Stuff Bosses Have Said

Tyler Durden's picture

In 26 years on Wall Street, Nic Colas of ConvergEx, has worked for seven firms and reported to nine different people.  His insights make up a highlight reel of things those people have told him which have stuck in his memory over the years (for better or worse) and seemed worth sharing with a broader audience.  The most insightful: “Don’t make this game harder than it has to be.”  From the same boss, the most motivating: “Someone is getting the information before you.  Why don’t I fire you and hire them?”  On customer service: “What am I? A pimp?  Get me a black car.”  And possibly the most important for someone who makes their living serving the investment community on the sell-side: “Do you know what it means when a dog shows well?”


I have had the good fortune to make a living on Wall Street for just over 25 years, and during that time I have reported to nine different bosses.  All of them have held the reins with a light hand, but they all have at some point passed along some wisdom that has stuck in my head.  Today’s note is a compendium of their most notable sayings, with a brief explanation of the featured aphorism as well as a little context around them.


“We clean our trays.”

Like many investment professionals of my generation, I started during the great mutual fund boom of the 1980s.  My first job was in the customer service department of what is now one of the largest fund companies in the world, sitting in the mail room looking for checks from brokers to buy either a mortgage securities, small cap stock, or technology fund.  That was the extent of the offering at the time, which gives you a sense of how early the firm was in the development of its mutual fund offerings.


My first boss came out of the transfer agency world, and he spent most of his time on the road visiting the operations departments of our broker customers.  He was what we would now call an “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” neat freak, and the first thing he would do when boarding a plane was to check the cleanliness of his tray table.  If it wasn’t spotless, he would spend the rest of the flight worrying that the requisite airplane maintenance hadn’t been done properly.  His unofficial motto for our operation was “We clean our trays.”  We managed to stop him from putting that on the corporate t-shirts, thankfully.  The idea that little things matter did, however, stick with me.


“Do you know what it means when a dog shows well?”

After three years tending to mutual fund shareholders, including the 1987 crash, I went off to business school with an eye to getting a job in stock research.  At the time, the best sell-side firm for this discipline was the old Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette.  So in my second year of business school I ended up at DLJ’s offices in Manhattan interviewing with their head of equity sales.


I asked him what he looked for in a research analyst.  I expected to hear quantifiable attributes like deep fundamental understanding of their industry, or a real edge in accounting and financial modeling.  Instead, he asked me if I had ever been to a dog show.  I said yes.  He then explained that he was looking for people that “Showed well” – basically energetic presenters who enthusiastically engaged the client base.  I still embrace that message to this day, even though the canine comparison is a bit off-putting, to say the least. I never did get to work at DLJ – they ended up not hiring the year I came out of business school.  But this quote is too good to pass up, so I include it here.


“What am I?  A pimp?  Get me a black car.”

My eventual employer was First Boston, where I covered the auto industry.  One of the dirty secrets of the sell-side analyst world is that you spend considerable time tending to corporate management while carting them around to see clients.  Even the most laid-back CEO or CFO still likes to be treated well, and I learned that this means wildly different things to different people.


While traveling in Milan with one management team, the limo company sent us an old Bentley sedan in shining pearlescent white.  The CFO took one look at it, and asked if I thought he ran an escort service on the side.  He didn’t like the car, and even after a long flight from the States he was unwilling to ride in a conveyance unbefitting a U.S. corporate chieftain.  Half an hour and several frantic calls later, an ancient black Lincoln showed up (Lord knows why a Milanese car company has such a car) and all was good again.  But the lesson of “Know your customer” is a deep and occasionally unfathomable river, to be sure.


“You will make a lot of money, but you’ll be very unhappy.”

When I told my last boss at First Boston that I was going to a highly successful hedge fund, he shook his head like I was a puppy who had just soiled an expensive carpet.  “You won’t be happy there.  You are essentially a happy person.  You’ll be around very rich guys who are miserable all day long.  You are going to make more money than you can imagine, but you will regret this decision.”


