8 Million Stories: Going Broker

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:11

    “Danny,” Andrew said in a coarse tone, his eyes staring at the zigzag graph image of the day’s stock market on his computer screen, “how long has David been in there with that piker?”

    David was a junior advisor, and a “piker” was the name given to clients worth less than a minute of your time.

    “I’d say at least 45 minutes or so,” I replied.


    A moment later Andrew, short and stout with slicked back, gelled black hair, pushed open the brass door handle of David’s office, interrupting his meeting.

    Andrew removed the scared look from the face of the old lady inside, easing the tension from her grip on her life savings. Andrew had done it again. And fast. He’d managed to turn the seemingly complicated financial jargon into simple language. He’d managed to gain the trust of someone he just met.

    That’s my older brother Andrew; he’s the head Financial Advisor of a prestigious investment firm. It was the summer before my senior year of college, and I was in New York City interning for him.

    My first day of work, Andrew took me to John Allan’s, a men’s grooming bordello. From the outside, the place appeared small and narrow. It was a members-only place and a camera watched the door. Someone buzzed us in. On the other side, men in fancy suits—wearing cufflinks and their initials stitched into their dress shirts—immediately surrounded me. There was a pool table and big-screen TVs hung from the ceiling. Right away a hot blonde grabbed my coat and asked me if I was getting the full service.

    I looked to my brother for assurance. Andrew introduced me as his guest and nodded to her.

    Full service, despite the hand-jobby name, meant a shampoo followed by five minutes of relaxation on a vibrating massage chair with a hot towel on my forehead, a haircut from another hot blonde, a manicure and drinks. After they finished, I was given a shoeshine while I read the complimentary Wall Street Journal and acted like I cared about big business. I then understood why people wanted to be bankers.

    Later that day, Andrew took me to an underground strip club. We entered an old building in lower Manhattan; there was graffiti on the walls and mold growing from the ceiling. We went up the elevator and a hulking Eastern European bouncer carrying a pistol motioned to Andrew that we could walk past. I followed my brother to the cashier, a stripper who kissed him on the check. He flashed his VIP card and said I was his guest.

    I scanned the area. There were no stripper polls or disco balls, just a wide area full of half-naked girls giving lap dances. Feeling powerful myself, I grabbed the wrist of a long-legged redhead, the best-looking girl there. She was apparently on break, filling up her Styrofoam plate with leftover rice and beef, but I didn’t care. Without saying a word, I started walking to a nearby bench, implying that I wanted a lap dance. Andrew later told me that he’d had a dance from every girl there.

    Once a week, a wholesaler invited the financial advisors out to dinner at a five-star restaurant. I kept my mouth shut and tagged along.

    “We can’t sit here,” the wholesaler said as if he owned the place, referring to a booth. “We need a private table upstairs.”

    We ordered 45-ounce New York strip steaks, desserts we couldn’t pronounce and tried three different types of rich, red wine. Andrew and the wholesaler argued over who was considered a whale client. “Two million is a double play; anything over is a home run,” said my brother. After dinner, we raided the clubs and bars. Everyone drank Ketel One and soda. It tasted bitter to me, but I drank it anyway.

    Every morning, my brother would lead a meeting of the financial advisors. He’d go over the progress or mishaps from the previous day and touch on goals for the week. Everyone there would be gathered in a huddle. The meetings would end with Andrew giving an inspirational pep talk, leaving his team feeling pumped and ready to tackle the fickle pendulum of the stock market. Even though I was never told to, I’d take notes of the meetings and type them up afterward to hand them out. No one ever commented on the notes.

    That summer, I wanted to be like my brother. He lived a gangster life with a corporate budget, and I had just gotten a taste of it. I admired his high-level position at the company: his success and his ability to sell people. But I came to realize his success came because of sacrifice.

    Success is maintained with pressure. The pressure takes control of him and motivates him to make more money. Because of this, Andrew never slows down. He never sighs.

    That was then, this is now. Today the market is for shit and clients are more worried than ever. Imagine a grumpy old man taking a 50-grand hit to his retirement fund and convincing him not to pull his money out. Even driving down the street I grew up on, I see all the big signs on banks that don’t even exist anymore. Now it scares me.

    That summer, all I wanted to do was take my brother’s place. Now I’m not so sure. As great as the massages, strip clubs and expensive cuts of meat were, I don’t envy Andrew so much anymore.