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About the strip > The 00s

2000

The start of a new Millennium made Alex conscious of the passing of time.

06 Jan 00

The Millennium Bug failed to manifest, to most people’s relief.

08 Jan 00

The digital economy continued to eclipse conventional industries. Alex was not slow to spot the potential for some of his "old economy" client companies, like Hardcastle plc.

01 Mar 00

The internet boom had made stars of dotcom entrepreneurs like Martha Lane Fox, but surely it all had to go wrong? It did. Tech markets crashed in March 2000.

27 Apr 00

There was a new reality TV programme called "Big Brother" which quickly became a cult. The star of the first series was a stockbroker named "Nasty" Nick Bateman.

31 Aug 00

The dotcom boom may have been over but technology was becoming increasingly commonplace in the office.

08 Sep 00

Tony Blair’s New Labour government was pushing “The Third Way” as the ideology for the Third Millennium. It was hotly debated at middle class dinner parties.

09 Sep 00

In September fuel protestors, opposing higher duty on petrol, blockaded service stations. Many car-owners were inconvenienced, but not Alex.

19 Sep 00

The dotcom exuberance of the late 90s was starting to look very silly in retrospect. It would all come back a decade later.

22 Sep 00

The 2000 Summer Olympics took place in Sydney and were avidly followed in the City.

28 Sep 00

Alex made his first visit to the October Club charity fund-raising dinner. This would become an annual fixture in the cartoon.

18 Oct 00

Technology delivered a new way of communicating, via text messaging.  Alex discovered that it had certain advantages.

21 Oct 00

Under the new American influence bankers were now expected to be ethical. "Social outreach" policies became fashionable. Alex spent a day working on a community project.

01 Dec 00

Clive got a job working for The Devil in Hellbank (an institution with passing similarities to Goldman Sachs).

12 Dec 00

2001

The 21st Century (well, according to pedants it only technically began on January 1st 2001) was spelling a final end to some of the old-school British institutions. Blue-blooded Tiffins Bank was taken over by the Americans, who were attempting to instil a more modern work ethic.

17 Jan 01

There were all the usual media health scare stories. This year it was Deep Vein Thrombosis.

20 Jan 01

The Daily Mirror was embroiled in a scandal when two of their financial journalists, Anil Bhoyrul and James Hipwell, were found to have been insider dealing by buying stocks in advance of tipping them in their “City Slickers” column.

31 Jan 01

Pop stars were increasingly taking the corporate shilling to do gigs for bankers and their clients, with some token charitable element.

21 Feb 01

The difficult process of the disposal of distressed dotcom company assets was beginning.

22 Feb 01

Business TV channels were springing up and provided a new source of vital data for the financial community.

28 Feb 01

In February there was finally a proper public health emergency for the newspapers to scaremonger about: an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease.

13 Mar 01

Telephone headsets were starting to replace the clunky old-fashioned handsets in City offices.

09 May 01

The foot and mouth epidemic looked set to drag on into the summer with all the economic and social disruption this would cause. In the event it wasn't over until October.

26 May 01

Alex and Clive were by now reasonably senior bankers and in these recessionary times it was natural for Clive to want to share his market experience with the bank’s juniors. The theme of this joke was to become a leitmotif in the cartoon.

11 Jul 01

Alex and Clive went out to Australia for the British & Irish Lions rugby tour to the consternation of the wives.

13 Jul 01

Alex's boss Rupert had a brief affair with Shelley - a colleague at the bank - which caused much trepidation in the office. Shelley became a regular character in the strip.

17 Jul 01

The defining event of the year - and probably the decade - happened on September 11th 2001 while the strip was taking a summer break. This was in some ways fortunate for the cartoonists as no one wanted funny or facetious comments (which let’s face it is what the Alex strip is about) in the week after 9/11. Even the quite innocuous ‘filler’ drawing that was meant to run in the “Alex is on holiday” spot in the newspaper suddenly looked in bad taste and had to be pulled (it was never published).  
 
But as the shock faded and the cartoon returned in its normal place, some angles for humour presented themselves.

26 Sep 01

Mobile phone technology was now progressing apace. It was possible to set different ringtones for different callers. A feature that Alex made good use of.

10 Nov 01

Having to man the office phones over the Christmas period is always an unpopular duty. Well, almost always..

