Yesterday, rap mogul and vodka entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs rang the Closing Bell at the NYSE to promote his spirits brand, Ciroc. On days when big-name celebs visit, the Trading Floor is pandemonium. Burly former marines and retired police officers in NYSE security uniforms tag team with pencil skirt-clad women in towering heels to corral reporters and gawkers into the red velvet-roped viewing area. Celebrity guests move from staged photo ops to trading booths, where traders give a brief overview of their stocks and computer system monitors before jostling for an autograph and a selfie. A choreographed events team walks the VIP down a red carpet to the upstairs podium, where the button is pushed, the bell rings, photos are snapped, and more often than not, he/she is quickly ushered back up to the boardroom, or down and out the back door. Whew!
Those days are fun. But the bustling mayhem of celebrity visits and IPOs isn’t the NYSE norm. On most days, like an average weekday in late August when I visited my old haunt, the Trading Floor is quiet – tranquil. Even during bell ceremonies, there are no hollering traders, pumped-up security or resounding applause. You can walk down the spacious aisles and stop to chat with traders at most of the booths. Since electronic trading systems replaced the manual entry depicted in the theatrical Wall Street of decades past, most trades are automated—and not very exciting to watch.
So what keeps the trading floor relevant and exciting? The media. Former NYSE EVP of Communications Bob Zito wrote an interesting blog post about the decision made during his tenure to bring the press behind the scenes.
“In 1995 we brought television to the floor of the NYSE and for the first time in the Exchange’s history allowed reporters to regularly report from and spend time on the floor with traders. The members were reluctant at first, but soon realized the openness and transparency was good for the market,” he wrote. “The few traders still there tell me regularly that had we not brought television to the floor in the 90’s, there would be no trading floor today. The platform we created for listed company visibility remains a major selling point for the NYSE in the battle for listings.”
The lesson here? Press is important, and can make or break even the biggest, most iconic businesses. Just ask Diddy.