Little in Jerome Kerviel's background suggested he would become possibly the biggest rogue trader of all time. And the big question remains: What led him to orchestrate what France's second-largest bank describes as massive, fraudulent trades that cost it more than $7 billion?
A day after Societe Generale alleged that the 31-year-old had committed fraud "exceptional in its size and nature," many pieces of the puzzle were still missing. Family and acquaintances in his hometown described him as poised and trustworthy, recalling that he practiced judo as a teenager and helped teach it to children. The picture from neighbors was of a man who was unusually reserved and discreet.
There was no reply at a flat in the posh suburb of Paris where neighbors said he had lived. A note to reporters had been taped to a row of mail boxes in the entrance hall of the modest four-story building. One mail box still bore Kerviel's name.
"Don't search here. He has been seeking refuge elsewhere probably for some time now," said the handwritten note.
In the Brittany town of Pont l'Abbe where Kerviel grew up, his former judo teacher remembered him as a serious, helpful teenager.
"He came in to train two or three times a week, and he also helped out with classes for kids," said Philippe Orhant, who has not seen his former student in about 10 years. "I liked him a lot, and I had total confidence in him."
Kerviel's family said he was unmarried. His father died two years ago, said an aunt, Raymonde Kerviel. Three union officials at the bank said managers told them Kerviel had suffered from recent family problems that appeared to have deeply affected him.
"Jerome has done nothing wrong," she said. "He was a reserved, serious child. He didn't pocket a cent, I'm sure of it."
Bank officials also said Kerviel appears to have netted no personal financial gain from the alleged schemes.
The town's mayor described Kerviel as a "poised, calm, thoughtful young man." Kerviel had supported Mayor Thierry Mavic's election campaign in 2001.
"I'm bowled over," Mavic told a local newspaper, Le Telegramme. The mayor said Kerviel's father had worked as a teacher and that his mother ran a hair salon.
In the Paris suburb of Neuilly, the apartment building where neighbors said he had lived was surprisingly modest for a trader on the glamorous futures trading desk of the award-winning bank. Societe Generale said Kerviel was involved in "plain vanilla" trading -- the more basic forms -- and had "limited authority." He took home a relatively modest salary and bonus of less than 100,000 euros ($145,700).
He lived in a former maid's chambers converted into studios on the top floor of the walk-up, said Collette Thomas, 79, who has lived in the building for 30 years and whose apartment is one floor down from Kerviel's.
"He was very young, handsome, a beautiful one ... but he was not at all talkative," she said. "He didn't talk, he petted my dog, whom he adored."
Her daughter, Isabelle, a nurse, said she would see him about once a week. "But he didn't talk, he climbed the stairs four at a time and disappeared," she said.
Both said he never smiled, but held the door for them.