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Memoirs of a Minyan: Battle Lines Are Drawn


The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

I wouldn't believe it either if I wasn't there but you'll have to take me at my word. Markets crashed around us and we were in the epicenter of the storm, an island of clarity in an otherwise unsure world.

We posted huge gains, paid the Street insane commissions and the trading staff and risk-management protocol I implemented paid huge dividends. The swings were wild; $20 million, $30 million in a single day, the type of numbers that you didn't want to comprehend.

Our new systems updated our P&L dynamically and we knew exactly where we stood with each flickering tick. That was both a blessing and a curse. I didn't need to watch my screens-the look on Jim's face across the desk told the story in real-time.

Any trader who says they don't take performance personally shouldn't be managing money. We ran one portfolio-hundreds of positions that forged a singular bottom line-but we each had our "names." While we played for the same team, we eyeballed our individual stats as we hit the showers each night.

The stylistic dichotomy between our individual trading approaches became increasingly apparent. When the market rallied, Jim tossed fresh long exposure into our portfolio. After it reversed, sometimes minutes later, short positions suddenly appeared on the sheets.

I watched him closely and traded my positions with an eye on the overall portfolio. I wasn't worried about stepping on toes or honoring the status quo. After coming so close in my two previous professional endeavors, I had two missions in life-to make money and protect those gains.

As the summer approached, we operated at a feverish pitch and harnessed that energy into tremendous performance. Still, there was an unspoken angst in the office, the type of tension that was only acceptable if we beat the Street.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was functional, dysfunctional, friendly, heated, seamless and strangely sophomoric all at the same time.

It was life at Cramer Berkowitz, and unbeknownst to me, we were about to open our window to the world.

A Door Opens

The July heat was unbearable as my driver navigated the FDR at 5:00 AM. Business was good, which on Wall Street means we were making money.

To the outside looking in, our fund was a fighter jet navigating the perfect storm of a bubble gone awry. Internally, a different dynamic began to take shape.

As Jim readied for his Hampton's vacation, he was on the phone with his editor at looking for someone to write his column. When his eyes locked on mine, I saw the light bulb flash above his head as a grin spread across his face.
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