This year’s trip to New York City was my third visit there and my favorite one to date. It didn't have to do with where we stayed, my flight, the restaurants, the people on the trip, or any other aspect one usually considers when reviewing criteria for a great a trip. While all of these factors certainly added to the quality of trip, they are not what made it the best one for me. No, the enlightening people we got to meet, the feel of being a part of a business trip in NYC, and getting to finally visit the floor of the New York Stock Exchange were the factors that made the trip so great for me. I saw NYC through a different lens this time. I was finally viewing the city from a business perspective, for what it truly is--a metropolis of business activity and opportunity.
I took a flight out of Knoxville Wednesday, September 28, and got to fly over Washington DC. The plane passed above the Arlington Memorial, Capital Building, and Air-force Memorial on the way to NYC. On the cab ride into the city from the airport, we rode through the middle of Manhattan to get to Hotel Indigo. Our hotel rooms still weren't ready so we sat down outside at the lounge area and did homework.
Several hours later, another member of our FMA group--Bret Ploucha--arrived, and we went to meet his two friends at their apartment in Greenwich Village. They are stockbrokers and they live on the 31st floor of their building and have a great view of the city. It was inspiring to see two guys who aren’t much older than me making it in the city. This was the first moment on the trip, and the first time in my life, that made me feel New York is a place that I could live one day. We all went out to dinner and the guys explained to us more about what they do and what life in New York is like.
The next day, we departed from the hotel for our first stop at Bloomberg. The building is fascinating. I find it interesting how the design came out of the idea of transparency. They took that idea and turned it into reality. It was also interesting to hear about how Michael Bloomberg began the company. Stories of entrepreneurship are my favorite business stories. I like learning about how someone can take an idea and turn it into reality. In Michael Bloomberg's case, he took what he was essentially already doing for a firm and transformed it into a much better and streamlined system. Getting to use the Bloomberg terminals was great too; I had never used one before. Honestly, I used much of the time tinkering around the software myself. I was doing research on one of my own stocks and was able to find a power point presentation the company uses to persuade large cliental to invest in the company! The software is amazing. I couldn't believe it has more than 25,000 functions and even a sports stats function. I enjoyed the Bloomberg tour a lot. After the tour concluded, we were off to Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC).
The PWC lunch was nice. It’s great that these companies that hosted our FMA visits not only invited us to visit, but also paid for our lunch. While we were eating, I took some time to look around the skyline. Being up on a high floor in those buildings gives me a feeling of euphoria. The size and structure of Manhattan is just amazing. It is incredible to me how many people work there and how much is done on just this one island in New York. After we finished lunch, we went down to the basement floor and heard a very informative presentation from UT grads Jonathan Papaik and Tania Chebli. I had no idea PWC was so much more than just an accounting firm. I thought they both did a very good job explaining everything that PWC is involved with. The “deals” and consulting departments both seem like they would be good employment areas.
After PWC we went to JP Morgan's massive three- building complex, where we got to meet with John Rosenwald, Vice Chairman Emeritus, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
He was my favorite person we got to meet on the trip. Although our time with him was short, it was immediately clear that he is very knowledgeable and well-rounded. How many people start off a meeting with a Robert Frost reference? He has a very stoic presence and he seemed to be felt throughout the room before he even spoke a word. Once he did, it became very clear why he held his position. His story about making the first bulk lot trade was incredible. When someone asked him about how he donated to charities, I took note. Essentially, he said he would research how much has been raised, how much work has been done, and then double the amount if possible, since he has accumulated so much. I will definitely be getting in touch with him for a donation once I get the Camp Koinonia Angel Fund up and running! After such a busy day I was more than ready for Carmines Restaurant. The five-course meal in the Theater District was a nice touch to the end the first day of our trip.
