Fixations are a symptom of Asperger’s, along with social problems, elevated stress, and a propensity for numbers over words. The kids in Winchester bullied him for it. Hayes remained a peripheral figure in college, at the University of Nottingham. While his fellow students took their summer holidays, he paid for school by cleaning pots and lugging kitchen supplies for £2.70 an hour. ... Seeking better money, Hayes won an internship at UBS in London. After graduating, in 2001, he joined Royal Bank of Scotland as a trainee on the interest rate derivatives desk. For 20 minutes a day, as a reward for making the tea and collecting dry cleaning, he was allowed to ask the traders anything he wanted. It was an epiphany. ... On the rare occasions he joined other bankers on their nights out, he stuck to hot chocolate. They called him “Tommy Chocolate” and blurted out Rain Man quotes like “Qantas never crashed” as Hayes walked the trading floor. He was bad at banter, given to taking quips and digs at face value. The superhero duvet was a particular point of derision. The bedding was perfectly adequate, Hayes thought; he didn’t see the point in buying another one. ... Not everyone in finance was a jerk. Hayes made a few friends, and he found that his machine-gun approach to messaging and trading made him a favorite among brokers, who didn’t care where a trader had gone to school as long as he brought them deals. ... His M.O. was to trade constantly, picking up snippets of information, racking up commissions as a market maker, and building a persona as a high-volume, high-stakes risk-taker. ... Libor was a component in securities ranging from U.S. student loans and credit cards to Kazakh gas futures, but it was determined each day by just a handful of distracted, guesstimating individuals.
In 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Richard Nixon became president of the U.S., and 400,000 hippies descended on a sleepy New York farm near Woodstock. On the other side of the Atlantic, on a winter’s day in London, a mustachioed Greek banker named Minos Zombanakis was taking his own small step into history. He’d hit upon a novel way to lend large amounts of money to companies and countries that wanted to borrow dollars but would rather avoid the rigors of U.S. financial regulation. ... The Eurodollar market, as the vast pool of U.S. dollars held by banks outside the States is known, was already well developed, but Zombanakis had spotted a gap: the supply of large loans to borrowers looking for an alternate source of capital to the bond markets. He persuaded his bosses in New York to give him $5 million to set up a branch in London.