At the time I could not fathom the notion that money and happiness were anything but happy bedfellows.  But he was more right than wrong.  I learned more about the markets and investing in six months in my new job than I had in nine years as a sell-side analyst.  At the same time, the all-consuming nature of the job fulfilled his prophecy.  Your job has to fulfill a whole range of personal requirements as well as pay the mortgage.


“Don’t make things harder than they have to be.”

“Early is the same as wrong.”

“I can make more money; I can’t make more time.”

“Some is getting this information before you.  Why don’t I fire you and hire them?”

All these quotes come from the same secretive multi-billionaire hedge fund manager who was my next boss.  What he taught everyone in the room was that information is only investable when it comes early and is different from what the market believes.  In that respect, managing money is a simple task.  Making this mandate more nuanced is a waste of time.  And more time is the one thing even a billionaire cannot buy.  Truly actionable information is hard to get, and it is the only job of anyone interested in running money.


“Dentist and doctors are lousy investors.”

After the hectic pace of the first hedge fund, I went to a second one, managed by a highly pedigreed value manager.  One of the deep dark secrets of the hedge fund world is that every manager needs two edges – how to manage money effectively, and how to get investors whose needs fit that investment approach.  Easier said than done, that second one, and in many ways just as difficult as the first.  His target audience was doctors and dentists, for he found that even the most accomplished medical groups were full of woefully incompetent investors.  My boss was not a smooth presenter for all his investment acumen.  But he came across as someone you could trust, and that was enough for his target investors.


The lesson here is that success comes in many forms.  Every hedge fund manager of any note has hundreds of meetings with potential investors on their way to their first $1 billion in assets under management.  The clever ones know that there are pockets of capital – some of them very deep indeed – that go under-serviced.  Who needs the smart New York based fund of funds when there is a successful dental practice in Islip with $25 million to invest or a group of dermatologists in Houston with $100 million burning a whole in their pockets?


“Everyone can be a real estate agent for one year.  It’s the second one that kills them.”

This last one comes from my current boss, and I am still surprised as to the number of circumstances to which this aphorism applies.  His point is that many businesses get off the ground with one trick.  For a real estate agent, it might be combing through their personal contacts for likely customers.  When they exhaust that pipeline of customers, likely with some early success, they have nothing in the bag to sustain the business in year two.


The underlying problem is one of competitive advantage, the most underappreciated challenge in everything from stock analysis to personal development.  Developing an edge as a company means finding your best advantages, honing them, communicating them to everyone from employees to investors, and forgetting everything else.  Can’t make more time, as the hedge fund manager boss told me.  As an individual, the lesson is essentially the same.  

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tempo's picture

Unemployment rate in Spain 23.6%!!  Unemployment rate in all EU countries (ex Germany) are rising as fast as AAPL stock.  Something gotha give.

Colombian Gringo's picture

It is giving, we just need to pay attention.

Oh regional Indian's picture

It's given. Already.

But it's such a beautiful mirage, we, collectively, cannot let it go!



Further Thoughts...

Stuck on Zero's picture

Unemployment rate in U.S. 22% (ShadowStats).  Our government is less honest.

AnAnonymous's picture

Or both are as honest/dishonest and Spain's unemployment situation is worse than officially reported.

Hint: both governments are driven by US citizenism.

crazyjsmith's picture

Hey retarded Confucius(AnAnonymous), Cognitive Disonance is NOT an American invention. It is ingrained into the human spirit. Ever think it is you that lacks perspective?

As Yoda would tell you, let go of your hate, it is clouding your mind. Your droning drivel is getting old.

Collectivism (Chinese citenzenism) vs. Individualism (US citizenism) is what I would love to see you debate , A hole anonymous.

Marc_W's picture

The bottom quintile in any highly optimized industrial society is completely worthless.  Between out sourcing, off shoring, H1B visa workers, and automation; the lowest quintile of society in terms of IQ and ability has no place in modern capitalist society.


Hence the hand outs via various welfare schemes that are essentially bribes to the lowest quintile to not commit crimes and otherwise burden their superiors with assaults.


The problems start when you extend these socialist welfare programs beyond the bottom 20% and start enabling otherwise capable persons to be idle, as is observed in Europe.

bankonzhongguo's picture

Or bailing out bankrupt banks and other corporates.


