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Memoirs of a Minyan: Let the Games Begin!

By

The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

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I was overwhelmed by the speed and intensity on the trading floor. I attempted to mask my ignorance by keeping my head down and not speaking unless spoken to. I later learned that other traders, many of whom took the traditional path, thought I was cocky. Still others worked in the back office, toiling in operations control, waiting years for their shot to grasp the brass ring. I was oblivious to the competition, animosity and resentment.

There was an exclusive fraternity and it was up to me to gain respect and earn the right to wear Morgan Stanley across my chest. I extended myself, picking up more phones and relaying bigger orders. The harder I tried, the more mistakes I made and self-doubt morphed into a complete lack of confidence.

I couldn't seem to grasp the business but committed myself to doing whatever it took to lend value to the operation. I was going to do whatever anyone else didn't have the time to do.

Getting Tossed

During a hectic morning with wild market swings, I offered to grab lunch for Jack Skiba, the second-in-command behind Chuck Feldman. I told him with a hint of humor that I made a mean salad, watching closely for a response. He grumbled something I couldn't understand before reaching for his wallet.

"I got it." I said, slowly reaching towards my pocket. "Stop it!" he responded, seeing through my empty gesture.

I must have spent 20 minutes making that salad. The tomatoes and onions were perfectly aligned. Grilled chicken danced across the center. A drizzle of dressing tied a bow around the top. It was a masterpiece and I was ready to present it.

I dropped it off on Jack's desk and took my seat next to him, pretending to focus as he passively glanced at my work of art. A few hours later, long after he finished eating, he turned to me and said "Nice salad, kid."

It was my first victory at Morgan Stanley, a ray of light in my otherwise dark days. I realized at that moment that Wall Street was a relationship business. Slaino, Tommy and then Jackson. Slowly but surely, I was gaining sponsorship.

Now, all I needed to do was produce.

As Fate Would Have It

While I was the second or third person on the trading floor each morning, I was the first person on the derivative desk. It was my responsibility to "write up" Chuck's positions and "pare them off" against each another.

Slowly, I was learning. Long stock and short call options were a "buy-write." Long calls and short stock were a "synthetic put." Long put and long stock were a "married put"

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems silly that the world's largest derivative desk had a clueless kid writing up the head trader's risk profile in T-accounts each morning. It's all the more ironic that despite fancy modern day risk management, the derivative machination would eventually implode under its own weight.

One morning while laboring through my daily ritual, a single red blinking light sprung to life. I wasn't supposed to pick up the Cramer wire as he was a customer. I looked at the clock; it was 6:00 AM. The blinking stopped. I was off the hook. And then it began again, and it didn't stop.

"Hello?"

The frenetic voice on the other end of the line didn't seem to notice that it was still dark outside.

"Heeeeeeey, what's going on?!?"

"This is Todd," I said, "Nobody's here yet."

"You new?" he asked, friendly enough but in a quickened pace, "We haven't met yet, I'm Cramer. Whataya think here? What's going on overseas? Do you like 'em? So… Whataya think?"

I looked toward the elevator banks but there weren't any traders around. I swallowed hard and offered an honest take. "I saw better buyers on the desk yesterday. The smarter accounts were getting long for a trade."

"So, do you like 'em?" he again asked, this time in a slightly less friendly tone. I didn't miss a beat. "Yeah, I like 'em."

"I like 'em too!!!" he shot back. Evidently, I had given him the answer he wanted to hear. "I gotta hop-they're gonna rip 'em today. Rip 'em!"
No positions in stocks mentioned.

Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at todd@minyanville.com.

The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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