For anyone who has spent time on an equity trading floor, you know that the relationship between traders and sales-traders is complicated and filled with friction caused by conflicting interests. While traders and sales-traders equally bear responsibility for managing the firm’s capital and client relationships, the former is concerned about their individual P&L and the later, their clients’ interests. This somewhat creates two separate worlds with traders living in one and sales-traders in the other. Not exactly a West Side Story situation with the Sharks and the Jets, but you get the idea.
In the 15 years that I was blessed to be a trader, my inner circle was mostly all traders. We shared a common bond of taking credit for our winning trades and blaming the losers on sales-traders who “had to” buy or sell a stock in order to keep the client happy. It was a rare occurrence when a sales-trader could come along and break into our inner circle, but that was the case with Mike Shroba. Mike worked out of our Chicago office covering some of the larger accounts in that region.
Despite the roughly 800 miles that separated Mike from the New York trading desk, he was able to garner the respect and yes, friendship of the traders. We felt Mike’s presence more than most other sales-traders who sat just a few feet away from us. Mike also had deep relationships with his clients who recognized and appreciated his professionalism, work ethic and ability to keep them informed. Mike was a true gentleman. He passed away on December 1 at the young age of 60. Our industry has lost a warrior, but as we reflect on Mike, there are attributes to his persona that serve as potential solutions in the career development challenges many of us face in today’s COVID world.
This hybrid model presents unique challenges for employees concerned about their career development and employers who rely on collaboration as a means to problem solving.
Andy Jassy of Amazon Web Services recently said, “When everyone is a tile on a Zoom meeting, all of us have an equal seat at the table when it comes to collaboration and career development.” Andy goes on to describe that as our industry transitions back into the workplace, meetings are now a combination of a limited number of people physically being in the room together and others joining virtually. This hybrid model presents unique challenges for employees concerned about their career development and employers who rely on collaboration as a means to problem solving. It is, and will continue to be, critically important to ensure that the virtual participant has an equal seat at the table and does not feel marginalized.
Back then, the primary mechanism to communicate trading flows from New York to the regions was the squawk. The squawk was a small box that spewed incoherent descriptions of activity by traders that at times sounded more like a NYC Subway announcement.
In all of Mike’s time working at Merrill Lynch, he did so virtually and he was successful at it. Therefore, those of us working remotely today could learn a few things by taking a moment to learn about Mike and how he thrived, despite the geographical distance between Chicago and New York.
Here are some that I remember:
Mike was in the office early and made a habit of speaking with traders in the morning before we became distracted during market hours. The conversations were pleasant, but not to be construed as small talk. He brought something valuable to a conversation and he expected us to do the same. Conversations always ended with both parties being more informed.
Back then, the primary mechanism to communicate trading flows from New York to the regions was the squawk. The squawk was a small box that spewed incoherent descriptions of activity by traders that at times sounded more like a NYC Subway announcement. From his desk in Chicago, Mike hung on to that squawk for dear life, somehow able to make sense of the information and seldom missing updates. His clients appreciated this and the traders were impressed by his ability to remain in tune and follow developments.
When there were team meetings in New York with regions dialing in, Mike would call us before and after to make sure he understood what was discussed and that he didn’t miss anything.
When Mike traveled to New York, he made the most of his time. He provided meaningful updates on his clients, asked probing questions on the goals and priorities of our teams, and was genuine when he asked about our families.
Because of these attributes and others, Mike was able to remain in tune with the activity on the New York desk, maintain deep and lasting relationships, and garner the respect he deserved. So as we all face challenges associated with distance and physical separation, we should take confidence in knowing there are ways to not only overcome, but to thrive.
Rest in peace, Mike Shroba.