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1990

The new decade had been christened the “Nice Nineties” (to distinguish it from the brash, vulgar Eighties) almost before it had begun. But would events bear it out?

Clive’s affair with Ruth now took the form of clandestine weekends away. 

06 Feb 90

Today strip

Alex’s bank was involved in a counter-surveillance operation which lasted some weeks.

16 Feb 90

Today strip

Alex's surname - Masterley - was revealed for the first time in this strip. In truth it was invented for the purposes of the joke, which required Alex to have a surname. Charles came up with Masterley, which was pleasingly patrician and has become somewhat iconic.

05 Mar 90

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The City Programme, presented by Danielle Donougher and Steve Clarke, was required viewing for the banking fraternity. Alex appeared on it to respond to recent negative publicity for his bank over mass sackings.

18 Apr 90

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Militant Welsh Nationalists were angry about affluent English people buying holiday homes in Wales. Clive’s cottage in Powys was torched.

11 May 90

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A new Labour leader was tasked with trying to unseat Mrs Thatcher, who had now been in power for eleven years.

16 May 90

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One of the most popular Alex jokes ever, ran during Glyndebourne this year. 

26 May 90

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In summer Alex and Clive both fell victim to one of the waves of firings that swept across The City. 

11 Jul 90

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There was a new film out: Edward Scissorhands, starring an little-known actor called Johnny Depp. Clive and a colleague from his men’s group went to see it and were traumatised.

29 Jul 90

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Banks would assuage their conscience by sending sacked employees to "outplacement" - where they were offered an office which they could use to find themselves a new job (and sometimes to avoid admitting to their wives that they’d lost their old job). Alex and Clive found themselves in such an establishment.

21 Aug 90

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Alex and Clive endured a few months on reduced circumstances.

01 Sep 90

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Clive was reduced to selling insurance door-to-door.

24 Sep 90

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Meanwhile, Greg, Alex’s journalist brother, who had been in Lebanon filing stories about the militias there, was seen being smuggled out of Kuwait, and was in position to be embedded with troops for next year’s impending Gulf War.

25 Sep 90

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On 3rd October Germany was reunified, which provoked some nervousness in the rest of Europe.

03 Oct 90

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Happily later that month Alex and Clive were re-recruited by their old boss Rupert, who had defected to a rival bank, and they were returned to their old jobs in a new office.

19 Oct 90

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It was a year in which Filofax and Sock Shop - emblems of the Yuppie era - went bust. Flying in the face of this, the first Alex Desk Diary was launched. It retailed at £35 which made it pleasingly exclusive in those recessionary times.

Soon afterwards another icon of the “wealth generation” vanished - Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister on November 22nd.

26 Nov 90

Today strip

1991

Continuing the Christmas fantasy story theme, Alex and Clive were abducted by aliens and spent the festive season on a spaceship, where Clive suffered various indignities including being seduced by a seven-foot-tall telepathic alien woman. 

03 Jan 91

Today strip

The Gulf War had begun in 1990 and with Operation Desert Storm now imminent Alex’s brother Greg was embedded with the Allied Troops. Charles and Russell were both several times discreetly warned off covering these events by staff at The Independent  who claimed to be passing on  “A word to the wise… “  that came “right from the top”. There was a feeling among some journalists that the Alex strip was not sufficiently reverent towards our brave boys at The Front (The embedded journalists, that is) and that the cartoonists should stick to their brief of doing jokes about men in suits sitting in offices making sarcastic comments about the state of the financial markets. All good points, but, since the cartoonists were also receiving some letters of support from readers who were actual troops stationed in the desert and since it was the story that everyone was talking about and was affecting everything else, they carried on regardless. 

22 Jan 91

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This was an example of a two-framer cartoon, which featured two parallel scenes. Unfortunately they used up too many puns to be viable as more than an occasional feature of the strip.

19 Feb 91

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Clive, clearly traumatised by the Gulf War, joined a Men’s Group and went into therapy.

14 Mar 91

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In these recessionary times domestic cutbacks had to be made, but Alex tried not to let it affect the emotional development of Christopher, now a toddler.