14 Nov 01

The first Harry Potter film came out at Christmas. Alex and Clive found themselves as pupils in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These festive fantasy stories were to become a feature of the cartoon.

18 Dec 01

2002

The economic outlook was still bleak, but there were some positive things to look forward to in 2002, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

23 Jan 02

Things may have been bad for the financial community, but this didn’t stop Alex finding time for the occasional romantic gesture.

26 Jan 02

It was a time of corporate scandals. First, Enron and then WorldCom went bust following fraudulent auditing practices, which led to the demise of accountants Arthur Andersen. 

07 Feb 02

Even though dotcoms were (temporarily) toast, the internet was beginning to prove its worth to the business world.

21 Feb 02

The economic gloom was universal. Well almost..

08 Mar 02

Some of the bank’s straight employees were joining gay networking societies as a ruse to avoid being fired. This caused consternation to management.

28 Mar 02

Email had been around since the mid 1990s but was now starting to become a nuisance to most people.

25 Apr 02

Business travel privileges had been downgraded, but various ruses were afoot to get them reinstated.

01 May 02

The modern internet age was dawning, but business was dead at the bank, which was not helpful to Alex.

17 May 02

The World Cup provided some relief from the economic downturn. It was held in Japan and South Korea and so matches were played at breakfast time in the UK.

12 Jun 02

Alex attended Sir Victor Blank’s annual charity cricket match. However Clive’s cricketing prowess spoilt the sporting occasion for some people.

29 Jun 02

Dotcom stocks were still falling and dragging the old economy companies with them into a global recession.

16 Jul 02

Despite all this the march of technology continued.

19 Jul 02

The market gloom was unremitting as people headed off on their summer breaks.

24 Jul 02

In September the Countryside Alliance staged a march on London to protest against the Labour Government's plans to ban foxhunting. It failed. But some people did well out of it.

21 Sep 02

Things hadn’t improved by the autumn and the grim business climate had an inevitable effect on the charity take from fund-raisers like the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.

27 Sep 02

With the City experiencing mass redundancies people took precautions to avoid getting fired: some more successfully than others.

04 Oct 02

Alex decided to follow Clara's initiative and he and Penny did IVF that autumn, in what is a largely forgotten episode, resulting in no offspring (though it was mentioned later to Clive when he had experience of doing the same thing in 2013).  

06 Dec 02

The bank’s Christmas party provided a temporary respite from the general mood of fear and insecurity.

11 Dec 02

2003

The year started badly for Alex and Clive with them both being fired from their jobs.

09 Jan 03

Their only consolation was that Robin - the annoying web-literate junior - also got fired.

16 Jan 03

They were sent to outplacement to help them come to terms with the practicalities of finding new jobs.

28 Jan 03

In February the London congestion charge was introduced. Not everyone was happy about it.

30 Jan 03

Alex and Clive embarked on another spell of unemployment. It was only supposed to last for a few weeks but they stayed like that for the rest of the year and into the next, partly because there seemed to be a lot of material in it and partly because the authors were unable to think of a credible way of giving them their jobs back. Of course, Alex found some upside in his unfortunate situation.

26 Feb 03

Alex and Clive both endured various demeaning forms of alternative employment: Clive in particular.

05 Apr 03

Some of the new-fangled mobile phones coming onto the market could take photos. The selfie generation was about to be born.

06 May 03

Alex began to have nightmares about his career prospects getting even worse.

14 May 03

As Alex's unemployment continued indignity was piled upon indignity.

31 May 03

Financial hardship forced Alex to sell personal possessions.

07 Jun 03

Alex managed to get a job in ‘industry’ working for his Northern metal-basher client Mr Hardcastle and was naturally able to turn the situation to his own advantage.

13 Jun 03

BlackBerrys (yes, that’s the correct spelling) were now becoming commonplace in the financial world. Suddenly the standard Alex mobile phone joke had a whole new lease of life. It was just like 1987 all over again..

08 Jul 03

Alex and Clive had still failed to find jobs by the time their tenure at the outplacement agency came to an end.

22 Jul 03

Alex's job with Hardcastle may have been a professional come-down for him but at least it gave him the opportunity to provide employment for his old colleague Clive. 

