Quick note: It sure has been a long time since I logged in, the website software even changed since I last posted. Last year was my busiest trading year volume-wise and nearly my busiest for travel as well, add into that all sorts of kid activities w/my 4 year old and this project just fell by the wayside. We’re starting the year with a couple months in Singapore so appropriate to get the blog warmed back up and pickup on a subject it left off on. Lots of great content to post up as I’ve picked up some awesome historical trading artifacts in the past year that I’m excited to share eventually.
With the old SIMEX trading floor at One Raffles Place long torn down to make way for a higher building, there isn’t much left of the Barings scandal in Singapore but Harry’s bar on Boat Quay still has a couple remnants. Harry’s is famously the bar most associated with Nick Leeson in Singapore, to the point that it’s listed in guidebooks and walking tours will stop to note of it’s association.
To anyone who hasn’t been to the Harry’s location recently, it’s totally remodeled with the bar moved across to the other side of the room and doesn’t look anything like it used to inside. On my recent visit, I settled in and looked over the menu to see if there was anything to play on it’s past as a trader bar. Sure enough, they have a Bank Breaker cocktail which consists of a shot of whisky dropped into a glass of Midori and soda. The Midori references the Japanese Nikkei futures Leeson traded and I assume whisky because he’s from the UK.
It was a slow night so I got to chat w/a waitress who worked there since the mid 90s and she was able to share a lot of stories from when the bar was filled with SIMEX traders. She also brought out what’s likely the last bottle of Leeson Lager (88888 Reserve “Probably the World’s Most Expensive Beer” US$ 1.4 bn proof) to let me take a picture of it. Leeson Lager was limited to 100 cases and brewed by a Hong Kong brewery in 1995.
A friend of the blog, Felix K., wrote in and provided a link to an extensive interview that Leeson gave to Singaporean magazine Expat Living. The entire interview is worth reading but in particular, he commented that his time spent at Harry’s bar is more of an urban legend.
“Harry’s on Boat Quay is still a popular haunt for city types. When you went there to have a drink at the end of the day was it done with a sense of celebration or nervousness?
It’s one of the great myths of my time in Singapore; I very rarely went to Harry’s on Boat Quay. Yes, it was a popular place with expats. Yes, I was an expat, but as I mentioned previously I preferred to socialise with the locals that worked for me. If we did go for a drink after work it tended to be to bars at the other end of Boat Quay. One in particular was called Big Ben, it had a pool table, you could play darts and we knew the bar staff reasonably well. If a client or somebody from London was visiting, I might have had one drink in Harry’s but that really would be it.
At the time, I was living two lives; the reality of what was happening on the trading floor as opposed to the lies that I was positioning to everyone else. The last thing that I wanted to do at the end of the day was dissect how the trading day had gone which was typically the subject of discussion amongst the expats in Harry’s. I wanted to get away from all that.
I’ve lost count of how many hundreds of people who have told me that they drank in my favourite bar in Singapore or tried the “bank breaker” cocktail. Harry’s was one of the successes of that period; a couple of the traders in Japan have gone on to be extremely successful as well.”