The Elevator

Almost every morning I take the elevator up to my office. It’s on the fifth floor.

I could walk the stairs, and I do some days. 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 the chance. I love to see how fast I can get my feet to shuffle down. People stare, I don’t care.

Working on Wall Street, you pretty much get used to elevators. They usually keep the offices high above the street and riff-raff. 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, the elevator is so ingrained in our culture, we make up stuff like, “every night the assets go down the elevator”, meaning the people who work there.

About two weeks ago, I was walking through the lobby to the elevator. I could see him standing there. Waiting.

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 co-working space who is a metals trader.

My metals trader friend tells me for the last five days this sullen Advisor has been rushing into his office, two or three times a day, asking him what he’s doing.

“Dude, I’m a metals trader…”

This guy was asking him, “What are the charts telling you?” My friend, Heavy Metal, told me the advisor was literally patting the sweat from his forehead.

Like I said, the elevator was unusually slow that morning. He checked his watch again. 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 a Wall Street elevator classic.

“Yeah, well you know what they say about stocks… they take the stairs up, and the elevator down.” He laughed — poker face intact. We went on our separate ways.

Five days later…

The market bounced nicely. And the elevator ride up that morning, with him on board, was…perkier.

He smiled — looked over and 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? …
I KNEW I should have just looked down at the floor! …
WHY? Why did I not just keep the earbuds in?!

He said, “I took your story & explained how I manage their portfolios…”

“Oh Boy, this is going to be good.”

It was. It was an amazing story, needing not only the five floors of the elevator ride up — 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 any of 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– ones that don’t go down as much.”

And somewhere in the plot — 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 that elevator analogy before. How is that possible?! I mean isn’t that required in stockbroker school? Stairs up, elevator down…

So now, I had to know.

How bad is this?… I said, “Sounds interesting, tell me a little about your practice…”

He was “70% stocks 30% bonds” for most of his people… retirees. In 2008.  He was smart though — he had a “few index funds for sectors” (oh boy).

His clients are paying him 1.5% a year. “Mostly to pick mutual funds & buy stocks” (presumably the good ones).

I asked if he had a sell discipline. “No, not really….”

“Over the long haul.”

I saw him again this week, the day after the REALLY big drop in the market.

He’s on the elevator again — sullen, again. And I am too…

Thinking about those poor people riding on his elevator.

 

 

On A Lighter Note:

Real Men Of Genius: Mr. Complicated Technical Chart Guy

Deflecting Bullets 

Your StockBroker: The Alpha

Full Disclosure: Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities, please see my Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer. And keep your earbuds in on elevators.

Full Disclosure: Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities, please see my Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer.

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