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New York New York

A number of business acquaintances have asked me why I didn’t bother to attend an award ceremony in New York late last year to mark the inauguration of the market data industry’s Hall of Fame, to which I (mysteriously) along with 24 peers (most of them less mysteriously perhaps) had been inducted.  This self-congratulatory artifice was the brainchild of the editors of an industry newsletter called Inside Market Data – a worthy publication to which I have occasionally contributed – to celebrate its 25th birthday.  Was it ill-mannered of me not to show up for my award?  Maybe.  But let me excuse myself by explaining that I simply don’t care much for awards.  Not, I hasten to add, IMD’s awards in particular, but awards in general.  They too often go to those least deserving of them, and usually for reasons less to do with performance than for peripheral reasons, frequently to do with elevated public profile, often abetted by self-promotion.  At least the movie actor’s Oscar is based on an individual performance – though who’s to say why one actor’s performance is better than those of other nominees in entirely different roles, or what credit ought to be assigned to the director or other behind-the-scenes mentors?  The fact is that industry achievements are almost invariably the cumulative and collective work of many people.  I’m not trying to be humble or modest when I say that many of my colleagues, senior and junior, probably contributed as much as, and in some cases more than, I did in whatever it is I’m supposed to have done to deserve such recognition.  If my award falls into the Lifetime Achievement category, rather than for a single identifiable accomplishment, then I’ll accept it with reluctant grace simply for surviving as one of the market data industry’s bewhiskered veterans.  That fact is at least undisputable.

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Speaking of New York, I’ve just returned home from one of my increasingly infrequent visits to that city – for which venture I probably deserve an award for the length of my bar bill.  Is it my advancing years, or is it something else, that compels me to observe that the place seems to have lost a good deal of its famed vitality.  I suspect the former explanation, but fret about the latter, simply because I can’t put my finger on a single reason.  The city has suffered considerable pain in the first decade of this young century, of course, notably the Word Trade Center attacks in 2001 and the more recent world financial crisis, for which much of the blame was attributed to Wall Street, which attracted (justly, some would say) many of the consequences, through bank and other corporate failures and the inevitable loss of jobs.  Even the New York Times seems to have shrunk, and not just in the plainly visible physical sense (six-column width reduced to four) but in the striking reduction in advertising.  (It has to be said in mitigation that famous newspapers in other cities seem to be suffering just as much – a sign of the electronic times, I suppose).  New Yorkers, like Londoners who survived the Blitz, are proud of their resilience, and it may be that Gotham’s old swagger will return.  I certainly hope so.  And maybe the decline that I’ve imagined is just that: imagined.

 

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