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Memoirs of a Minyan: An Officer and a Gentleman

By

The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

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Editor's Note: "Memoirs of a Minyan" is a first-person account that follows Minyanville founder Todd Harrison as he weaves his way through Wall Street and beyond. This e-Book will publish each Wednesday over 18 weeks. Click here to read previous Memoirs chapters.


Chapter 5: An Officer and a Gentleman

Following the Letter I fiasco, management watched the way I traded like a baseball manager watches a slugger beaned by a fastball. It took a while to regain my confidence but after a few solid strokes, I found my rhythm.

I've never figured out if A.D.D. people made good traders or if the assimilation of a sensory overload environment made traders A.D.D. Either way, the Letter I debacle quickly faded in my rear-view mirror.

When bonus season rolled around a few months later, my compensation again doubled to $300,000. I was also promoted, becoming the youngest vice-president in the firm at the age of 26.

I couldn't help notice the symmetry. At 13, I was standing behind a counter serving bagels to affluent classmates from the other side of town. Thirteen years later, I could afford to buy the bagel store.

Todd A. Harrison, Vice-President, Global Equity Derivatives, Morgan Stanley.

My business card became my favorite possession. That was the way I was programmed; my net worth dictated self-worth and money defined success. I wasn't arrogant or cocky but in hindsight, my sensibilities were surely skewed.

Outside the office, I had the type of fun you might expect a twenty-something making a lot of money to have. I summered in the Hamptons, treated myself to a few Porsches and migrated from one girlfriend to the next, keeping an eye out for a wife but not looking particularly hard.

Inside the office, I noticed a subtle shift in the general perception. Older salesmen and traders who were passed over for a promotion adopted a different attitude. The mornings I rumbled in with a hangover were no longer cute or funny. I was an officer of the firm that took home a larger slice of the bonus pie; it was suddenly considered unprofessional.

It was my first real taste of Morgan Stanley (MS) politics, the nasty sub-culture that exists in most big companies. I knew if I continued to produce, the critics would be silenced. The innocence was gone but it was replaced with power and that was a trade I was willing to make.

After years of reaching for the brass ring, my grasp around it firmed and I liked the way it felt. I upgraded my wardrobe, dined at fine restaurants and took care of my family. Life was good, or so I thought, as I had the types of things I was conditioned to aspire to.

Perhaps I was blinded by the promise of bigger and better things but I didn't care.

As 1996 rolled around, I was certain they were right around the corner.

Welcome to the Jungle

As I climbed the Morgan totem pole, I took tremendous pride in what I did and how I did it. The equity floor was a financial juggernaut and the derivative desk was the center of it all.

We wore MORGAN across our chest like a badge of honor. It was us against Goldman (GS), two titans on the Street in a rivalry that made the Yanks and Sox look like high school sweethearts.
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