13 Apr 91

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That summer’s “silly season” story in all the newspapers concerned “dangerous” dog breeds.

03 Jun 91

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With Nelson Mandela released from prison, there was a dilemma of when to recognise the relaxing of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

15 Jul 91

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In the autumn Alex and Clive were sole survivors of a plane crash in South America and had to make their way back to civilisation through the Amazonian rainforest. 

15 Nov 91

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Having lost his Welsh holiday home, Clive bought himself a new cottage in the country only to find it was haunted.

17 Dec 91

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Alex had been wooed by the Telegraph from his first days at the Independent. But his authors had always resisted the lure of more money, out of a sense of loyalty to the vision behind the Independent. It was not a loyalty that was repaid however. When no pay rises were forthcoming and the newspaper refused to even give Alex any free adverts a chance meeting with a senior person from the Telegraph led to a new offer to jump ship being made and accepted.

Alex signed off from the Independent at the end of 1991 with a rather cheeky strip. However as the Independent hadn't informed its readers of Alex's impending departure the irony of the cartoon was lost on most people.

27 Dec 91

Today strip

1992

However the secret was soon out. Following a rather rancorous advertising campaign, Alex began life at the Daily Telegraph on January 20th. Amid all the excitement and embarrassment of the switch Charles and Russell had omitted to think of any new jokes. They elected to start off at the Telegraph with a story about Alex bedding his Essex-girl secretary Wendy, on the premise that their new employer was unlikely to fire them in their first week at the paper.

24 Jan 92

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A senior staff member a the Telegraph became convinced that the jokes were all about him. The Telegraph’s editor Max Hastings claimed he received sackfuls of mail over the following weeks complaining about the graphic nature of the opening story. There were rumours of cartoons having to be faxed to him in his Range Rover on a grouse moor for his approval. To his credit he ran them, though it took Alex a few years to win over the hard-core Telegraph readership.

The Independent, having officially deemed Alex “passé”, replaced it with a new, supposedly more “zeitgeisty” strip they’d commissioned: “Glibb” about a Paxman-esque TV presenter named Jonathan Glibb. It lasted six weeks.

The Independent staggered on for another 25 years before embracing its digital afterlife in 2016. It employed some good freelance features: Garland, ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, ‘Schott’s Miscellany’… But all of them ended up moving on to other papers eventually. 

The affair storyline was vindicated on February 6th when it was revealed that Lib-Dem leader Paddy “Pantsdown” Ashdown was having an affair with his secretary. Mrs Pantsdown elected to stand by her husband. Alex got away with it too.

After several run-ins with Wendy’s boyfriend Wayne (including fighting a duel with him) Alex used the end of her probationary period as a way to give her the elbow professionally and romantically.

02 Mar 92

Today strip

Shortly after came the 1992 General election in which, in a bid to alienate Telegraph readers even further, the cartoonists had Alex stand as a Tory candidate. He was campaigning against a Luvvy-Labour candidate called Vanora Hobson, loosely based on Glenda Jackson.


19 Mar 92

Today strip

Charles and Russell were invited to the prestigious Telegraph election night party in 1992, hosted by Conrad Black. They felt rather out of place but enjoyed the lavish culinary hospitality. Margaret Thatcher was there, Cecil Parkinson plus other Tory grandees. It was said that many in The Conservative party were not expecting to win and that they were secretly hoping to lose, so that they could have Thatcher back as their leader. But Kinnock managed to blow this scenario with his premature victory celebration in Sheffield three days early and they got another 5 years with John Major instead. The party that was intended to be a wake ended up as a curiously muted celebration.


11 Apr 92

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Penny found out about Alex’s affair and ran him over in her car. He awoke to find himself in hospital.

09 Jun 92

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Penny left Alex for a short while, but soon came back. 

26 Jun 92

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That summer Alex was kidnapped and a huge ransom was demanded from the bank for his safe return. Alex had still not won over some Telegraph readers. The Letters Page published a letter which said simply: “So, Alex has been kidnapped. Please do us all a favour and don’t pay the ransom.”

11 Aug 92

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More women were working in the City and female bankers Ruth and Clio had to put up with the everyday sexism that was a routine part of their jobs.

