Those of us of a certain age have fond memories of the old television commercials that conveyed an image of Wall Street as stable, powerful, informed.
Alas, those days are gone. The commercials no longer air. Wall Street’s reputation is beyond tarnished — now we think of it as a land full of currish, crass, crazed criminals. Years ago the TV told us that “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” There was a lion who roamed the streets of New York imposing order on the confusing world of investing. John Houseman, the actor with the greatest voice in the history of stage or screen, told us of a place where research and hard work determined stock selection. “They make money the old-fashioned way,” he said. “They earn it.”
Now it all seems as lost and far-away as Victorian morals, horse-riding cavalry or powdered wigs.
Reuters has published a feature story about the disappearing power of the brand name on Wall Street. And about the disappearance of the brands themselves.
Former household names like A.G. Edwards, Paine Webber and Dean Witter Reynolds have been swallowed up by larger firms: Wells Fargo & Co, UBS AG, and Morgan Stanley, respectively.
A Midwest broker with Wells Fargo said he has had the same desk and the same assistant since he started in the business, but three different firm names have been on his business card. He started with A.G. Edwards & Sons, which merged with Wachovia Securities in 2007, which was pulled into Wells Fargo the following year.
If you remember what life was like when working on Wall Street was prestigious, rather than just lucrative. You should give it a read.
But before that, take a look at this classic commercial of old from Merrill Lynch. We have no idea what the ad was supposed to evoke. But what it does evoke is a sort of primal fear. In hindsight it’s pretty clear what we should have done when Wall Street told us they were bullish on America. We should have run!!