The next day, I got up, worked out, and enjoyed some coffee to start off the day. First, we were off to the financial district-- my favorite part of NYC. The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYME) is fascinating. It was crazy to see down into the “pits” and watch commodities being traded right in front of my eyes. Our guide was great too. His name was Steve and he was from Brooklyn. He gave us the history, taught us how it works today, and introduced us to some employees. He did a great job showing us the “feel” of the place. It felt like high school “click” of friends. At one point, a very large man walked up to the pit and yelled out the trade he needed. A trader from across the floor yelled back: “Look at the tough guy!” The large man and everyone in the pit all started laughing together. This was certainly not the environment I expected in what I always imagined as a very stressful place. However, after Steve gave us some insight, it made sense. The market was converted mostly to electronic trading in 2008 and he told us it has lost a lot of the old feel since then. He went on to explain it is much less crowded now. He said it used to be so crowded you were sliding in between people and bumping elbows the entire time. He also told us that there used to frequently be fights in the pits. However, after they created a $2500 fine for throwing a punch, most of those ended. Steve said he was in the process of finding a new job. I could infer from his demeanor, as well as those in the pits, that they missed the way the trading used to be, and that it is only a matter of time before everything becomes electronic.
It was humbling to see the 9/11 museum. I'm glad that they have finished building it and the memorial. I was shocked to see how big the Occupy Wall Street protest had gotten. I watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report religiously and they had both featured the rally only a few days ago. It was interesting to see something I only saw a few days ago on TV happening in front of me. It was also an interesting position to be in as the protestors most likely thought that we worked for Wall Street. I had one of them come up and tell me they weren't all ignorant and not to pay attention to the “NAZI BANKERS” sign. I actually do agree that some of them make valid points, however those who do seem to be few and far between. After avoiding the mob and taking our picture at the Wall Street “bull” we arrived at Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
The view from their office building is incredible. It was awesome to watch the new World Trade Center tower being constructed next to us. I enjoyed the FINRA presentation more than I thought I would. Initially, the presentation was a bit dry, and the overview lasted too long. Once the discussion of how they go after fraud started though, I found it interesting. I was unaware that there is such a large independent regulator for the financial world and that they have so much authority. These guys are, in a sense, detectives. The boiler room stories were hilarious as well, about how people are able to pull off financial stunts for so long. It was also very funny hearing them talk about the executive waving as he evaded them going down the glass elevator. However, I did not like that he put up a picture of the Florida Gators and Vanderbilt at the end of the slide show. After that happened, I was more than ready to go to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
A feeling of awe swept over me as I first walked down that hallway of the NYSE and finally saw the floor. That is something I will never forget. Just getting to be there and look around at how everything works, what everyone is doing, the news crews, the closing bell, everything. Warren Buffet had been there only an hour before us. This was Wall Street!
After the initial shock and awe, came more shock and awe as we met John our “market maker.” These guys are insanely smart. He explained to us how he conducts the trades for Barclays: conducting trades, adjusting algorithms for the market, and reviewing market conditions all at the same time. They also have to be pretty tough physically to stand up for 9 hours a day. John did a great job at showing us all of the complexities behind the market. It was great getting to see what happens when I conduct a trade. Then we got to see the closing bell! It was quite an experience, and one I will never forget. The NYSE and meeting John Rosenwald were my two favorite parts of the trip. After a great experience at the NYSE, we proceeded to dinner on the Staten Island Ferry.
Beasley Battle and I rode on the back of the ferry so that we could look at Manhattan and the water and talk about the trip. It places the city in perspective seeing it from the water-- such a continual flurry of activity. This is also where it sank in for both of us that this is where we want to be someday. And, this is what the trip mostly showed me. Through the people we met, what we saw, the things we did, this trip affirmed to me I want to be a part of the financial world in NYC one day.
2011 FMA New York Trip
by Battle Beasley
The FMA annual trip to New York to visit the financial district was in late September this year. Getting to New York was about as hectic as downtown Manhattan itself, with one flight cancelation and four delays. I was worn out by the time I even got to Hotel Indigo. But, after quickly changing into my suit and rushing down to catch the group in the meeting with Mr. Rosenwald at JP Morgan, I realized how worth the drama getting to city was within the first thirty seconds.
