A bond salesman’s code

June 10, 2011

The 34th Street branch of the New York Public Library holds the business collection of this great public institution. I’ve spent some time there reading through old books on the bond business. These books must be called up from the stacks deep in the bowels of the building. One of my all-time favorites is the sincere “Bond Salesman’s Code” from a 1924 book entitled Bond Salesmanship:

  • To work hard every waking hour — principally from the chin up.
  • To consider no deal a good deal unless both parties benefit.
  • To be honest with myself, my house and the public — not as a matter of policy but as a matter of principle.
  • To be prepared to make some mistakes, but always errors of the head, never of the heart — and never the same mistake twice.
  • To acknowledge no aristocracy save that of intelligence.
  • To realize after all, the best definition of the word ‘gentleman’ is -– a gentle man.
  • To be earnest but not insistent, enthusiastic but not inaccurate, interested in others but not inquisitive, self-confident but not self-conscious, dignified but not oppressive — in short to cultivate the knowledge of the true values in human relationships as in all other things.
  • To believe loyally and implicitly in my house, its securities, its ideas, and its ideals and to strive at all times to be truly its representative.

It sounds like a moral code rather than a primer for selling bonds. Oh, how far we have come…



We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Hello Cate Long!
I follow you on Twitter. Well I have been doing so recently.

The subject matter of your post, this excerpt, is VERY much of a moral code in my opinion. Much more so than a typical “bond salesman’s strategy”. Maybe it just appears that way to me, in this day and age. There WAS plenty of deception and corruption before the Securities Act of 1934 was passed, though… hmmm.

Most of the “Bond Salesman’s Code” is quite relevant, not dated at all. If one were to follow a code like this, with similarly minded peers, and clients/ customers who were not afraid to trust… Well, I think one could be successful. Not wildly successful, but enough so to earn a decent living. And even be perceived as a contributor in one’s community, no less trustworthy than anyone else, maybe even more reliable. Quite a contrast to the present.

Few financial services industry participants are looked upon as honest, moderate, helpful sorts these days (excluding a few on the periphery, e.g. journalists, researchers, regulators, and not necessarily all of them either!) But a bond salesman, or equity market maker, was not associated with an outsized potential for unusually large income until maybe the 1980’s. It was a solid, decent living, but very few achieved vast wealth, nor expected such. Whereas this work later came to be viewed as the most lucrative possible career (or nearly so).

Sorry for the long comment. I am sniffling a little, because this excerpt reminds me of my grandfather and his friends in the 1930’s – 1960’s, who worked hard and were rewarded, but not disproportionately so.

It is nice to see you here as a regular columnist on Reuters blogs (I just noticed in May, as I am more of a headlines reader). I am certain you will keep up the good work, and wish you the very best of luck.

Posted by EllieK | Report as abusive

Thanks for the kind words Ellie.

Posted by Cate Long | Report as abusive

Oh, how far our humour has come…

Posted by Lens | Report as abusive