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Memoirs of a Minyan: Sign of the Times


The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

I have no agenda in sharing the details of those professional interactions. As we edged towards the end of 2000, however, I had an intense agenda to finish the year and get our investors and myself paid. He was a living, breathing rollercoaster and I desperately wanted to get off.

As year-end flickered in the distance, we collectively made a decision to trade less, sit on our outsized gains and ride out the calendar. It was a prudent decision; we pared our book to minimal risk and agreed to trade only the very best edges.

Jeff, Matt and I seemed to grasp that concept but as I would quickly learn, it's hard to teach an old dog a new shtick.

When Push Comes to Shove

Our process at Cramer Berkowitz was constant; we walked through our portfolio multiple times each day and manicured our risk profile. We did this through good times and bad, a discipline that sustained us during the wicked crosscurrents in the financial landscape. It was the best way to keep a collection of A.D.D. portfolio managers on the same page during our sensory-overloaded journey.

A funny thing happened with our newfound risk management approach. Positions began to mysteriously appear as we chewed through our skeletal sheets.

While Jim insisted his sources were giving him the wink, Jeff and I would muse and imagine who some of his "sources" might be, via Instant Message.

Genghis Kahn, perhaps?

How about Abe Lincoln?

Maybe Ty Cobb?

It was a little funny and a bit sad but it didn't matter. On a $400,000,000 tank, these positions were rubber bullets that quietly bounced off the armor of our relative performance.

As I looked ahead, I wasn't as ambivalent. We had the makings of a legitimate all-star squad in Jeff, Matt and myself. I had only worked with Jim for one year and while I genuinely cared for him as a person, I no longer had an interest in sitting on the other side of his mood.

Additionally, my grandfather's health began to deteriorate, a sad reality I needed to tend to. Perhaps I was selfish or maybe a bit greedy when I began to calculate what could have been if Jim was removed from the equation.

Once the thought began to germinate, it was difficult to shake. I spoke with Jeff and Matt and shared my intention to leave at the end of the year.

I won't call it a coup but there was clearly dissension in the ranks. Our instant messages flickered quicker and the outside phone calls increased in frequency. Yes, something was definitely afoot as we swallowed the dings of edgeless risk and waffled our way towards year-end.

As the emotional fervor came to a head, Cramer Berkowitz arrived at the fateful day that would forever change our lives.

Click here for next chapter of Memoirs, "Behind Closed Doors"

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