A TALE OF BLACK WALL STREET
I was prompted to write this after reading, The Only One In The Room, an article about being Black on Wall Street published by Bloomberg. It's an interesting, albeit long, article that provides insight into and personal stories about the illustrious, and sometimes dreadful, Wall Street experience.
I’m known to tout my own experience as the first time I encountered a true meritocracy. The best part was being paid for my value both individually and as part of a team.
I started at Deutsche Bank as an assistant to a very powerful managing director, also Black, coming off of my COO position with Reggie White and briefly practicing law, a member of the PA and NJ state bars.
I was referred by a very talented and highly accomplished friend, Mr. Trevor Freeland, also Black, a Fuqua B school grad, who was charged with finding an equally qualified replacement so that he could move on to a position he was readily credentialed for. You see, Wall Street is very much about earning your way in, showing what you’re willing to do and sacrifice, ego included.
The MD I worked for, a Goldman Sachs alumnus, was extremely successful, internationally known, unapologetic, insanely intelligent, tough, and also happened to be Black. I got the job as the assistant to this take no prisoners guy because I was overqualified for the position and just might be, with a big maybe, qualified for the next.
Looking back on it, I realize how important his decision and my placement was. I fell into the biggest opportunity of my life, at that point, having no idea what I was getting into, how valuable my seat was or how profound the opportunity and the moment. One internationally recognized Black MD and not one, but two, extraordinarily talented Black "assistants" hand selected by him sent a powerful message to that bank and Wall Street at large.
I did everything from making lunch reservations at Le Bernardin to mailing skis to remote villages in Italy to putting together presentations. I committed to that post for a year and clawed my way out to get a seat on the institutional trading desk. I marketed myself to the Board members, having easy access to them because of my job, and was well liked. For whatever reason, the MD did not want to let me go. I didn’t stop. I’m sure he knew I wouldn’t. That may have been part of the game plan. I know for sure it built my character and expanded my fortitude.
I gained my seat on the institutional desk after a request from one of the greats who’d previously been the head of the fixed income floor, Mr. Frank Aeillo. Guard changes can be a nightmare on Wall Street and positioning is everything. He had no intention on taking no for an answer and I knew that.
I hobnobbed with the new worldwide hires in London for training and launched my formal Wall Street career. I worked on the same floor with Trevor and my MD, though in a different division. I felt a sense of pride, comfort and camaraderie seeing them daily. Given my background of typically being the only or one of a few Black people in an environment, it was meaningful and even more so on Wall Street.
As I write this, I realize why the original article was so long as this is just the beginning of my complex story. I find myself recognizing nuances I never gave much thought to, the biggest being the opportunity I was given to step foot on that sacred ground as a Black woman without an MBA who was simply and naively interested in learning what it was all about.
I realize I owe quite a bit to my original MD and any animosity I ever held was misplaced. Thank you, Kevin Ingram, for seeing my potential, making me fight, and putting me in a winning position with an unwavering mindset.
You ushered me in, changed my life and expanded my vision.
Others should be so lucky.
Originally posted on Linked In