World's financial capital is also a very small community
Erstwhile competitors band together on Wall Street, hosing ash off the stock exchange and sharing makeshift offices in a law firm.
NEW YORK — Normally, Joan Zimmerman and other Wall Street headhunters are rivals - competing to recruit talented traders and investment bankers.
But ever since her offices at the World Trade Center were destroyed last Tuesday, some competitors have called her to offer office space, computers, or other help to get her firm, G.Z. Stephens, back on its feet.
It's just one of many signs that, for all its global renown, Wall Street is really a small town. And like any small town, it comes together in a time of crisis. Even cut-throat Wall Street.
"They know when to compete and when to work together," says Ms. Zimmerman. "They are seriously focused on the reopening of the markets and making sure their people are safe."
With stock trading scheduled to resume today, Wall Street feels it's vital to show the terrorists that the capital of capitalism cannot be stopped.
But exactly how fast the Street can restart is not clear. Many companies have lost their power, water, and phone service. Subbasements are flooded. Some traders may not have access to their own computer systems or records. Phone companies are scrambling to repair damage.
Most devastating of all, there has been a massive loss of life. Bond powerhouse Cantor Fitzgerald L.P. lost about two-thirds of its 1,000 employees when the towers collapsed - a catastrophic blow to a firm that processed about $50 trillion in automated trades last year.
"They were a cornerstone firm for the Street," says Robert Gay, director of research for Commerzbank Securities, whose company has used Cantor Fitzgerald.
Despite these problems, exchanges are preparing to trade.
On Friday, work crews hosed off the ash from the facade of the venerable New York Stock Exchange. And on Saturday, the NYSE ran successful tests to ensure that a number of the 3,000 floor workers and the 100,000-strong support staffs could operate. Richard Torrenzano, a former NYSE spokesman, says, "The coordination between the exchanges, firms themselves and the investment community is nothing short of miraculous."
One of the biggest miracles is Cantor Fitzgerald. Despite the losses, its remaining employees decided to go back to work last Thursday when the bond market reopened.
Company chairman Howard Lutnik says he told workers to stay home and be with their loved ones. But, he told ABC News that the remaining workers said, no, they wanted to go to work.
"It doesn't make any sense," Mr. Lutnik said. "But the ... the reason they want to be in business, and there's only one reason to be in business, is because we have to make our company be able to take care of my 700 families - 700 families. I have 700 families."
Other companies, too, are forging ahead in unusual ways.
Law firm Mayer, Brown & Platt, which does a lot of business with Wall Street firms, put a major expansion on hold last week so it could offer the office space to clients who lost offices at ground zero. The result: Suddenly such competitors as Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Bank of Nova Scotia, and CIBC (another Canadian bank) have employees housed under the same roof.
"It's a testament to the people who work here that they put aside the rivalry and competition," says Mark Wojciechowski, one of the law firm's senior partners. "It means our people may have to double up a bit and we'll lose a conference room here or there."
Such goodwill is not unprecedented. After the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, companies tried to help competitors who had lost office space.
"Wall Street has always been like that," says Muriel Siebert, chairman of her own brokerage house. Even as firms focus on making money, "they know it's a small community, and they ought to help someone."
Thanks to technology, many Wall Street firms don't actually have to do business downtown. Commerzbank's Mr. Gay, for example, is working out of a disaster-recovery office in Rye, N.Y. What's left of Cantor Fitzgerald has moved to offices in New Jersey. Ingalls & Snyder, a money-management firm, is taking space in Hoboken, N.J. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has lined up about 1 million square feet of space to help make up some of the 12 million square feet of space that's been lost.
But Wall Street executives say many firms are likely to be right back in Manhattan once the infrastructure is cleared.
That's because the industry is really a people business.
They call each other for information and swap gossip. They go to the same conferences to network and exchange business cards. They start at one firm, get experience, and move on until they become partners somewhere else.
"Yeah, New York is a big town, but Wall Street's a small universe," says Robert Brusca, an economist who used to work in the World Financial Center, across the street from the twin towers.
Now, that universe is coalescing, as Ms. Zimmerman is finding out.
"In a crisis situation like this," she says, "you learn who your friends are and who is an exceptional human being."