Judo fan’s grip on finance

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Jérôme Kerviel the person was as unexceptional as Jérôme Kerviel the trader was exceptional. “He was like an average Frenchman living a normal life,” says the deputy mayor of his hometown, Jean-Pierre Le Gall.

Mr Le Gall knows him from the last municipal elections in 2001, when Mr Kerviel ran on his right-wing list. Mr Kerviel was last on the list so could never be elected, but he was chosen for his financial literacy and youth. “He was nice, a good person. There were never any problems with him or his family,” Mr Le Gall says.

It is a picture painted seemingly by all who knew him. A teacher at the Lycée Laennec in Pont L’Abbé who taught him says he was talented in maths but in his class he was “average”. He adds: “He didn’t really stand out. I certainly didn’t expect to read about him in the papers. He did his homework, he was a solid performer.”

Mr Kerviel’s home town was Pont L’Abbé, a quiet seaside town in Brittany. The family house lies on a non-descript road on the outskirts of town near the school. His mother owned a hairdresser’s, his father worked as a metal-basher and Jérôme enjoyed judo.

But he left the provinces as soon as he could, going first to university in nearby Quimper, then on to the larger town of Nantes. “It is the obligatory trajectory of all people from here who want to have a career,” says Mr Le Gall. Each time he moved it was to somewhere bigger. It seems he was thinking about a move to London when the scandal broke. In Paris he started near the bottom at SocGen and worked his way up. He never took to extravagant banker’s ways, as a waiter at the Café Valmy, the bar he frequented opposite SocGen’s headquarters in western Paris, says. “He was very discreet. He wasn’t like the brash big earners you get. He was just quiet and respectful and a nice guy.”

The dominant impression of Mr Kerviel is of someone verging on the dull, who pursued his ambitions in a quiet but diligent way. At the Café Valmy he apparently continued to share a beer with employees from SocGen’s back office, even when he had been promoted to be a trader.

The waiter says: “He didn’t show off or anything, drinking champagne. You’d have had no idea he was playing with that amount of money.”

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