Umh's picture

And bailing out bankrupt banks and other corporates.

Ranger4564's picture

Wrong. The only reason some people end up at the bottom is because society is constructed / organized in a way that creates the immense disparity in means, methods and results.  Hence the Pyramid symbology.  You're not exceptional, you're just lucky you didnt fit within the lower quintile net.

I think I need to buy a gun's picture

The fiat dollar leads to alot of productive jobs, a very loyal citizenry and free market capitalism at its best

SgtSchultz's picture

I recall "Work like nobody will for a year and live like nobody else can for the rest of your life"

derek_vineyard's picture

I would tell my qualified employees . "if i never talk to you, you know you are doing a good job"

tom a taxpayer's picture

What she said: “Early is the same as wrong.”

Ben Bernanke: “I can make more money; I can’t make more time.”

Cartagena lady: “Don’t make things harder than they have to be.”

dwdollar's picture

I'm fucking sick of the Wall Street "guru" who's seen the light routine...

It's easy to play the nice guy when you got fiat money spurting out your ass in retirement.

Let's hear some stories about productive people... Oh wait... They were destoryed long ago by the un-free market.

Marc_W's picture

Correct.  Those struggling in the true private sector are too busy trying to make ends meet to get all philosophical about things.  Only those that are part of the fascist government-industrial system have the wealth, education, and spare time to really think things through.


So don't judge them too harshly.  After all, it is the consicenscious insider that often sees the flaws first.  Those on the outside don't have the information to really make a proper judgment of the situation.  From the outsider perspective (maybe a laborer or small farmer) in Nazi Germany even the SchutzStaffel (SS) must have seemed a legitimate construct.


In fact, perhaps with all of these banker/federal government whistle blowers it is time for the the sheeple to consider that perhaps our rulers do not have our best interests in mind after all.

Ranger4564's picture

The people who work for HomelandSecurity (HS) surely feel equally justified upholding criminally immoral / illegal policies... i don't have pity for those who choose to weild power but don't reflect on the conditions they're imposing.  Fuck 'em.

francis_sawyer's picture

 "I'm fucking sick of the Wall Street "guru" who's seen the light routine..."


Ditto... It's like some idiot Hollywood actor who sucked somebody's cock, became famous for some stupid role in a movie that nobody even went to, now wants to grace everyone with their political views...

slaughterer's picture

Most of these Wall Streeters who have since seen the light pine after a meaningful life building bridges, and saving lives in the ER...   Aww... silly little pups... don't they know that their industry eliminated all meaning from the world already a long time ago?

Ranger4564's picture

Maybe in a few more years, maybe, you will realize that "productive" is not a prerequisite for being considered a human being or for being allowed to express opinions.  It's all a corruption.  The economy was ever only meant to be a means of organizing social exchanges. It was not meant to be an avenue for exploitation, and it wasn't intended to be cherished in an of itself.

This article is sickening precisely because it reveals many people guilty of participating in the destruction of our humanity do not still understand their culpability.  The same can be said for many of the readers. 

Vendetta's picture

So very true.  I always found it strangely odd that in order for someone to 'build a nest egg' for retirement it was so heavily promoted to invest in a plethora of 'diversified portfolios' because the money a person earns devalues so much during a person's working life that they have to invest in something that returns enough so their money doesn't become worth so much less they cannot retire comfortably.  Then the markets are manipulated or controlled or driven into sector bubbles where private equity funds and the other beasts out there makes a killing then get out before the crash  and the average worker saving for retirement gets their clock cleaned in their 'diversified' portfolio's. 


Atomizer's picture



Basel's monstrous regulatory mistake 

Learn the collaspe crisis game spun.... 

2007| Basel II Impact on Operational Risk 

T3 minus, T2 minus, T1 minus... Tits in the media will shelter your mental exposure.

Mentaliusanything's picture

Dentists and Demitioligists with that much profit to invest. 

Obummer is going to have a hard time reigning in these cowboys of overcharging 

I mean really --- $100 million from skin conditions, fuck no wonder your insurance is bloated.

Time for a very sharp knife to cut away the fat thats milking the system.

