“It’s a joke, isn’t it?” he murmurs, then meets my eye. “All this gloss. All this show.” He gestures around. “You don’t fall for it, do you?”
Oh God. Another weirdo.
“Absolutely not,” I say politely, and look for his name badge, but I can’t see one.
“Glad to hear it,” says the man, and shakes his head. “Bloody fat cats.” He gestures to the front, where three men in expensive suits are sitting down behind the table. “You won’t find them surviving on fifty quid a week, will you?”
“Well. . no,” I say. “More like fifty quid a minute.” The man gives an appreciative laugh.
“That’s a good line. I might use that.” He extends his hand. “Eric Foreman, Daily World.”
“Daily World?” I say, impressed in spite of myself. Gosh, The Daily World. I have to confess a little secret here — I really like The Daily World. I know it’s only a tabloid, but it’s so easy to read, especially if you’re on a train. (My arms must be very weak or something, because holding The Times makes them ache after a while. And then all the pages get messed up. It’s a nightmare.) And some of the articles in the “Female World” section are actually rather interesting.
But hang on — surely I’ve met The Daily World’s personal finance editor. Surely it’s that drippy woman called Marjorie? So who’s this guy?
“I haven’t seen you around before,” I say casually. “Are you new?”
Eric Foreman gives a chuckle. “I’ve been on the paper for ten years. But this finance stuff isn’t usually my scene.” He lowers his voice. “I’m here to stir up a bit of trouble, as it goes. The editor’s brought me on board for a new campaign we’re running, ‘Can We Trust the Money Men?’ ”
He even talks in a tabloid voice.
“That sounds great,” I say.
“Could be, could be. As long as I can get past all this technical stuff.” He pulls a face. “Never been good at figures.”
“I wouldn’t worry,” I say kindly. “You don’t actually need to know very much. You’ll soon pick up what’s important. Basically, these guys are launching a new pension plan. .” I glance at the brochure “. . and the gimmick is, there’s a discount for investors under the age of twenty-five. Which makes sense, of course, because the sooner you start retirement planning, the better.”
“Oh absolutely,” echoes Eric Foreman, a tiny smile at his mouth. “May I ask, do you have a pension?”
“Well. . no,” I admit. “I don’t at the moment. . but I’m absolutely intending to, as soon as I decide which one.”
Which is true. As soon as I clear all my debts, I’m going to start a pension plan, and also invest in a long-term equity-based investment fund. I may even put some spare money into emerging markets. I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it?
“Glad to hear it,” says Eric Foreman, grinning. “Very wise of you.” He peers at my name badge. “And you are. .”
“Rebecca Bloomwood, Successful Saving,” I say, in my best networking manner.
“Glad to meet you, Rebecca,” he says, and fishes in his pocket for a business card.
“Oh, thanks,” I say, hastily reaching into my bag for my own business cards. Yes! I think triumphantly as I hand it over. I’m networking with the national newspapers! I’m swapping business cards!
Just then the microphones all come on with a screech of feedback, and a dark-haired girl at the podium clears her throat. Behind her is a lit-up screen, with the words Sacrum Asset Management against a sunset.
I remember this girl now. She was really snotty to me at a press briefing last year. But Philip likes her, because she sends him a bottle of champagne every Christmas, so I’ll have to give this new pension plan a nice write-up.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” she says. “My name is Maria Freeman, and I’m delighted to welcome you all to the launch of the Sacrum Asset Management Pension Series. This is an innovative range of products designed to combine flexibility and security with the powerful performance associated with Sacrum.”
A graph appears on the screen before us, with a wiggly red line rising and falling above a thinner black one.
“As Graph 1 shows,” says Maria Freeman confidently, pointing to the wiggly red line, “our UK Enterprise Fund has consistently outperformed the rest of its particular sector.”
“Hmm,” murmurs Eric Foreman to me, frowning at his brochure. “So, what’s going on here, then? I heard a rumor that Sacrum Asset Management wasn’t doing too well.” He jabs at the graph. “But look at this. Outperforming the sector.”