A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the pandemic turned our lives upside down. That post generated a lot of discussion and reminiscing. Everyone I spoke with had a crazy story about how they were affected. It was great to hear many of your stories, so I thought I’d share a little bit more about mine.
Those of you that follow me on social media got to see a pretty cool chronicle of what it was like to be in the middle of the chaos as Covid tormented the markets. Throughout February and March of 2020, I’d report live on the floor of the NYSE with Judy Shaw minutes after the closing bell. That all changed after this March 20th appearance. The NYSE was temporarily shutting it’s doors and the dominoes that changed my life began to fall.
I look back at that video and focus on the chaos behind me. My teammates were still dealing with a few issues on that triple-witching day. Brokers were scrambling to finish up and were trying to get home as quickly as possible. Maybe if we knew it would be the last time we would all be together, we would’ve said our proper good-byes. Sadly, we didn’t.
I stayed late that afternoon. In fact, I was the last to leave before a team of guys in hazmat suits came to clean the iconic floor. Before I walked out, I left this note behind.
Well, we did come back. May 26th to be exact. Yet, it wasn't the same. We returned in socially distant waves and we were confined to our plexiglass areas. It was the new reality, but a responsible and pragmatic way to deal with the pandemic.
Working with only half your team, eating alone, not seeing most of the familiar faces that were pillars of your life was depressing; however, it was what we had to do. We did it with resilience and perseverance, hoping that this too, would pass.
Now, a year later, it seems as if the sun may soon rise on a full re-open, yet it will shine it’s light on a new look. My team is gone.
The Covid Work Life…
As we worked our way through the pandemic, we tried to make the most of it. There were some huge upsides. Remember, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy.
When I couldn’t be on the floor, I would be attached to my email and computer screen monitoring the markets. Needless to say, there was some down time. I will neither confirm nor deny this, but if one wanted to “take a break” to play a quick nine it was possible. I also had three new found hours to my life thanks to zero commute. This wasn’t a bad thing either, but none of us wanted it to last - after summer, that was.
Well, we made it though the summer of 2020. The floor was still open in its Covid protected form, the markets were reaching new highs and some high profile IPO’s were coming to market. Things were looking up. Soon enough we would re-open too, and we would be back to normal. So I thought…
I won’t go into too many of the details on what happened next. Maybe one day I will. This is neither the time, nor the place. The bottom line is that in September my firm decided it would move on from its business operations on the floor. As a result, my time, as well as my co-workers’, at the NYSE would end by Thanksgiving.
There was no fan fare, clap-off or family to come down and share what I always thought would be a monumental life event. It was a normal Friday—the bell rang and I said good-bye to my co-workers. It was just another closing bell in Covid times. Just like that, I was another statistic in the weekly unemployment data.
Handling The Change…
I’ve seen some major changes over my time at the NYSE. We went from a vibrant, open-outcry floor of over 5000 of the most colorful characters to the one of the most tech savvy environments known to man. As a result of those technological advancements we saw our numbers dwindle dramatically. I’ve said too many good-byes to friends and co-workers over the years and it was crazy to be on the other side.
I’ve told too many people that they would be okay and tried to be an upbeat and positive voice of reason to those that had been let go. When I said - “you’ll be ok” or “things will work out for you”, I really meant it. It was genuine and I truly felt it.
Now I was on the other side.
I was becoming numb to all the “you’ll be ok” talks, but I truly appreciated them. I was warned that there would be many emotional ups and downs during this time. That was an understatement. Being unemployed during the holidays wasn’t fun. I remember watching the kids opening their gifts and just thinking, “I don’t have a job”.
The Team Around You…
I never realized how important the people in my life were until I met this change. You truly learn the character of those around you in times of struggle and the people that genuinely care. Without them, this time period and emotional rollercoaster could have been a very negative experience. They turned it into the greatest self-learning journey ever.
Here’s a huge thank you to all of you. I wish I could mention everyone by name, but hopefully, you know where you fall here. I didn’t want to leave anyone out. This is like my Oscar speech that will run too long, so apologies in advance, but hey - it’s my blog…
First, my family. They have been my bedrock and never once wavered in their support. They had confidence in me and it showed as they never stopped spending money - or so it seemed. (I will get hit for this comment, but when you aren’t working you truly notice these things.) This event brought us closer when my biggest concern was that it would tear us apart.
My former co-workers. We check in on each other often. We still try to maintain the group chats and friendly golf pools (reminder - it’s Master’s week). I miss you guys the most. It’s weird not hearing about your latest weekend adventures on Monday mornings. I miss the little talks, sharing the family and life events and going to battle when we had to. I’m rooting hard for all of you.
Lifelong friends. I heard from people I hadn’t heard from in years. Those calls were the best. It was like discovering Facebook in 2006/07 before it became toxic. I got to catch up, laugh and reminisce with so many of you. While we’ve grown apart and have our own family lives to contend with, you took the time to check in and it meant the world to me.
FinTwit…(thats the financial community on Twitter for those unaware)— I can’t say enough about you. You are a special group of strangers, acquaintances, and now, many good friends. Each DM, text, phone or Zoom call was awesome and uplifting. I really appreciate all of you, and I’m a huge fan of what you do.
The NYSE community and its extended family—this is still the greatest group on Earth. It’s not just us cool kids in smocks, but the people behind the scenes on all levels. From management, to security, the cafeteria crew and media. I’m happy to be connected with you and hope to see you again real soon.
Lastly the people reading this blog. You guys are crazy. You actually chose to read this and I thank you. I love the feedback and the back and forth we have had. Some of you are people I met years ago on the floor and have reached out. These are some of my happiest interactions.
The Next Step…
When I started this blog, I didn't know where it would take me, what I would discuss or what my focus would be. Getting to write about the events over the last several months, both personally and professionally, has been rewarding.
I noticed my focus tends to be on the things I like the most - teaching and learning from the newest market participants. Writing about the GameStop story, Robinhood trading and my own kid’s experience has been fun and well received. It opened my eyes to the biggest changes that are driving the financial landscape. Now I get to join a team that will help shape its future.
I’m excited to join a team of driven, eager and proven leaders in the FinTech space. At DriveWealth, I will get to return home to the NYSE, assist with trading and risk management, promote financial literacy to our customers and the public, and continue to talk about the industry I love. In fact, I am encouraged to do so! So to my many friends in the media, I don’t have to be that person behind the scenes or known as “traders on the floor”, we can actually discuss markets on air. Be gentle.
As for this blog, I will try to keep it going with relevant market topics, old stories and much more talk about what my team is doing to advance embedded finance. My Gen-Z story was a little look at that and how I see the financial landscape changing for the better.
So it isn’t quite closing time. It’s just a new beginning that came from some other beginning’s end.