Commentary: Remora Trading

...And the big fish that got away

Recently I attended a typical sellside function where clients were invited. When I got there, I took a good look around. “What a bunch of losers,” I said to myself.  I’m in a room full of people who, outside of work, I would never socialize with and everybody… and I mean everybody (my pathetic self included) was dressed exactly the same. Khaki pants, blue-collared shirt and that damned blue blazer.

 It looked like Blockbuster Video employee night, only everyone was wearing Gucci loafers. What’s the story with those freaking shoes, anyway..?  Are they handing them out to every monkey who passes the Series 7?  Don’t these things cost like $500 a pair?  No wonder we’ve got such a bad reputation on Wall Street.

It didn’t take long for the sucking up and the ass kissing to begin. I always get a kick out of watching one sellsider introduce himself to another, only to find out that they’re both the competition and not clients. Immediately, they stop talking and then awkwardly scramble away sideways, like crabs trying to make their way back into the water. 

Sales traders are the Remora fish of finance. The Remora fish is that little parasite that latches onto massive sharks in the ocean. Their entire existence consists of living off the scraps of the big guy. If you can’t provide him with anything, then he doesn’t even want to speak to you.  Unfortunately, duty calls and I am forced to attend several of these “Shallow Hal” functions every year, where I usually see the same faces.

It’s like they’re on the circuit. I overheard one guy at the St. Jude’s charity event say to his tool-bag country club buddy that it was safe to leave because “all the worthwhile accounts had left already” and he had “seen who he needed to see.”  I’m sorry, but I thought we were trying to raise money for sick children you freaking loser. I hope your driver falls asleep and your town car wraps around a mighty Oak tree on I-95, while you make your sad selfish way home to Darien.

Anyway, back to the aforementioned function. The sucking up reached its peak, when all of a sudden a large fund owner showed up. I still can’t believe this guy came to the event.  I honestly and truly believe that he somehow mixed up invitation details with somebody else’s party (at least that’s the way it seemed judging by the look on his face). A piece of chop meat had just been dropped into the Piranha tank and he knew it. The way everyone reacted, it was as if the Lord himself had showed up.  People started staring, whispering and pointing-picture grown men staring in awe.  In their eyes, this account could turn water into wine AND walk on water.

Their reaction was sadly hysterical. Richard, his sales coverage was climbing over people, practically fell over one dude and basically drop-kicked a waitress just so he could be the first person to greet his lordship. He then proceeded to clear a path through the crowd in order to get him to a table, as attendees parted like the Red Sea.

Then the head of sales (who happened to be talking to me) also spotted the whale. I realized he was done talking to insignificant me, when he simply walked away (while I was in mid-sentence of course) to make his way over to kiss the ring. He lingered for a solid 5-10 seconds before cartoonishly injecting himself with the obligatory arm on the shoulder handshake.  It was clear the client had no freaking clue who this used-car salesman was, but since perception is everything in this business, he had no choice but to sell it and make it look good. 

After just 20 circus-monkey minutes of blowing smoke, the big shark swam away. Then we had to hear from Richard how great it was for Mr. Big Fish to stop by and how tight they are.  For the rest of the night, anyone who would listen, was told how the big Kahuna had stopped by. I’m still amazed by the amount of name dropping that goes on in this business. Allow me to clarify something for you:  Contrary to popular Wall Street belief, “Hello,” followed by empty small talk in no way implies best friends or signify a great relationship. 

Later on, my buddy (another trader) and I were introduced to a new client.  I’m being generous if I say we spoke for all of three minutes. And sure as sugar, the next morning I hear this sucking sound coming from the corner office, and there he was telling the boss how he had met the account last night, what a good guy he was and how they had this great talk. No, you tool, you didn’t have a great talk or move any mountains… I was right there with you and I’d bet your last breath that the account doesn’t even remember your name. 

Looking forward to the next get together,


Dopey was the founder of the Web site, For two-and-a-half years, Dopey offered his wit and wisdom about the “untold stories” of Wall Street to a faithful following on trading desks and curious onlookers across the country. It should be noted that the firms, people and practices depicted in this column are fictitious. Any similarities to actual firms, people and practices are purely coincidental.

The views represented in this commentary are those of its author and do not reflect the opinion of Traders Magazine or its staff. Traders Magazine welcomes reader feedback on this column and on all issues relevant to the institutional trading community. Please send your comments to