When Wall Street Was Fun

As world financial markets toss and turn following the U.S. sub-prime mortgage meltdown, I can’t help but think the bogus products that led to this mess where the result of a toxic culture. From the retail point of view, I recently reacted to how far customer trust has declined.

Soldier on Wall Street

On a recent morning, in a meeting at a giant bank on Wall Street, I was killing time talking with an old timer and heard some of the employee side of the story. He waxed nostalgically about how fun Wall Street was in the 1960’s and 70’s. They worked hard, but it was fun. The transactions were simpler, the lines between right and wrong were more clear, at lunch they played football in front of the stock exchange, and bonuses would be paid in cash by the boss. Now the products are so complicated the banks don’t understand their own risk exposure, the workplace atmosphere is contentious, and Wall Street is barricaded and guarded by the military brandishing machine guns. Culture begets products, and the culture is sick.

Photo credit: Jennifer Szymaszek, AP