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Hired Full Time in July 1981- The Company Changes on August 4

October 25, 2016

The sixth exclusive for Dynamic Commodities in my series- becoming a commodities trader

Full-time employment at Philipp Brothers began in July 1981. I felt relieved that I would not have to sit through any more classes but at the same time, had the unsettled feeling that I should be in the traffic department learning the nuts and bolts of the commodities business. I wrongly believed that delivering telex messages to the traffic and trading departments of the firm was a menial job that was below me now that I had a college degree.

Over the summers and vacation periods, I had become an expert when it came to all of the firm’s employees in the New York office. The telexes would come into the company via teletype machines on the 23rd floor. They were marked for distribution by commodity and quickly dispatched to the relevant personnel. The marking process involved knowing the initials of those who transacted and arranged for execution of the many deals or trades done each day. At first, I became aware of the hierarchy of each department but I quickly learned the information contained in the messages was the basis for the education I would require to understand the workings of the firm. I asked a lot of questions about the information contained in the telexes, but my coworkers never seemed interested. At times I would ask the friendly traders and traffic people questions, never trying to appear too intrusive or annoying. As I read and investigated, my knowledge grew and I learned about the company’s foreign offices and agents.

The departments were scattered all over the firm that occupied six floors of the McGraw-Hill building on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. The biggest money makers were the precious metals department on the 24th floor and the oil traders who were apart from the rest of the company on the 41st floor. The energy traders were a fiefdom; it took a separate elevator bank from the lobby of the building to reach them.

On the first Monday in August 1981 just weeks after I began my career, news broke that would change the company over the months and years to come. I had no comprehension of the ramifications of a deal that senior management, David Tendler, and Hal Beretz did to acquire Salomon Brothers, the nation’s largest privately owned investment banking firm. The acquisition turned out to be the greatest trade that the two Philipp Brothers leaders ever made. It also planted the seeds of their demise and the destruction of the company that was a family for so many employees.

 

Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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