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Keeping My Head Down And Working Hard- Firings Intensify

Keeping My Head Down and Working Hard- Firings Intensify

November 2, 2016

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

After Rick Velayo had departed Mildred’s department, a couple of other trainees arrived on the scene and moved on ahead of me. Each time a permanent position went to someone else, Mildred would give me a pep talk about perseverance and hard work. I kept thinking to myself, at least I was not delivering telexes anymore and if I could wait it out something would eventually come my way.

Mildred had become a different person from the day I arrived as she warmed to me and, things in the company began to swirl around her little area like a tornado. The interrogations turned to friendly chats, and when another round of cutbacks hit Philipp Brothers, she shared that it would not be long before she too would be asked to leave. I took on whatever work came in, and I asked many questions of the woman who had seen so much over the course of her career. I began to feel sorry for Mildred, but I knew little about her. She never shared any information about her husband or whether she had children or grandchildren. All I knew is that she lived in the borough of Queens, a thirty-minute train ride from the center of the bustling metropolis which was the worldwide headquarters of the biggest and most influential commodity trading company in the world.

The first big round of layoffs claimed over one hundred victims. Traders, traffic clerks, and support staff were let go on one memorable day in 1983. I remember watching as those leaving and those staying were in tears as the family they had known, in some cases, for decades was breaking apart. Philipp Brothers was having a tough time making profits as the commodity markets became mired in a bear market that would last for many years.

Those who departed were given one month’s severance for each year of service and an amount equal to their previous year’s bonus. The bonus was an important component of compensation each year, for many it amounted to multiples of annual salary. In the most profitable years during the late 1970s and 1980, Philipp Brothers paid its employees several bonuses within the year. However, those days seemed long ago. I began to fear for my job as Mildred became more reflective and prepared for losing her own. I kept my head down, worked hard and hoped for the best as the firings passed and rumors of another round filtered through the company and became the primary focus of many who had so far survived.

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Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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