Raymond Reason's picture

Funny thing about dermatologists.  Hydrogen peroxide taken orally will solve all skin conditions including skin cancer in two weeks, and would put them all out of business.  It would also eliminate the need for periodontists.  But we have to make this game harder than it has to be. 

Havana White's picture

"Skin conditions."  Haha.  Dope.

FrankDrakman's picture

Thought provoking and enlightening. Thanks, Tyler.

Marc_W's picture

I'm a native born U.S. citizen whose family lineage on both sides can be traced back hundreds of years to Europe.


I have served in the U.S. military, with all the access to information that implies.


I am leaving this country within a matter of months and moving to the "land of my ancestral heritage", never to return.  The U.S. is now a fascist totalitarian police state.  The merger of state and corporate power is complete.  See Freidrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" to understand exactly where America is at this juncture.

Mercury's picture

By all means, saddle-up the unicorn.  Europe awaits! - where the money is sound, the spreads are tight and the demographics are so pretty.

Where the fuck are you going...Camelot?

Marc_W's picture

Still debating between Europe and Australia.  On the one hand Australia is a part of the Anglo global empire and its fate is thus tied to all other anglo nations (US/UK/CA/AU/NAZ - the Five Eyes of Echelon).  Not to mention Australia is a more advanced police state than even the U.S.  On the other hand, I am a native English speaker with job skills (and a financial need to work) relevant to the Anglo world.  However, it is clear that the E.U. respects the rights and privacy of its citizens far more than any of the Anglo nations.  All members of the Anglosphere are high-tech surveillance based totalitarian regimes.  I would not raise a family in the Anglosphere because my children would end up as slaves just like their father.  However, as a non-family oriented person parts of the Anglosphere are still attractive areas for relocation (primarily Australia for a variety of reasons).


Most likely I will take 6 months off of working to burn my $60,000 in credit cards to travel around Australia and Europe before choosing.  Obviously that $60,000+ in credit card debt will never be repaid.  That is the plan.  I hope the banks choke on it.


I've already begun running up my credit cards and making minimum monthly payments.  The plan of escape from the North American gulag is already in its execution phases.

Mercury's picture

Is this Timmy Geithner?

Dingleberry's picture

sounds like a plan! But I'll don't think you will find more liberty in either of those places having spent much time there. In fact, quite the opposite. And you can forget about free speech. And prepare to send half or more of your wages to the Queen or the German ECB. Good food and skinny bitches though.

Marc_W's picture

Free speech is an illusion of the fascist American police state.  Just one more "constitutional right" that the fascist American police state has flushed down the toilet.  Sure, you can nominally say whatever you wish, but all telecommunications are monitored for dissenters and dissenters are put on watch lists whereupon their telecommunications and financial records are monitored for abberations.  So just how "free" are you?


Just free enough to hang yourself with with the short length of rope that your masters have allowed you.


I will exercise my "free speech" via TOR and other technical anonymization techniques because I realize that in the high tech surveillance based police states of the Anglosphere "free speech" is only as free as you can make it via technical anonymization means.  A person like me as is free in communist China as he is in fascist America.  You sheeple cannot comprehend my statements because you do not understand just how far down the fascist road your anglo nations truly are.


You and your children will deserve your fate when the time comes.

Lednbrass's picture

Good luck. In Europe you will never fit in. One does not become German or French, you either are or arent. You say your ancestors come from there- do you speak the language of whatever country you intend on going to fluently? Unless you are recent enough to have family over there, you arent going to be welcomed as some returning cousin.

I think you will find very little support.  When things unwind as they inevitably must you will be an outsider, have no illusions on that.

Raymond Reason's picture

He won't fit in with the natives, but ex-pats usually hang out with other ex-pats. 

Raymond Reason's picture

But as far as the credit cards.....there is such a thing as karma.  Its gonna get the bankers, and it will knock you right on your head. 

Marc_W's picture

"What goes around, comes around."  Right?  Sheep?


That is the morality of the slaves.  You believe in some kind of magical divine justice while those who reject your slave morality trample you into the dirt all your pathetic lives.


