The subtle exchange of suitcases, innuendo-laden code words, secret aliases and covert ops: the British secret service really do have the coolest job in the world.
Well, they did until Agent Engagement came along. This secret agent does all the above and more, without having to worry about being captured by ham-acting Russians from 1980.
For this secret agent has been covertly helping traders and other time-poor City workers to… wait for it… propose to their other halves. So, if you’re looking to marry the woman (or man) of your dreams but have no clue where to begin, then Agent Engagement is on hand to help out in exactly where most men need it – buying a ring.
And TraderLife spoke to her via Morse Code and pigeon-mail* to find out exactly how she does it...
(*ok, ok, so it was email)
Hello Agent Engagement. Can you tell us a bit about exactly what you do?
Agent Engagement is a secret British Service, to help anyone in need of advice when buying an engagement ring. I’ll connect them to the best London jewellers and designers, whatever the style or budget. And it’s a totally free service, so I save everyone time and money!
Often, I am introduced to clients by email, telephone or WhatsApp, and we work together without ever meeting. But if a client would like to meet face-to-face then I either visit their office or suggest a nook to the back of the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral. I wear a special and symbolic badge so they can spot me!
I especially encourage ethically sourced stones and the incredible British designer-maker talent we have here in the UK.
How long have you been doing it?
Over three years professionally, and I spent years before that researching and partnering with the best of the best: the most famous luxury jewellery brands on New Bond Street, diamond traders all over the world, online diamond specialists who source directly from the mines, two incredible antique experts in London town, and several hugely talented designer-makers, who can draw and make anything possible.
What inspired you to come up with the idea and how did you initially attract clients?
I knew I was onto something when I found myself on the tube with £50,000 worth of diamonds in a Sainsbury's carrier bag on my way to meet my first client at his office in Canary Wharf.
Of course, it was all totally legal: the proposer-to-be was a friend of a friend who had got into a pickle trying to buy an engagement ring. He had a diamond from his granny that he wasn't sure would be suitable for a new ring, and it soon became apparent that there wasn't a truly independent and trusted service where you could compare all the ways you can design, build and buy an engagement ring.
Sure, you can go into a jeweller and they will give you a personal shopping VIP service, but they are only going to sell you what they have or are specialists in. They aren't going to put an antique ring and a drawing of a hand-made ring side by side, in a pub toilet(!), and tell you the pros and cons of each to save you time and money.
Word of mouth spread and my cover was soon blown.
How many people have you helped with their engagements so far?
What other strange situations have you found yourself in?
One time, a client and I plus our prospective partners were all invited to a mutual friend's wedding in Ireland. We had to get a flight together and not make eye contact, sit in the airport lounge, and then be introduced to each other “for the first time” by the groom when we both arrived. No-one knew we'd been in constant communication for four months and had in fact had lunch together the day before to celebrate finishing his ring! That client was a trader, and he successfully proposed the following week.
What other tricks of the trade can you tell us without having to immediately kill us?
I often help gentlemen with tips on how get engagement rings through security at airports on their way to propose on holiday, without it becoming a big fuss and the partner noticing. It involves a post-it note and a big “SHHHHHH!!!” to the security officer.
I’ve also got a range of slimline ring carriers gentlemen can pop in their suit pockets without anyone noticing. Traditional ring boxes are too big! I’m also having ring boxes made with cameras inside, so that they can capture the proposal moment.
How do you keep your cover?
If the girl answers unexpectedly when I ring my client, I pretend to be his dentist. I make sure to note down the name of his dentist when I take down the initial briefing. Sometimes I even get invited to the couple's engagement parties. The client almost always introduces me as "a colleague from work".
Once when sourcing a ring for a trader I had to hide in the corner of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to hand over an incredible ring to my client, who was proposing just moments later (we’d only just got it finished in time!). He was very relieved as I’d saved him £30k on the project. As was I: I’d specifically had to insure myself and the ring for the taxi ride over to meet him!
Has it ever gone wrong and you've been uncovered?
Never. In fact, the opposite happens; I’ve had two women ask me to gain contact with their other halves as if by chance and give them a nudge, in addition to the support they need to get on with buying a ring. If I were the girl I’d just propose myself to test the water, but we’re still very traditional here in Blighty within heterosexual relationships with expecting the guy to propose, and that’s fine by me!
Does this mean your partner has the impossible job?
When it came to proposing to me, my partner Dan had a tough job! At first, he became a secret double agent, pretending to be a new client only communicating with me by email. I introduced him to my favourite jewellers and he visited their workshops on his lunch-breaks. Even the jewellers said it would be a bit risky buying a ring for Agent E, so my antique expert Olly at The Antique Jewellery Company helped him find a pair of earrings instead!
We proposed to each other in NYC in October 2016, and nine months later I still don't have a ring as I’ve been too busy helping everyone else! I’ve also got huge paralysis of choice. I'll start designing one soon with Sophie Breitmeyer, a wonderful maker.
I gave Dan a watch when we proposed to each other, because we're in 2017 and it's a bit funny that the it's all weighted to the female. I'm a feminist if you believe that!
What sort of jobs do your clients have? Is it mostly time-poor city workers?
I’ve worked with traders from JP Morgan, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch etc., but also lawyers, bankers, teachers, doctors, tech and IT. Any position where it’s tricky getting out of the office on a regular basis and researching all the information needed, without getting caught. Especially jobs with secure computer systems not allowing you a lot of Internet browse time!
What are these guys like to work with?
All of my clients are marvellous. It’s not worth working with anyone you don’t like. I like decision-orientated, efficient, driven and logical people. Traders tend to have all those qualities.
So, what does the future hold for Agent Engagement?
Well an Agent E in NYC is much needed for a start! My friend Daisy helps hundreds of hapless proposers with the actual "will you marry me!" bit at her brilliant company The Proposers, so my next focus is on other helpful services; insurance, honeymoon planning and helping to find and buy wedding suits!
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