24 Aug 92

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Townie “weekenders” buying houses in the country were a social phenomenon of the day

28 Aug 92

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16th September saw the Sterling Crisis when the UK fell out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism - a precursor to the Euro - on "Black Wednesday", which some Eurosceptics at the time dubbed “Golden Wednesday”.

18 Sep 92

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Rupert had his second major brush with the law as he was arrested on holiday in Spain and committed to trial for fraud.

28 Sep 92

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Canary Wharf was now open for business and the gradual process of banks relocating there was beginning.

08 Dec 92

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Alex's constant snide digs at Docklands struck a particular resonance with journalists at the Telegraph, which was at the time based there, having relocated in the early days when the place was still a derelict wilderness without even a coffee franchise.

That Christmas Francis Ford Coppola’s "Dracula" was released and Clive had a week-long nightmare about being the Vampire Count himself.

19 Dec 92

Today strip

1993

Greg did an assignment for his newspaper which involved sleeping rough with homeless people over Christmas for a seasonal feature. 

05 Jan 93

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Rupert’s trial took place. He was found guilty and sent to prison.

22 Jan 93

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Rupert was ‘inside’ himself when he made this opportunistic joke about Asil Nadir, the Chief Executive of bust business Polly Peck, who fled justice to Cyprus.  A cartoon for which we received a “herogram” from Max Hastings. 

The strip expanded its fan-base during this time. The original artwork of one of these jokes was bought by a prison inmate. Rupert was later released and his case was dismissed retrospectively on appeal. 

07 May 93

Today strip

Business in the City had traditionally been done by word of mouth, but now Information Technology was beginning to become an important part of its operations.

11 May 93

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Alex took part in a corporate golf day organised by his bank for clients. Vince, the oikish moneybroker, was for some reason also invited.

06 Aug 93

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Alex took his village cricket team on a summer tour.

25 Aug 93

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On 24th April an IRA bomb in Bishopsgate had seriously disrupted commercial activity. Banks took retrospective precautions.

17 Sep 93

Today strip

Alex and Clive went to The Gulf on business.

05 Oct 93

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Ruth secretly gave birth to Clive’s lovechild. Clive was present (well sort of..)

04 Dec 93

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President Clinton’s sex life caused an international scandal.

23 Dec 93

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Alex fell asleep during his son Christopher’s school Nativity play and had a rather bizarre dream.

30 Dec 93

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1994

Alex did his first deal for Northern metal basher Mr Hardcastle, who was to become a long-term client.

14 Feb 94

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The bluff Hardcastle was naturally suspicious of the flash City types who were advising him.

22 Feb 94

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The early 90s Recession was over and life was going well for Alex and his ilk.

29 Apr 94

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Although Alex’s parents who were Lloyds names were suffering some financial hardships.

30 Apr 94

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India was a hot new emerging market. Alex and Clive travelled on business there.

03 May 94

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Takeovers were back in the City and corporate advisers were making money again.

27 May 94

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It was 25 years since Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the Moon's surface.

08 Jul 94

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Newfangled items such as laptop computers and modems were beginning to make remote working a possibility, though such devices were still rare.

12 Jul 94

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Rail strikes were a regular occurrence of the decade with their inevitable impact on people’s working lives.

14 Jul 94

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“Dress down” started to permeate the City, though at this stage it was confined to American banks and Fridays.

22 Jul 94

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The continuing rail strikes gave many men the excuse they had been looking for to buy motorbikes. Even Clive got in on it.

15 Aug 94

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Post Communist Russia was entering the business world. Alex and Clive did a trip there over the summer.

12 Sep 94

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“Road rage” was becoming an identifiable social phenomenon. 

21 Sep 94

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Disabled facilities were now being provided in banks with obvious benefits to staff.

23 Sep 94

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After 25 years of armed conflict the IRA declared a ceasefire which was widely welcomed.  

28 Sep 94

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The National Lottery had been brought in by John Major's government in November. As one might expect, Alex was rather snooty about the idea of playing it.

16 Dec 94

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Power Rangers was the kids' TV series of the year and the spin-off toys were a must-have Christmas present.