Are you one of those stupid cunts driving around in a shit-mobile with a bumper sticker that says, "my Mercedes is in heaven"?  Fucking pathetic.


Slave morality.  There is no karma in the sense that you imply.  And in the REAL sense of the Buddhist use of the word "karma" I see no possible down side from running up massive credit card debt and skipping the country.  You act as if I haven't done my home work.  Oh but I have.  And my 800 FICO score didn't build itself.


And the banks can go fuck themselves once I burn this credit on my world tour and then refuse to pay.

dogbreath's picture

been her 9 whole week and ya pegged us to a T

Lednbrass's picture

And if things get ugly and those nations destabilize (which looks increasingly likely), they will all hang together in a very literal sense.

Marc_W's picture

I never "fit in" to the zealous Zionist American fascist police state either.  From the day I decided the Baptist lies I was fed as a child were bull shit through today, I've never "fit in" with the Anglo sphere's totalitarian fascist police state.  I love neither the NFL nor Jesus, so just how much do you think I "fit in" with Americana?


Given my IQ and capacity for learning, I'm sure could master a second language relatively quickly.  However, you are correct in that it would present a moderate challenge.  And after scoring in the top 3% in the English and writing sections of the GRE, why throw that away to become mediocre at a second language?  If all I want to do is live a hedonistic life while refusing to breed the next generation of slaves then it is optimal for me to move to another principality of the global Anglo empire that is slightly less of a fascist police state than the U.S.


And so it shall be.  I will have plenty of pop corn stock piled while I watch American descend into chaos and burn from over seas.

dogbreath's picture

You will always be "here".  lots of people think thant things are better "over there" but when they get there they will be "here".   You sound kinda young, still in that rebellion against my mother/father phase.   No doubt there is lots of BS to sort out in life.   I'm still doing it.   Good luck and I hope you find what you are looking for.  You are not smart by running up that debt on your credit cards.  IT will follow you.  The only ones who will win that game are the ones that will die oweing the debt and the esate is broke. 

I think there are lots of decent jobs in alaska or the yukon where you could save up some cash to achieve the same end, IMHO.  


stacking12321's picture

"Given my IQ and capacity for learning..."

not to mention your modesty, humility, and your obvious charm & charisma which cause you to be univerally loved by all!

Vendetta's picture

I already did such a 'plan' except for the run up CC debt part.  It wasn't all that pleasant even though I was living in some beautiful islands and the snorkeling, beaches, and rain forests were awesome.  Ended up leaving and coming back to fascist amerika.  Intelligence makes little difference, the culture(s) are a stronger force.  Decided it was easier to be anonymous in huge country where there are 300 plus million, and I know the culture despite the govt state having gone rogue.

skepticCarl's picture


Sounds like you've thought this through, and have a solid plan.

I suggest that you look for a country that doesn't use a central bank, or fractional reserve lending.  Also, search for one has a gold backed currency.  Hopefully, you'll find a country that respects the right to firearms, as well.

I don't see any downside to your future!

Marc_W's picture

In a nation devoid of savage brown people firearms are not a necessity of life.  While I currently own many firearms and possess the capacity to use them effectively, in a non-violent, homogeneous white nation they would be unnecessary.  It is the savagry of blacks and other mud people that necessitates the ownership of firearms in America.  Check the violent crime rates of white nations and get back to me on that.


As for the rest, these are issues "above my pay grade."  You arm chair philosophers and economists need to accept your own irrelevance.  You can rile against central banks, fractional reserve lending, and fiat currency all you want, but you are still slaves to the system.  I acceptr that.  Hopefully someday you will to.  Instead of burying your life's savings in silver somewhere on your pathetic 2 acres of land in some shitty part of America that nobody else wants to live in.


You sound like another of the "doomer boomers" that is going to be dead soon.  If you're over the age of 50 your opinion really doesn't matter.  You'll be dead soon enough while I will be feasting on wine, fine food, and pussy in Australia over these next 30 years.

Likstane's picture

I think you will be as miserable there as you are here, especially after your credit cards go flat and your "marketable skills" and monster IQ get you as far as my shitbag Cadillac on 2 gal of gas.