Investigators dragging off compliance officers for not preventing it, the Hedge Fund Nemesis for manipulating the market, the real money guys for accepting impossible fix prices for personal gain and the algo shops go bust amid scenes of riots against computer trading. Finally, Parliament rules that Bureau de Changes must provide interbank rates. There are TV clips of embarrassing statements from all.

The final scene is the police breaking into the dealing room the boys have been using to be greeted with a mess and a huge spray-painted slogan on the wall - “F'CKING MUPPETS’ (which will become a catchphrase forever linked with the film)

  Fade to Mickey and Danny outside the golf club chinking together their pints of cold lager.


Memorable scenes -

- Old lag calls new US Investment Bank dealer. New dealer -“He’s just given me a 100 and asked how I am left shag, what’s that mean? - He wants another price - But he’s just had one - Make him another - He sold again .. damn .. and again .. and again. Old lag marches the price down but then lifts the new kid in huge at a large loss. Old lag - ‘F’king Muppet’.

- The boys go to the pub for lunch and get legless coming back at 4.30pm - drunk behaviour party scenes, bins on heads etc. but hugely successful trading.

- A bank dealer to his older boss "That's odd, he just said that I am a monkey and put the phone down" Old boss asks "what EXACTLY did he say?", " He said 'you're a Monkey' and hung up" - Boss "SHIT! he said 'YOURS, a monkey'. A monkey is slang for 500, you are now long $500million USD/JPY and as I see it $500,000 underwater"

- Beverly being sent off to Mayfair to seduce the Hedge Fund’s critical quant over lunch in a smart Bistro/Cafe and dropping MDMA in his double espresso so that he goes back euphoric only doing nice things instead of the Hedge Fund God's instructions.

- One of the old lags deciding to be long or short by the way the crane outside the window is pointing.

- The team plan to hit the market on the US trade data. But nothing happens as no one cares about US trade data any more, only to be caught out when Non Farm Payrolls come out “What the f'k was that all about? NFPs? Not F’ing Playing.. that’s what I am ..”

- Old lags trying to visit old city haunts. Flashbacks to seedy pubs and omelette shops - all gone and replaced with Starbucks and glassy wine bars. Plus reminiscing lines of past bad behaviours.

- Gerald being told he is no longer needed at the merchant bank as a new US MBA non-market savvy geek is being moved in.

- The young kids around one of the old school brokers serving the old lags experiment with the old techniques gingerly trying to say “and thank you too .. errr Mr… Shag?”

- Willy, the options dealer, in the nursing home asking why the price is spiking every 2 seconds when he mistakes his heartbeat monitor for a trading chart.

- Compliance officers in the investment bank queried about the new customer a/c saying everything does seem to be in order as they have a copy of a passport and two recent utility Bills - a shot of one of the passports being that of a FIFA president.

- Old lag's first trade asking for Usd/Spain only to be told it doesn’t exist anymore. He screams "Ok Usd/Mark then". No not that either. He freezes in stunned disbelief.

plus many many others…………

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not a movie buff, but this is something I'd love to watch Pol - sadly I don't have the resources to make it a reality right now...