17 Dec 94

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With the City thriving again Christmas parties were lavish and often held in London landmark locations.

22 Dec 94

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1995

It was a year when several banks which were once synonymous with the City of London found themselves in trouble. SG Warburg was taken over by the Swiss.

21 Feb 95

Today strip

On the 26th of February the actions of a rogue trader called Nick Leeson caused Barings Bank to collapse.

28 Feb 95

Today strip

And over at the Bank of England there was a widely publicised sex scandal involving senior personnel.

(The line was a bastardisation of the advertising strapline “The bank that likes to say ‘Yes’ “; the catchphrase used to promote the TSB in the 1980s).

23 Mar 95

Today strip

"Smart badges" which track employees’ whereabouts were being mooted. Little did people realise the wide-ranging powers that compliance would one day acquire.

27 Apr 95

Today strip

Executive remuneration levels on company boards was considered excessive back in 1995. If people had any idea how much more CEOs would be getting paid today (without any noticeable increase in ability)....

28 Apr 95

Today strip

It seems unthinkable today that it was ever allowed, but smoking was beginning to be banned in offices.

04 May 95

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Post-Apartheid South Africa was now open for business. Alex and Clive headed out there to pitch for deals, but had to tread carefully.

08 Jun 95

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Barings had been brought down by the use of complex financial instruments called “derivatives”. That summer the Bank of England launched an official inquiry into what had happened.

26 Jul 95

Today strip

During the summer the strip ran a fantasy story based on the best-selling book ‘The Coming War with Japan’.

August was always a quiet month for news in the City and a good time to run the more surreal material. These days the cartoonists merely take a holiday.
 

01 Aug 95

Today strip

Dress down was still struggling to gain acceptance in the City.

12 Sep 95

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The launch in the UK of the Disney Channel in October gave solace to people hankering for some simple old-fashioned entertainment.


28 Sep 95

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It was the year of the Ladette.

31 Oct 95

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Maybe it was the pressure of the job, but both Charles’ and Russell’s marriages broke up nearly simultaneously in 1995. It was a gruelling time, but they got some quite funny divorce jokes out of it. 

01 Dec 95

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 The Christmas party season was a heavy one that year. 

16 Dec 95

Today strip

1996

It was the year in which football was supposedly "coming home" at the Euro 96 championships held in England. Ultimately it was to go missing during semi-final penalties against the Germans.

21 Feb 96

Today strip

The breakdown of the Northern Ireland peace talks caused the IRA to resume its bombing campaign in Docklands on February 9th.

22 Feb 96

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The cult film of the year was Trainspotting about a group of heroin addicts in Edinburgh. Alex naturally was disdainful.

27 Feb 96

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Eurostar had been running a service through the newly-built Channel Tunnel for just over a year. Travelling on it was still novel experience for some people.

02 Mar 96

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Health and safety at work was becoming more of a preoccupation in everyday office life.

20 Mar 96

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Shockingly, lunch, which had traditionally occupied much of a banker's day, was now being curtailed to a mere hour in some establishments.

03 Apr 96

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There was a new form of communication - electronic mail (or e-mail as it was commonly known). It brought its own perils. 

11 Apr 96

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Building societies began to demutualise, leading to big windfall pay-outs for customers and sowing the seeds of the next-but-one crisis.

16 Apr 96

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Alex became a victim of executive crack-up and had to be taken away to a secluded establishment for a while.

24 May 96

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Despite the impending threat of a Labour Government the "feel good" factor seemed to be returning to British businesses.

23 Aug 96

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Information technology was increasingly becoming a part of everyone’s life including in the schoolroom.

26 Sep 96

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Docklands and technology were the two hottest topics in the City. Occasionally they combined.

27 Sep 96

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Alex had a new female boss called Jane. They soon became romantically entangled.

01 Nov 96

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Anne Atkins, the Telegraph’s Agony Aunt was sent a spoof letter from someone signing herself "Penny" asking for advice after finding out that her banker husband Alex had been having an affair with his female boss. Mrs Atkins wrote a po-faced reply, which was published in the newspaper, failing to realise that she had been ‘punked’.

