Almost every morning I take the elevator up to my office. It’s on the fifth floor.
I could walk the stairs, and do somedays. Usually though, it’s only when I want to avoid a crowd stopping at every floor. Otherwise, the modern convenience of standing still & levitating suits me just fine.
I do however love racing down the stairs. I’m still 11 years old when I get that chance. I love to see how fast I can get my feet to shuffle down them. People stare, I don’t care.
Working on Wall Street though, you pretty much get used to elevators. They usually keep the offices high above the street & riff raff. And after a while the Otis stamp on the elevator floor becomes your doormat. It becomes a way of life. Stairs aren’t really something we seek out. To the Penthouse, please.
In fact, it’s so ingrained in our culture, we make up stuff like, “every night the assets go down the elevator”, meaning the people who work there.
And about two weeks ago, I was walking through the lobby to the elevator & I could see him. The futures were down big. When the market opened it was going to be an instant blood bath. He was agitated, patting his hand on his pants leg.
The elevator was really slow coming down. He checked his watch twice. It was 6am.
The market had already hemorrhaged enough in the days before for everyone to be a bit more sullen. But he looked really sad.
At this point, I’d known only a little bit about him from another friend in my office who is a metals trader (and loving it). My metals trader friend tells me for the last 5 days this sullen Advisor has been rushing into his office, two or three times now, asking him what he’s doing. “Dude, I’m a metals trader…” Asking him what the charts are telling him. My friend, Heavy Metal, told me the Advisor was literally patting the sweat from his forehead, pacing around.
The elevator was unusually slow going up that day. He checked his watch again.
Then he looked over at me, “This is no way to live.” “This is crazy…”
I knew he needed some cheering up. So I pulled out the classic.
“Yeah, well you know what they say about stocks, they take the stairs up & the elevator down…”
He laughed– poker face intact. And we went to our separate offices.
Five days later the market bounced nicely. And the elevator ride up was just a bit perkier that day.
He smiled — looked over & said, “You know, I need to thank you– I took what you told me that morning & passed it along to my clients…”
I said, “Really? What did I say?” (OMG, please man, tell me — what did you tell them was said? …I knew I should have just looked down at the floor! …Why couldn’t I have just kept the earbuds in?!)
He said, “I took your story & explained how I manage their portfolios…”
“Oh Boy, this is going to be good.”
And it was. It was a great story, needing not only the five floors but fifteen more minutes (including following me into the bathroom). It was a fantastic story with color and action — characters even. I just can’t tell you what it meant.
Basically, after a very elaborate build-up– it was about how some companies are good companies and they go down but they don’t go down as much and so we sell the ones that go down more, and buy the other better companies– that don’t go down as much.” And somewhere there were guards at each of the floors making the decisions, I think those were his mutual fund managers.
I was numb.
He’d never heard The Elevator analogy before. How is that possible?! I mean isn’t that required in stockbroker school?
So, now I had to know. How bad was this?
“Sounds interesting, tell me a little about your practice…”
He was “70% stocks 30% bonds” for most of his people… retirees. No commodities. A few index funds for sectors (oh boy).
They’re paying him 1.5% a year. “Mostly to pick mutual funds & buy stocks” (presumably good ones).
I asked if he had a sell discipline. “No, not really.” “Buy & hold good stuff.” “Over the long haul.”
I saw him again this week, the day after the really big drop. Can’t remember which one. I do remember it was the one he wasn’t in the office for. I assume he was unable to leave his bed in fear.
He’s sullen again. And I am too…
Thinking about those poor people on The Elevator.
On A Lighter Note:
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