29 Jul 03

Botox treatment was becoming fashionable in the corporate world. Especially at bonus time when a woman wanted to make the right impression on her boss.

07 Nov 03

Alex was eventually fired by Hardcastle. Still unable to get back into the City he had to take a job as a headhunter. 

21 Nov 03

2004

A news story about a Goldman Sachs banker who had been defrauded to the tune of £4m by his PA caused much schadenfreude in the City.

28 Jan 04

Clive had to endure the indignity of taking a job in financial PR. He didn’t last long.

04 Feb 04

A year of unemployment had left Alex facing financial hardships and he was forced to take his son out of private school.

03 Mar 04

The BlackBerry had already acquired the nickname of “Crackberry”. City bankers had to be treated for addiction to them.

01 May 04

As Alex and Clive's search for employment continued they sometimes found they were in competition for the same job.

04 Jun 04

Christopher was put into state education, where he did not fit in and was bullied.

09 Jun 04

Alex continued to have nightmares about degrading, low status employment outside The Square Mile.

18 Jun 04

In a surprise development Alex and Clive both returned to banking, getting jobs in the same bank, under Rupert, but with one rather unusual difference.

23 Jun 04

It should come as no surprise that Clive proved to be a spineless and ineffectual head of department.

17 Jul 04

However he used his status as Alex’s boss to inflict various humiliations on him, including forcing him to retake his FSA exams.

28 Jul 04

But it wasn’t long before Alex was feeling fully at home back in the corporate world.

24 Aug 04

The City was changing and many people were choosing to join the hedge funds that were flavour of the month. But they weren't always what they seemed.

28 Sep 04

Getting a job in the City was now a complex and highly regulated process which required candidates to have completed various internships.

06 Oct 04

BlackBerrys were now such a ubiquitous feature of the cartoon that we even persuaded the parent company RIM to produce an Alex BlackBerry calendar.

21 Oct 04

Investment banks were increasingly making their money from complex, abstruse derivative products devised by super-brainy "quants".

27 Oct 04

2005

Times were changing, as Alex's weekly phone chats with his mum were showing.

29 Jan 05

Clive started the year still as head of department, but things were not looking good for him.

11 Feb 05

A new character, Christian, an obnoxious, sophisticated, well-connected, polyglot, pan-European, new graduate trainee (He was called ‘Eurotrash’, but was basically French) was introduced into the strip to annoy Alex. 

29 Mar 05

Christopher was back in private school but evidently having issues.

24 May 05

Social inequality was still a theme.

18 Jun 05

In June Alex lost his driving licence, but managed to make the best of the situation.

25 Jun 05

Diversity (or the lack of it) was becoming a concern in the City and seminars were now held on the issue.

01 Jul 05

As Russia began to compete seriously with America for business one began to wonder who had really won the Cold War.

05 Jul 05

Alex’s boss Rupert was finding other corporate niches.

04 Aug 05

The 7/7 London bombings changed the lives of everyone who worked in the capital.

10 Aug 05

Smoking bans started to be enforced in banks. There was even talk of it being made totally illegal in workplaces.

16 Aug 05

During the summer news got out that Prince William had been given some hush-hush ‘real world’ work experience in a bank. Naturally we couldn't resist making him Alex’s intern. (It turned out that Wills had already served out his fictional internship at Megabank before his real life one - at HSBC - actually started).

25 Aug 05

Clive hung on to his job as departmental boss but the strains were showing. 

04 Oct 05

It was only a matter of time before the bank tried to force him out.

10 Nov 05

This had knock-on effects for those around him.

17 Nov 05

Over Christmas and New Year, Alex and Clive went to Narnia (The film of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe had just come out).

15 Dec 05

2006

Alex embarked on an affair with Carolyn, who was also one of his clients. Most of the jokes revolved around Alex’s inability not to still think of her as a client.

16 Jan 06

Alex and Clive got a new American boss called Cyrus, who introduced a lot of innovative management jargon. 

22 Feb 06

Alex visited the “Dans Le Noir” restaurant, a real establishment where diners eat in darkness, waited on by blind staff. This resulted in the easiest week of drawing for Charles in the strip’s history. Some readers suggested he'd sneaked off on holiday.

15 Mar 06

Alex was a contestant on the fashionable TV show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" hosted by the then ubiquitous Chris Tarrant.

