Annual Wall Street conference shrinks
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Kai Ryssdal: So, let’s see. Minus today’s bump, the major indices are down, what, 35 or 40 percent so far this year? Wall Street as we know it is changing almost every single day. Jobs are being lost. Profits are disappearing. Congress is promising a new wave of regulation. So do you think the securities industry could’ve picked a worse time to throw its annual shindig? Marketplace’s Amy Scott checked out the party?
Amy Scott: Just to give you an idea how things have changed on Wall Street.
Last year Hootie and the Blowfish played the annual industry meeting.
It was three days in Boca Raton.
This year the Harlem Boys and Girls Choir is on the ticket at a scaled-back conference in rainy New York.
Tim Ryan: It’s one day, it’s very focused, and I think it’s reflective of the seriousness of today’s situation.
That’s Tim Ryan, president of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
It’s Wall Street’s main trade group.
Ryan took the helm at the beginning of this year.
Then he watched the industry unravel.
Ryan: It’s hard. It’s hard to go to board meetings where you have very interesting, competent people who are not there two weeks later because their firm has disappeared.
It may be hard to feel too sorry for an industry that took so many risks only to be rescued with taxpayer money.
But today some leaders accepted responsibility for the crisis.
Blythe Masters has been called the woman who built financial weapons of mass destruction.
She helped create complex credit derivatives at JPMorgan.
In a speech today, Masters said Wall Street needs to rebuild its reputation.
Blythe Masters: The first step is to acknowledge accountability. Financial engineering was taken to a level of complexity that was unsustainable. And the players were not well regulated. We can help to correct that, and indeed we must.
The meeting wasn’t all doom and gloom
Mike Gardner is with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles.
It’s one of the largest independent brokerages left standing.
Gardner says Wedbush steered clear of leverage and subprime loans.
As a result, the firm is hiring.
Mike Gardner: We believe that there’s gonna be opportunities to add people where they’ve been dislocated because of the financial crisis.
Joe Sullivan is trying to place some of those people.
He runs a financial recruiting firm.
He admits business is tough. “Paralyzed with fear,” is how he put it.
But he says the industry is resilient.
Joe Sullivan: You know, it’s a big family here in a way. Everybody’s sharing the same pains. So, we’re just trying to rally everything up.
Today’s stock market rally didn’t hurt.
In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.
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