Mr. Rosenwald has a financial background that literally helped shape the way the markets today operate (innovator of block trading) and to be in his presence was inspiring and mind boggling. After hearing Mr. Rosenwald discuss the new Dodd-Frank Act, I asked him about his thoughts on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and the answer I received was candid and deep with first-hand knowledge. The thirty minutes we were there for the meeting were well worth it and my energy was quickly renewed.
Nicholas Worthington was every bit as interesting to talk to as Mr. Rosenwald. He is a UT graduate and has achieved success in the financial industry. This gave me hope that I too could achieve what he has. When I asked him about how he got his foot in the door, his truthful answer of “timing and luck” made me realize that hard work is only a part of the equation to gaining a choice job just out of school with an undergraduate degree.
Eating dinner at Carmines Restaurant was great-- it really brought back memories of my Italian aunt who cooked extravagant large course meals during Christmas back in my childhood. At the restaurant, I met my trip roommate Jonathan Chavez, who was extremely well spoken and polite. This made the trip that more enjoyable knowing I had a nice roommate.
After dinner at Carmines I connected with recent UT graduate Daniel Green, who was a finance major and a member of the FMA. Daniel now works at Lord Abbett & Co., which is a privately owned U.S. investment management firm that offers an array of equity and fixed-income strategies to individual and institutional investors. Daniel and I both belong to the same fraternity and have remained friends since his graduation in May. Daniel is working around 70 hours a week and was kind enough to make time for me during my trip. Daniel had a great deal of advice and really gave a supporting voice to my goal of working in the financial industry in New York City after my graduation. It was great to see a recent UT graduate and member of the FMA achieving his goals and offering support.
I was so relieved to just be with the FMA group Friday, after missing Thursday morning--and what better way to wake up than on the floor of the NYMEX? Walking down through the area most affected by 9/11, it was eerie to think that just ten years ago this exact area looked more like a warzone. Going through the security that morning felt more like the White House than a large financial institution, a harrowing reminder of the tragedy New York has been through. That being said, Steve who was our guide could not have been more helpful or knowledgeable. Quick to answer every question with honesty and a unique perspective as Steve’s primary responsibility is to ensure that all the screens inside the NYMEX are operating. As stressful as this job sounds (and probably is) Steve took time in describing what every monitor meant and its importance to which ever pit we were visiting. Seeing the traders and the sort of odd family they were was great and I have nothing but admiration for the effort that these people put in every day.
It was sad to hear in many of the trader’s voices as they described trading in the good old days, which were more people less TT (Trading Technology). To me the floor resembled a Polaroid picture, a brief glimpse into the past of trading. Also a side note, in the Money & Investing section of the weekend WSJ, there was a section discussing oil futures and how their prices are declining and what this means. I thought this was very remarkable as I watched opening bell Friday morning.
Going through the World Trade Centers was intense for me as my father was on a flight to the north Tower that day but his flight was grounded in D.C. Seeing the freedom towers and the resolve America and NYC has put into rebuilding which was wrongfully destroyed was probably the greatest motivator of the trip. It was a motivator, as I thought if I ever get a chance to work here, I would do it for those who got that chance stolen. To hear Mr. Galbraith discuss how he missed being swept up in the toxic dust by a wind change was incredible and to know that he still works with vigor and passion was inspiring.
FINRA was a reality check to the emotions of the 9/11 memorial and reminded me of the New York state of mind--yeah a tragedy happened, but there are still bad traders out there needing to be caught. The FINRA speakers were all former prosecutors and had the white knight aura about them. It was interesting to see the private sector police itself which I think is important for Americans to understand. I do think that the revolving door of Wall Street is a problem, as is their compensation. However, FINRA has a tremendous task of being like the middle “cyber cops” between the SEC and brokers and they did a tremendous job of explaining their responsibilities. The chief complaint I have heard is that since many of the people in top positions in FINRA are former prosecutors many do not act as a regulator but instead a prosecutor.