30 May 06

Hedge funds were now so cool that they hosted their own rock festival which they called "Hedgestock." The Who headlined. Pete Townshend, who was something of a fan of the Celeb strip in Private Eye, took umbrage at Alex's cynical take on the event.

07 Jun 06

It was World Cup year and, as ever, the football was avidly followed in City dealing rooms.

23 Jun 06

Even the new American boss showed an interest.

27 Jun 06

Alex arranged for his son Christopher to do some work experience in The City. 

07 Jul 06

Clive called the department out on strike during the summer heatwave in July. Only Alex and the departmental intern remained working.

19 Jul 06

All was soon forgiven though and Cyrus took his team sailing at Cowes that year.

02 Aug 06

Alex found himself challenged to a bout of ‘white collar boxing’ by his mistress Carolyn’s husband.

27 Sep 06

A head of ‘cost-cutting’ was brought in to turn round the bank’s finances.

07 Nov 06

Cyrus maintained American traditions.

23 Nov 06

At Christmas Alex and Clive took a trip to Lapland to advise Santa Claus on restructuring his business.

08 Dec 06

2007

The year began with Alex and Cyrus snowbound together in a crevasse during a blizzard on a ski trip.

29 Jan 07

Online newspapers were becoming popular, but not with everyone.

20 Feb 07

Business was booming and Alex was never short of work that needed doing.

26 Feb 07

Following a news story about a corpse being stored on board a plane, Alex found himself sitting next to a deceased passenger.

09 Apr 07

It was the 20th anniversary of the film “Wall Street”. Alex was transported back in time to that fictional era and met his hero Gordon Gekko.

22 May 07

Prompted by The Smoking Ban, which was introduced in England in July, Alex gave up smoking and joined a support group to help him kick the habit.

21 Jun 07

In the summer Cyrus took Alex, Clive and the rest of the team on a trip to the Mid West for a ‘Cowboy Experience’ team-bonding exercise (like the movie “City Slickers”).

04 Jul 07

There were severe floods in August but Alex was able to remain aloof.

26 Jul 07

Markets were jittery. There was the foreboding that something really bad was about to happen. Technology was once again being blamed.

13 Aug 07

Alex tried to get away from it all by staying in the ‘Big Brother’ House.

04 Sep 07

The dominoes started to fall. First of all there was a run on Northern Rock - a former building society which had expanded rapidly and issued loans indiscriminately. Following reports of the bank's insolvency customers queued round the block to get their money out.

18 Sep 07

Following the success of a real life insider newspaper column about the financial world penned by “City Boy” Clive launched his own column under the nom de plume of “City Chap”.

25 Sep 07

The stage play “Alex” starring Robert Bathurst in the titular role had an eight-week run at the Arts Theatre in London's West End from October to December. It was popular with corporate audiences and got good reviews. By the end of the run it was playing to full houses every night and (unusually for an indie production) made money and paid profits to its backers. As an act of shameless self-publicity, the Alex in the strip, like some of his richer readers, was one of the ‘angels’ himself.  

11 Oct 07

Despite being one of the smallest theatres in the West End the Arts boasted the highest sales of champagne in the whole of theatreland for "Alex's" run.

Charles inconveniently had another baby during the run. 

18 Oct 07

The phrase “sub-prime debt” began to be heard as market participants became very scared. Jokes about these subjects also found their way into the play scripts on the night. 

02 Nov 07

Clive found an escape in the woman of his dreams, Fabergé, who was a table dancer. 

06 Dec 07

The film “The Golden Compass” was released at Christmas and Alex and Clive duly journeyed into a Philip Pullman parallel universe.

27 Dec 07

2008

Alex and Clive started the year by making a business trip to China.

13 Mar 08

Clive was called up for jury service.

22 May 08

Alex and Penny's son Christopher was doing his A levels. Wikipedia was becoming an important resource for students.

04 Jun 08

Clive was finally realising his creative ambitions by writing his first novel.

02 Jul 08

There was an increasing fashion for hybrid cars among City bankers.

04 Jul 08

In the summer Clive was made redundant for the third time. Alex escaped his fate...

