Through the keyhole

  • Per your recent request (see footnote), please find below our analysis of the attached photograph, which we understand to be of the office of your suspect subject.


Location: Although there is no external reference in the picture to provide any indication of where it might have been taken, it is nonetheless possible to draw some powerful inferences from the available evidence:

  • The telephone is of a model distributed to corporate clients by Etisalat, the main telecoms provider in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • The office furniture, while of largely generic appearance, is nonetheless clearly of a ‘high end’ specification and comparatively new. Given the date that  this photograph was taken (see below), this would suggest strongly that the location is Abu Dhabi as opposed to Dubai, as the latter was effectively bankrupt at the time.
  • The quality and newness of the furniture is such that could be expected to be provided in particularly prestigious office buildings. This itself suggests that the institution in question could have been a government body.

Date: We can more specifically state that the photograph was taken on August 16th of 2009. This information was embedded in the metadata of the photograph’s digital format. While this date has no particular significance in itself, there is a surprising amount of additional insight that can be drawn from this simple observation:

  • As this was a Sunday, this further supports the Abu Dhabi hypothesis for location, as Sunday is the first day of the working week in the UAE.
  • The August date gives a strong indication that the office is that of an expatriate employee rather than an Emirati. It is a well-known fact that all locals of a status likely to be employed by the government at a level consistent with such office accommodation are absent from Abu Dhabi in August, having relocated to Geneva in order to count their money.

Nature of business: The evidence to support our view that this is an office of one of the Abu Dhabi government’s investment companies is, we would submit, sufficient to put the matter beyond any reasonable doubt. More specifically, we believe the company in question to be the sovereign wealth fund.

  • The newness of the furniture is consistent with the fact that the fund’s flagship headquarters building was opened just two years before the date of the photograph.
  • The photograph itself was taken by a Blackberry, a device particularly prevalent among investment professionals and known to be provided indiscriminately by the fund to all its employees above the grade of office boy.
  • The computer monitor is displaying  data from the Bloomberg financial information company. Furthermore, the keyboard is specially adapted for the Bloomberg service.
  • Most of the trays on the desks contain hard copies of equity research provided by a range of investment banks. This diversity of provider indicates that the recipient was on the ‘buy’ side of the business.
  • This conclusion is not compromised by the fact that all the research appears to say exactly the same thing (from which we further conclude that it is genuine).

We are therefore entirely confident of asserting that this photograph was taken in the office of a senior expatriate employee of the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund.

We turn now to the evidence regarding the subject’s moral standing and character. Notwithstanding the generally tidy and methodical state of the workspace, we regret to advise that we have detected a number of clues which lead us to conclude that the subject may be dangerously subversive:

  • The jacket visible hanging at the left of the picture is a blazer. Thus not only has the subject removed his jacket in the workplace, he is not even wearing an appropriate business suit.
  • The mousemat visible to the right of the keyboard is in the form of an Arabian rug or prayer-mat, of a type widely available in cheap bazaars throughout the UAE. It is certainly not standard corporate issue and may well have been provided by the subject himself. This itself is indicative of an element of individuality that some may find troubling.
  • The red pennant seen hanging on the bookshelf can be seen, on closer inspection, to bear the club badge of Liverpool FC. This raises a number of potentially serious issues.
  • Having established that this is an office of the government of Abu Dhabi, the fact that it is not a Manchester City pennant could be construed as blatant disloyalty to the subject’s employers.
  • Whereas the display of a Manchester United pennant would of itself provide no clues whatsoever as to the place of birth of the owner,  the presence of a Liverpool pennant – apart from allowing us to state categorically that the subject is not from Manchester – suggests a statistically significant possibility that the owner is himself from Merseyside. As such, there is a clear risk that he may be a ‘scallie’.
  • Most disturbing of all is the black coffee mug visible on the desk. We were able to determine that it is a special commemorative item produced to mark the thirtieth anniversary, in 1995, of the American popular music group known  as the ‘Grateful Dead’. This product was only sold by mail order, which itself indicates that the subject may be a particularly ardent follower of this ‘beat combo’, some of whose members and fans are believed, on occasion, to have embraced so-called ‘alternative’ lifestyles.

To summarise, therefore: the subject is – or, more probably, was – an expatriate employee of a sovereign wealth fund.  Despite being an effective investment professional and maintaining a veneer of respectability, in reality he was quite possibly no more than an old hippy scouser who managed to get lucky. We find it inconceivable that any potential future employer, being in possession of this information, would even entertain the idea of giving the old fool house room.

FOOTNOTE: The prompt for today in the WordPress ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’ reads – in full – as follows:

“Clean slate. Explore the room you’re in as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Pretend you know nothing. What do you see? Who is the person who lives there?”

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