Plaid Green Jackets But No Hookers

My time on the Philly version of Wall Street.

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Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

This is the first installment in a series chronicling my journey through Wall Street — Philly style.

I spent 23 years chasing the Wall Street dream. I worked my way up from being a clerk to becoming a Financial Advisor. I worked at various big-name firms like the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch, Vanguard and a couple of smaller firms too. I started out working in the back offices upstairs of the Philly Stock Exchange as a Bearer Bonds Clerk. You know — the big sheets of paper that had little coupons you cut off and sent back to your broker to get your interest payments.

It was interesting work, but I had my sights set on something way bigger than that. I wanted to work on the trading floor with the big boys downstairs in the basement. I was told that they built the trading floor in the basement to keep people from jumping out of the windows if they lost a lot of money. I don’t know if that is really true, but at the time I believed it.

I was a very ambitious young lady. I grew up in a working-class household where none of us knew anything about money or the stock market, but I learned about it in college. I wanted to work down there in that basement so bad that I and another coworker spent almost every lunch break walking around on the trading floor trying to figure out who was hiring. You were allowed to do that then because security wasn’t as strict as it is today. Early summer of that year I got lucky. One of the market maker firms needed a token — oops, — I mean a trade match clerk.

The trade match clerk position was in 1987 before everything became computerized and automated, so the market makers still hand wrote their trades on little paper tickets. My job was to reconstruct an equity options trade, “matching up” both sides of the trade using the tickets, a little intuition, logic and chutzpah. I had to be able to read an equity options trade backwards. I also needed the chutzpah because sometimes the market makers (the guys wearing the crazy colored jackets) tried to DK a trade (don’t know) if later on they didn’t like the way the market was moving. Many a day I had to go toe to toe with big swaggering dudes who had little to no respect for women and…

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Born to create pretty things, forced to keep a day job!