11 Aug 08

The intention was for Clive to remain unemployed for several months at least, but developments in the real world caused the cartoonists to think better of it and to have him back at his desk sooner, so he could comment and participate as usual with Alex as the cataclysmic events of that autumn unfolded: 
 
That September, while Charles was on his way to join part of the triumphant world tour of ‘Alex the stage play’ abroad (Hong Kong, Melbourne, Sydney, Dubai) he sat next to two bankers on the flight out, who were watching Virgin plane news about some trouble at Lehman Brothers bank. They both seemed to think it might be quite serious. By the time Charles landed in Australia the Financial World was in meltdown. Back home in London, Russell had had to hastily think up a joke about Lehmans and then cobble together the artwork on Photoshop (with the assistance of his girlfriend), using bits and pieces of Charles’ old drawings and assembling facsimile ‘Charles style’ lettering letter-by-painful-letter on the computer so as to avoid the strip failing to reflect the most important event in banking history ever (and, er, save both their jobs).  Here’s the result:

16 Sep 08

After that Charles spent most of his long-dreamed-of ‘famous-person’ visit to his fans in Oz, sitting in his hotel room watching business news on TV, drawing new cartoons about The Crisis and then trying to find a photocopier shop that would scan them onto a memory stick for him so he could e-mail them back to Russell in London.  

Clive got his job back.

16 Oct 08

But he had learned a useful and unexpected lesson from his short spell outside of the banking community.

21 Oct 08

As it happened, what would soon be known as the Global Financial Crisis was a godsend for the strip (they always are, actually). There was scarcely a joke about anything else for three months.

03 Nov 08

Back in the UK again, the stage play successfully toured the provinces. However the corporate attendee ticket sale figures for its return to London took a dip. Bankers were wearing hair shirts and keeping a low profile. The production played to good audiences but the decision was taken not to extend the run. 
 
Charles and Russell began to be asked on radio programmes as pundits about the financial crisis.

That Christmas Alex and Clive found themselves publicly pilloried (literally) in a fantasy sequence set in medieval times. Which is what many people thought Western societies would shortly be returned to. 

29 Dec 08

2009

Bankers had now become public enemy number one.

05 Jan 09

One proposed response to the financial crisis was for banks to split themselves up into Good and Bad banks (and dump all their non-performing junk into the latter). Clive dreamed he had been seconded to work at “Toxic Bank”.

05 Feb 09

As it became clear that the financial crisis was here to stay Vince the moneybroker began to feel nostalgic for the heady days of the 80s.

11 Feb 09

Some bankers, realising that they had been outed as useless members of society, expressed a desire to “give something back” (not the taxpayer money they blew unfortunately). Alex’s colleague Simon used being made redundant to become a teacher.

13 Mar 09

Alex’s parents celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary. Alex found an appropriate gift.

27 Mar 09

Outrage against bankers among the public was growing and meetings of the G20 summit started to be targeted by anti-capitalist protesters.

06 Apr 09

Alex’s team did a flight safety awareness course in a aircraft simulator as a corporate bonding experience.

01 May 09

A small moment of schadenfreude for Alex amid all the grimness of the financial climate. After a trip to Glyndebourne he and Penny stayed in a B&B which transpired to be run by his ex-graduate trainee Robin, whose hedge fund had gone up the Swanee in the Credit Crunch.

04 Jun 09

Things had become so bad in the Masterley household that Penny was forced to give up her agreeable existence as a corporate wife and home-maker and get a job. She became a redundancy counsellor and found plentiful clients among City investment banks who were downsizing bankers like there’s no tomorrow.

14 Jul 09

Alex hosted a lunch to celebrate 25 years of working in the City. What were the chances of him noticing up another twenty five (or indeed twenty five days the way the markets were going?)

29 Sep 09

With bankers being made redundant in their thousands it never looked very likely that Alex's son Christopher would follow him into the City, but to Alex’s horror he went one stage further and enrolled in art college.

09 Oct 09

As the financial crisis deepened Clive continued to find solace with his lap dancer friend Fabergé.

05 Nov 09

At Christmas Alex and Clive paid another professional visit to their occasional client Santa Claus whose business had been badly hit by the global financial crisis.

11 Dec 09

The Chancellor Alistair Darling announced a windfall tax on bankers’ bonuses. Naturally the bankers found a way round it.

17 Dec 09