A Bare Sterns Story
Even that would not have mattered very much, because most brokers had already read the Journal, as much as they cared to, before they arrived at the office, and many had copies in their briefcases. But after a couple of weeks of Bruce taking the paper every day, the inevitable happened. Bruce was beginning to come in late habitually. To make up for it he stayed well after the markets closed at 3:30, sometimes even after client hours closed at 5:00. One morning word was going around about a story in the Journal, so one copy was grabbed from the reception room well before the stock market opened. Then, just before it opened, a broker picked up the second copy.
The receptionist did not care much for this guy, Henry, who usually acted as if she did not exist and one time yelled at her for misdirecting a phone call. Without thinking, she said, “You can’t have that one. It’s Mr. Peck’s copy. If you want the other one, Sam Smedfly checked it out. If you get it from him bring it back here when you are done.”
In Sam’s view of the world, money was flying out the window, so he did not argue, but he did wonder who Mr. Peck was.
Male culture is a funny thing, and male broker culture has its own peculiarities. There is little time to talk about wives or girlfriends, religion or politics. Even sports rarely rates a comment unless a bet has been made. But there are lines of communications. Gerry would know if a rumor about IBM bonds were true. If John calls and says get your clients to buy a tech stock, you had better do it. Jack would know if Candice is about to get canned because of that screw up yesterday.
Henry, of course, knew who Mr. Peck was. In reality Henry only knew what he had been told about Bruce when they were introduced on Bruce’s arrival day, but unlike the other brokers he remembered, and he was willing to embellish. “He’s that guy from New York City, got institutional clients, took Ron Green’s place, you remember Ron Green, don’t you?”
Pretty soon there were five things that anyone in the Bare Sterns office who cared to know about Bruce Peck did know. One of the two precious copies of the Wall Street Journal was reserved for him. He had institutional clients, some pretty important ones. He had been transferred in by Headquarters from New York City to keep big institutional investors happy. The receptionist treated him like the most important person in the office, so he probably was. And he was very young, so he must be a stock-picking genius.
Brokers started trying to strike up conversations with him, typical broker conversations. “New York is recommending CPM today. Any thoughts?” Bruce would give them some brush off, typically, “I really have to get to my office.” Exactly how he gave the brush off became subject to interpretation. If he said, “I don’t see that as really for institutional investors,” a stock might plunge a few sixteenths of a point as the San Francisco office recommended selling it. If he said, “Oh yeah, Atari, the game thingy, excuse me, I’ve got to make some calls,” the word went down the line, “Bruce thinks Atari is going to be big.”
Bruce was actually the only person in the office who had the time to read the Wall Street Journal in its entirety every day, if he so choose. So sometimes he just repeated whatever he read in the Journal, without saying whether it meant the stock would go up or down. This built up his credibility. A few times brokers decided to check to see what the Journal had to say about a company, before going with Bruce’s apparent hunches. And they inevitably found out that Bruce was right.
Bruce declined invitations to drink with the guys after work. It would have been too dangerous. They might find out that he was not actually working. But that gave him a reputation for seriousness. And if he would not drink with them, they figured he was drinking or dining with the truly rich. They envied him his Ivy League connections.
At night and on weekends Bruce was having a good time. He had a number of friends, mostly other writers and artists. He was getting a bit of a reputation reading his poetry at open mikes. There were several women he enjoyed being with. But his favorite, if peculiar, mode of friendship was to initiate long walking conversations that dragged into the night. He would invite a friend to join him for dinner. They would begin walking towards some neighborhood Bruce wanted to visit, and they would talk about San Francisco, poetry, stories or whatever. Restaurant after restaurant would be rejected by Bruce in order to keep the conversation and the walk going. At the point where his companion was showing definite signs of rebellion, whatever restaurant came along was exactly what Bruce had been looking for. They ate hungry, so the food was always wonderful.
|III Blog list of articles|