It turned out Jane had actually managed to take advantage of almost everyone in the entire department by the time she moved on to a new job that Christmas. 

17 Dec 96

Today strip

1997

Smoking was now starting to be banned on many airline routes.

04 Jan 97

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Mobile phones were still scarce enough that for a graduate to possess one was a status symbol. Or was it?

21 Jan 97

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Time-stamped restaurant bills were now starting to appear. This posed problems for the traditional long, boozy, expense account lunch.

22 Jan 97

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The infamous "Ring of Plastic" had been installed round the City to foil IRA bombing attempts. However it brought its own issues.

04 Feb 97

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The Five Nations (soon to be Six Nations) rugby games were always held around Valentine's Day. This was to provide the cartoon with a running theme: Clive trying to slip off to a match and Bridget finding him out.


12 Feb 97

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Women in the City were having to juggle the responsibilities of their job and motherhood.

15 Mar 97

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Following the collapse of Barings Bank the previous year City bosses were becoming concerned about their traders covering up potentially huge losses from complex financial instruments which almost no one understood.

26 Mar 97

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Tony Blair’s New Labour swept to victory in the General Election of 1997.  

09 May 97

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Though email was now ubiquitous in banks some bosses preferred to rely on the old-fashioned channels of communication.

12 Jun 97

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Summer internships as a job-creation scheme for the children of clients was already developed.

18 Jun 97

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As the year 2000 approached the Millennium (aka Y2K) Bug which would supposedly cause all computerised systems to fail on January 1st 2000 was beginning to be talked about.


17 Jul 97

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Alex was stalked by a mysterious assassin for some weeks who finally broke into his house and shot him.

14 Aug 97

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Alex survived the assassination attempt, but woke up in hospital suffering from amnesia and was never able to identify his assailant. The crime remains unsolved to this day. We think it was Clive...

19 Sep 97

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Scooters were the year's must-have lifestyle accessory.

17 Oct 97

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After a real life story about a successful banker deciding to leave his job to become a priest, Alex had a dream about being headhunted by God.

28 Nov 97

Today strip

1998

The Christmas blockbuster movie of 1997 was James Cameron’s “Titanic”. In January Alex was a passenger on board the ill-fated liner in a fantasy story. 

24 Jan 98

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Markets were starting to look wobbly again. Following the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Russia defaulted on its debts in the summer, bringing down the star-studded Wall Street hedge fund LTCM.

20 Oct 98

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An employee in Alex’s department “went postal” and took several colleagues in the office hostage shortly before Christmas.

20 Nov 98

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1999

The dotcom boom was hotting up and internet stocks were considered “sexy”, though not everyone agreed. 

12 Feb 99

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Alex had a one night stand with a female colleague on a business trip.

04 Mar 99

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Reality TV was becoming increasingly fashionable. One “fly on the wall” documentary of the time was set in a City office and Megabank duly followed suit in the strip.

19 May 99

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The annual anti-capitalist “Stop The City” march was gathering momentum.  

21 May 99

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In the run-up to year 2000 there were increasing fears of the damage that might be wreaked by the ‘Millennium bug’ (or “Y2K bug” as the techies like to call it) which could cause the computers which increasingly powered the global economy to spontaneously shut down.

12 Jun 99

Today strip

Alex and Clive were imprisoned in Colditz for a summer fantasy story that reflected the perceived ascendancy of strict, efficient, German banks at that time.

18 Jun 99

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The man who brought down Barings Bank, trader Nick Leeson returned to the UK.

03 Jul 99

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Alex checked into rehab to be treated for work addiction.

07 Jul 99

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With the economy thriving Alex worked on amassing his air miles with regular business travel.

17 Jul 99

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Clive’s latest business venture was a lap-dancing bar.

27 Jul 99

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The dotcom frenzy was now reaching its apogee. Alex lost no time in capitalising on it.

15 Oct 99

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Banks had to adapt their graduate recruitment policy at the Milk Round to the new tech boom.

24 Nov 99

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As the Millennium drew to a close Alex found himself increasingly usurped by a tech-savvy junior called Robin Thorne.

09 Dec 99

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