Whenever you think of a broker you think of this guy. Right?
I mean Gordon Gekko IS Wall Street.
Suspenders and all. Fill out the rest of the picture. Cufflinks. Slick hair. Expensive tie. Ferrgamo slippers if you are really a made guy.
And so, we are all trained to think about this guy whenever we think of a broker.
I’ll never forget the time a friend of mine got his first blue shirt with the white collar. Man, he was on top of the world. It came Fedex. The next morning when he walked into the office, with that shirt on, his demeanor actually changed. And every time thereafter, when we wore that shirt he didn’t take shit from no one. Everyone & everything was beneath him. I wish I was making this stuff up. He’s a Branch Manager now.
Me? I hated having to wear ties. Let me be clear, I don’t hate wearing ties per se (actually I do), I just hate being forced to wear a tie. I probably went into the wrong business I suppose, but I resented it. And my old Branch Manager & I used to do a little dance every couple of months.
See, every morning we’d have a video conference with New York. And every morning the investment banking & research analysts (the people who basically tell us what to buy & not buy) would stroll in on the morning calls rarely wearing ties. Like hardly ever. So, I’d ask my manager about the double standard.
He’d roll his eyes. But I was serious. I’d even go on to cite how our CEO was frequently on morning calls without one. Heck, he’d go on CNBC without one.
He’d get testy, “that’s the CEO…he can do whatever he wants.”
I was always torn about the double standard.
And then he’d LOVE to sum up with the same conclusion every time, “if you don’t look serious, then clients won’t think you’re serious about their money.”
It was catchy. I’d always relent when he pulled that card because I know some people do feel that way, especially the older generation. I even understand that sometimes a tie is the norm. When I’m not in the office, I look like a homeless person some days– but I’m not rolling into your granddaughter’s wedding in my flips flops. I get it. But after hearing him say it for the nth time, I called bullshit and & we locked horns. Here’s why.
It sounds super smart. It looks super cool. They get it. Heck, I want to give them my money…
You see this guy?…
Do know who he is? Probably not. His name is Scott Goodson. He’s the founder of Strawberry Frog. And you’ve probably never heard of them either.
No, they’re not some hip-pop band you have to rush out & buy.
Strawberry Frog (along with Ogilvy & Mather) did the World Wise branding work & marketing campaign for Morgan Stanley. This picture is his corporate headshot.
Scott & company arguably gave Morgan Stanley one of their one of their strongest, most cohesive, and immersive attempts at communicating their brand in the last 20 years. That campaign involved internal messaging, core values work, a total site redesign, verbiage to use when communicating as an employee of the firm, & relayed those values and messages to the employees and clients of their two divisions: Institutional (ie. investment bankers, analysts, as well as institutional & hedge fund brokerage) & Retail (your friendly neighborhood broker) through multiple mediums. They did that commercial.
Do you notice anything about the guy? Besides the epaulet (wikipedia) on his right shoulder (& glasses that would make any hipster jealous)…
Let me help you — no tie.
You see, there’s a double standard we’ve imposed on ourselves. We’ve painted this pretty picture of what Wall Street should be. Ties, suits, cufflinks, big offices, heck– fast cars & faster women. Huge egos– you get the point.
And somehow we think this is what we want. Somewhere we became programmed to think that the person sitting behind that desk across from you, diligently tying on that double windsor & banker smile every morning, is actually a winner because of the way they look. And by association, somehow you are winning too.
And yet, the bankers are taking advice from a guy who looks like Scott. And sure, his advice isn’t about asset allocation, but certainly bankers aren’t idiots about who they take their advice from… they listen to smart people. People who are serious about their money.
And that commercial and all of those words Morgan Stanley & the other Wall Street firms are selling you… They are coming from people like Scott. They are coming from companies called Strawberry Frog. Using voice overs of Jack Bauer spinning you on hometown values.
Like I said, I finally pushed back one day about the tie situation. I showed my manager a picture. I showed him this picture of this guy….
Know who it is?… Ted Bundy. One of the meanest baddest people to walk the earth.
He looks perfectly sane. Perfectly normal. Heck, maybe even smart & nice.
And that’s how bad people get away with their bad things. They aren’t ever wearing the black cowboy hat & twisting their sinister mustache. They look the part; they look exactly how you’ve come to expect. Hello? Bernie Maddoff…
So the next time you go along with the recommendations because the person behind that faux cherry desk is wearing their suit & tie, just remember– appearances aren’t always what they seem.
Listen to my words. Listen to their words. And remember, there is baggage that comes with the persona you’ve been sold.
Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
“People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance of foolishness, they are willing to remain actually fools.”
–Alice Walker, Author of The Color Purple
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