Rachel looked at the sharp movement of the pharma stock she sold short a month ago. At long last, five minutes before the end of the trading day, the share price was falling 15%. She reckoned it was only the start of the plunge to come.
“This trade will clinch this year”, she computed, “I’ll roll it in after this stock goes down the 50% it should, probably over the next couple of trading days. We’re in the beginning of October, the calendar year is nearly finished. So, if nothing catches my eye I can keep floating until December. Then I’ll show my investors a healthy 35% yearly performance.”
Rachel wanted to pay dividends this year to match last year’s. Paying dividends was not a very common feature of hedge funds but her investors loved the steady income. What’s more, it made the flows steadier since the shareholders felt they were getting some cash and thus didn’t need to sell units.
She started collecting her bag, telling Martha, her ancient personal assistant she was leaving early. “The gym?” asked Martha, and she nodded. “Rachel, darling, you do remember I leave in a little more than a month? You haven't even started interviewing replacements!”
“I know! I can’t face it! What will I do without you?”
Martha looked at her. She was Rachel’s late father’s secretary, and practically family. Martha knew Rachel maybe better than she knew herself.
“Darling”, she said, “I have a number of a very good agency to give you, I’m quite sure you’ll find your next PA there. In fact, I’m making an appointment for you right now.”
Rachel smiled and thumbed up her assent on her way out.
Martha waited a bit to be sure her boss was well and truly gone. She dialed the agency’s number: “May I speak to Sandra? Tell her it’s Martha. No, just Martha. No, you won’t be bothering her I guarantee you she’ll take the call.”
Martha could sound very authoritative when she wanted to.
Sandra came on the line. Martha made light conversation with her old friend; they met regularly for years. Then it was time for business.
“Listen, Sandra, I’m sending you Sam’s daughter. Yes, Rachel, the hedge fund manager. She is looking for an office aide.”
Sandra asked something.
“Right, so you do remember Sam and his preferences, I thought as much. Well, I think his daughter might have the same requirements. Please meet her and see if I’m right.”
She smiled at something said on the other side.
“As I said I’m not entirely sure. She is a woman so is less likely to accept this side of herself, except at work, of course. But I think I recognize the signs.”
Rachel marveled that she hadn’t heard of this agency before. Its offices were situated at a prestigious address very close to the commercial and business center of town. She also made a mental note to get the designer’s name as she loved the décor which was understated but still conveyed an affluent ambiance.
“You have an appointment for 08:30, right? Sandra is waiting for you,” the handsome male receptionist who received her spoke.
Sandra, the agency owner, studied the younger woman who entered her office. Slight build, medium height, red brown hair. Rachel wasn’t pretty, Sandra reflected, not by a long shot. She had a prominent nose, wide mouth and a determined chin. Her best feature had to be her eyes, large and green gray surrounded by black lashes. It was obvious to Sandra that Rachel felt very comfortable with her looks. The young woman came across as very confident. She sat in front of Sandra, calm and composed, her beautiful eyes scrutinizing the office and its owner. Rachel never fidgeted or made a sudden move. When she answered Sandra’s questions, she answered them after a brief consideration. Sandra wondered if Rachel ever made a spontaneous decision or statement.
Sandra sighed to herself, “Martha, old friend, you’ve certainly presented me with a challenge.”
To Rachel she told she was the CEO and sole owner of the agency. She was in her mid-60s, Martha’s age, but “not even ready to retire yet.” Rachel also learned that Sandra was a marathon runner, never married, had no children, and liked it that way. Then Sandra asked directly,
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
Rachel admitted she didn’t—she never had a steady relationship.
“I have a first few dates and then I lose interest. Maybe guys find it hard to keep up with me. Or maybe when they hear I run my own hedge fund they get intimidated. I don’t know.”
Sandra agreed. “Some guys may find you a bit intimidating. But there are many guys out there who like a strong, dominant woman.”
“But will I like them back? I don’t like clingy, dependent types.”
Rachel was surprised at herself for talking so openly with Sandra. She rarely discussed her personal life. Yet, Sandra had a quality about her; it might have been the strength she exuded, the easy self-assurance. Rachel felt a kinship with her, almost a special bond.
“So, Martha is finally retiring. Do you need an office manager?”
“Not really. I have an office manager I took several years ago and she does a great job. In the last couple of years, Martha was more of a personal assistant.”
Sandra looked at her as if debating and then, apparently, came to a decision.
“Do you trust Martha?”
“Totally. I’ve known her since forever. She worked with dad at the old factory, was his go-to guy in everything. Dad had an accountant but it was he and Martha that knew where every cent went.”
“Didn’t you want to join them?”
“No, I never wanted to work there and dad didn’t insist. When he retired, he sold it, at a great profit I might add, and put half the money in my fund. That’s my seed capital. Martha was a minority equity partner in the factory and came into some money as well. But she wouldn’t retire and came to work for me; she is my first employee. She also put money in my fund. I trust her completely, and dad did as well”.
“Great, then trust me as well and agree to accept a temporary personal assistant from my agency, one that I will choose for you. I’ll ask him to join us later if you’ll accept the terms.”
“ A ‘him’? I was thinking of a ‘she’.”
“This guy is a very competent personal assistant. And he is a perfect fit for you. But, here are the terms: he is an employee of my agency and doesn’t answer to you but to me. This means I also have the power to terminate his employment.”
“I’m sorry, what do you mean? If I don’t like him, I have to keep him?”
“Absolutely, that’s the deal, but only for a trial period we both agree upon, say nine and half weeks?”
“Just kidding. Is a three months trial period OK?”
Rachel was silent for a moment. She regarded Sandra thoughtfully and Sandra returned her stare with calm immobility awaiting her decision.
Rachel wasn’t sure why she trusted Sandra. She usually ran extensive background checks and multiple interviews on her employees. And this personal assistant’s fee was hefty, around 30% more than the usual salary. But there were many points in favor of this move. Sandra was Martha’s old friend. Not having to interview an endless parade of young know-it-all people was certainly time saving. Also, this new assistant—he—might even be handsome.
“Let’s see him.”
Minutes later, a young man joined them. Rachel liked his looks: tall, clean-shaven, with wavy, dark blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. He wore a short-sleeve, buttoned-down shirt which was tucked into his dark jeans. His arms were muscled and his handshake firm. Rachel asked him a few general questions and he answered them intelligently enough. James was quite young, 24 years old, and not long out of college where he majored in Journalism.
The worst-case scenario would be being stuck with a handsome male assistant for three months; she could live with that.
Rachel nodded her assent to Sandra.