Leaving FINRA we walked directly into the protestors of Wall Street who in my opinion are severely misinformed about how capitalism works. It was unfortunate that the Bull was blocked off as I was looking forward to taking a picture of the icon of Wall Street. Going into NYSE really reminded me of security in my home of Washington DC.
Looking over the NYSE was similar to when I was told Santa Claus wasn’t real. Meaning, I had almost pictured the commotion of trading places with thousands of loud and feverish people making the markets. Reality isn’t bad though, as John O’Hara (Barclays Asst. VP market maker) explained that a few bad apples and increase in TT led to the decline of actual human traders.
It was fascinating to see him make trades while he was talking to us; he explained that the increase in TT has had both good and bad results. Good: he went from 10,000 key strokes a day to 1000, and bad: apples are removed from the floor. The bad being the flash crash last year which still has the SEC and Washington spooked. The work ethic of those people on the floor was remarkable and the bad name that has been bestowed on Wall Street and the salaries they make is ludicrous. O’Hara explained that compensation on trades has been continually reduced by the SEC and the real money is made by having your stock listed on the NYSE, so the real winners are those few at the very top. As Mayor Bloomberg said, the average Wall Street employee is netting anywhere from $40-50K a year.
Taking the ferry to Staten Island was a bitter sweet goodbye to an amazing trip. I made new friends, crammed in more information than any exam week, and learned about myself regarding where I envision my career going. Thank you, Mrs. Murphy, for the opportunity to go--the trip was well worth it.
FMA NYC Trip Fall 2011
By Robin Marston
I honestly couldn’t have enjoyed my trip to New York with the FMA any more than I did because it was the perfect mix of learning and fun. As this was my second time to participate in this trip, I thought I knew what to expect. However, the trip exceeded my expectations. We returned to the majority of the businesses that we visited last year, but I gained new insight from a second visit.
One of my favorite companies that we visited was Bloomberg. I loved our time there last year, and this year was no different. I really enjoyed our tour of the building because it is truly like no other. It is so unique, from the pantries that promote interoffice communication, to the fish aquariums throughout the building. It truly looks like a fun and exciting place to work. We had the opportunity to learn hands-on with a tutorial on the Bloomberg terminals, which I think was a lot more effective than just hearing about it. Everyone that we met was incredibly friendly, and I would love to pursue an opportunity to work there.
Nothing could beat a tour at the New York Stock Exchange, especially an opportunity to be on the floor for the closing bell. This was an opportunity that few people have, and I am so grateful that I could be there twice. The energy on the floor is contagious, especially at the end of the day. I enjoyed talking to the Designated Market Makers in small groups because they supplied us with a lot of information. The DMM that spoke to us traded Ralph Lauren’s stock, which was very interesting to me. I know that I will never forget my experience at the New York Stock Exchange.
We also had the opportunity to go on the floor at the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was so exciting to watch people actively trading options. I had never seen anything like it, and I was so grateful that they welcomed us onto the floor for an up-close view. Everyone that we met there was so friendly and helpful, especially Madison Galbreath who showed us around.
I was so impressed with everyone that we met with on this trip, especially the UT alumni. It was encouraging to know that many people have been successful in moving from Tennessee to New York, just like I want to do. They were each very passionate about their careers, which made it so interesting to learn from them. I felt like everyone truly wanted to help me begin my career and was eager to answer our questions. Each person left a great impression on me, and I am now eager to return to the city to begin my career. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in this trip to learn about so many successful companies and meet with such inspiring people. Learning about their successes and passion for their careers has motivated me to find a career that I am passionate about and can excel in. My goal is to move to New York and start my career there, and I know that participating in this trip has helped me get started towards that goal.