The numbers never stop moving, and neither does he.
Sterling's been up 80 pips against the yen since the start of the Tokyo open, which is going to complicate matters if he wants to push his planned set of trades through before New York comes online. England won't be pleased with him if he manages to knock the pound down a penny or two before the London close, but at the moment only a small part of his mind is operating as a nation. The rest of it is sorting out his response to the last hour of trading in Dubai, and whether it's enough to seriously consider dumping the rest of his oil contracts and washing his hands of that little misadventure.
He won't, of course. He plays a long game; he always has. It requires a combination of sound research and good timing, snapping up bargains in Chicago pork bellies or off-loading Swedish government bonds, swapping baht for bolivars and everything in between. What he does could hardly be regarded as 'insider trading' -- he and his fellow nations have far less control over their economies than they or their bosses would like to imagine, especially these days, which is why those with any serious interest in their portfolios have to operate as private individuals. But more than that, he is far too professional to mix his outside activities with the affairs of state. As far as anyone in this firm is concerned, he is simply Herr Zwingli, their principal futures broker and market analyst, and his recommendation to short the yuan this morning has nothing to do with China accidentally spilling tea on him at the world meeting last month.
Most people wouldn't consider his choice of work relaxing, but he isn't looking for relaxation here. He has more than enough of that at home, weeding the garden or tending to his goats or walking in the hills. He comes to Bern or Zürich only when he can't relax any longer, when the tension borne of centuries of constant vigilance (Austria's lords increasing his taxes, France's army spilling over his borders, Germany's planes invading his airspace) reaches a breaking point and he has to do something before he snaps.
He had been a mercenary once, the best that money could buy. Selling his services with pike or sword to the highest bidder, fighting alongside his people as they sought a better life than he could give them on his own. He has been neutral and proud of it for many long years now, but the old itch to fight has never really gone away. Thankfully, he has been able to channel that impulse into far more productive outlets, investments in securities (of the tangible and intangible kind) that have paid dividends many times over.
It was a shame that it had taken his neighbours so long to learn that it was far easier to win a bidding war than a shooting war.
The intercom on his desk purrs discreetly. He looks up from his computer screen, blinking as his vision adjusts from the monitor's electronic glow to sunlight through expanses of freshly-washed plate glass, and reaches over to press the button. 'Yes?'
'Your sister called when you were in conference, Herr Zwingli. She wanted to know whether you would like apple strudel or apple tart with dinner this evening.'
He stifles a sigh. She knows she isn't supposed to call him directly when he's at work, but she always finds a way to check up on him all the same. 'Tell her strudel's fine,' he replies. 'And tell her I'll be about an hour later than I said I would be this morning, so she shouldn't start it too early. I'll call her myself if anything changes.'
He releases the button and leans back in his chair, stretching his spine, and his eye falls on the lower desk drawer where the little cloth-wrapped stack of nesting boxes is carefully stowed away. She packs a lunch for him every day, even if she knows that he'll be dining out with one of the fund managers or stuck in a meeting with his direct reports through the noon hour. And he eats it every day, because it's a sin to waste food, and because she made it for him.
He's not dining out this lunchtime. There's too much going on at the moment, with New York about to open and Frankfurt waiting with bated breath for the latest report from the EU finance ministers' meeting and rumours of something unpleasant stirring in, of all things, Canadian commodities. He'll eat at his desk, before his phone call to Brazil at fourteen-hundred, and with luck he won't have to stay later than he promised.
But the numbers never stop moving, and neither will he.