Out of the Box: This April Marks My 45th Year on Wall Street
Being an aging Wizard just means that you are wandering around wondering just what, and who, and when, and still marveling at the complexity of it all. I don’t fish and I don’t play golf and Wall Street, the “Great Game,” to me, has been my passion for all the years of my adult life.
It has been a long and eventful journey. I began my career at Commerce Bank of Kansas City. There were no money market funds back then. I had the novel idea of creating one and went to the Executive Vice-President of the bank and explained my idea. His response was that we were in Kansas City, and not New York City, and that we were not exactly at the center of the financial markets, but he thanked me for the idea. Then, it was the head of the bond department, where I worked, that ripped my head off for going to one of the most senior guys at the bank. Here was a lesson that I never forgot.
When I was young, I did stupid things, because I didn’t know any better. Now that I know better, I avoid most stupid mistakes because I have the experience to avoid them. It is an accumulation of lessons that can only be learned by playing the Great Game. Experience, itself, is the most valuable tool on Wall Street!
In all of the years that I have been alive I’ve said, “I love you” to three women, besides my mother, and to every dog I’ve ever met. My three Aussie rescue dogs are known as the “Sages,” in my market commentary, but as the “Fuzzballs,” around the house. Fortunately, they respond to either designation, with great delight.
I get up every day between 3:00 and 4:00 to write my commentary. I never take naps or siestas. I do have meetings, however. When someone calls in the early afternoon my assistant, Matt, says, “Mr. Grant is in a meeting.” Telling them that it is in my bed is not necessary information.
So today, I am not going to talk about the markets but try to give a little advice, to my younger Social Media friends. Believe it or not there was a time when we all looked up, and respected people, who stood on their own two feet, and made something of themselves. We were proud of them. We wanted to emulate them.
Now, it seems, that all the younger generations want to do is to have us hand them our money, so they can “party on.” I think it is fine to “party on” but I also believe that you have to earn it. I am sorry, but if you can’t make the walk then you can’t get any further down the road. Talking the talk is nothing but words. The notion of a United States as a socialist country is just one horrendous idea. That is my position.
“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
Next, there is your reputation. Guard it like your life! Once lost, it is almost impossible to get it back. Whether you are in sales, a trader or in management, the loss of your “good name” will be your ticket out of the door. I cannot stress this enough. I have seen careers shattered, and the person broken, because once, just once, they did the “wrong thing” and paid the price.
Wall Street is a funny place. It is not exactly like Main Street. When you boil it all down there are really just two criteria. The first is, “Does the guy know what he is doing?” The second is, “Is this someone you can trust?” If you can answer both questions affirmatively then you can do business with them and if you can’t, then you can’t do business with them and shouldn’t do business with them.
The highest words of praise on Wall Street is that someone is a “Stand-Up Guy,” which is a gender-neutral statement. That says all that you need to know. You know that the guy or girl is honest, that he or she is honorable and that he or she will stand their ground against the encroachments of making a quick buck or of some person trying to pimp you, for their own personal gain. In my own life, I resigned from two different firms, when I ran up against these types of people. Never back down. It is your own skin that you have to live in, and there is no avoidance of this truth!
Along your beaten path you will discover obstacles. You may be 100% assured of it. Here is my Wizardly advice: “You can go under them, you can go over them, you can go around them, you can go through them, and then, when nothing else works, you can dance until they move.”
Learn how to dance.
Now, after 45 years here, I look around and realize that I am one of the last people left of my generation still standing on Wall Street. I have accumulated some money, not Jeff Bezos money, but some money. If you arrive at where I am now, one day, you will realize that you are still here because you still want to play, besides making the money, and so you keep going. The caveat is, if they let you. The answer to the caveat is that no one can stop you unless you allow it. They can fire you alright, but there are other firms and situations and I have no interest in retirement and every interest in keeping going as long as I can.
Never give up. Never give in. Always keep going until that final day when life, itself, will end your adventure here.
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
Mark J. Grant
Chief Global Strategist, Fixed Income
B. Riley FBR Inc.
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