By Ari Rubenstein
May 26, 2020
On September 17, 2001, first responders to the 9/11 attacks took to the podium of the New York Stock Exchange and sent a resolute and defiant message in the face of a national horror: We the People would not be cowed or silenced.
Our capital markets and entrepreneurial spirit was alive and kicking. By simply ringing a bell, they sent a message to the evil virus of terrorism that could not silence American ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit.
All of us on Wall Street took their defiance to heart as we went to work to rebuild and grow our country.
Tuesday morning, almost two decades later, the current and first female president of the NYSE, Stacey Cunningham, will ring that same bell at 9:30 am ET.
It will signal that another challenge will be overcome and that America will open for business again. With that bell ringing, we will call forth the magical horizon of optimism that for more than 200 years has been the soul and symbol of the NYSE.
Even in the age of the virtual workplace and distance learning, the Big Board with its iconic trading floor grips the public imagination.
It is the tangible manifestation of the American dream. When the floor is open, you know that New York City and the USA are in business.
As a college kid nearly 30 years ago, I remember my first tour of the NYSE floor. Walking up the marble steps and seeing the crowd, the papers flying, yellow telephones, blue jackets, was simply electric. And when I come down to our post on the floor today, I will get that same electric thrill. The trading floor is the room where it happens.
I’ve built a business around automated trading, but even today the trading floor continues to be where our eyes turn.
The opening print to start the day.
The close, where the clutches of brokers and designated market makers jostle to set the closing prices of the world’s leading companies and employers like Pinterest, Disney and Ford.
The eyes of the world are literally on the floor, with every major print and electronic media source reporting in words, pictures and video.
In a nation divided by so much, there are some symbols of American unity and the land of opportunity that are our modern-day temples.
The White House, the center of American power, the U.S. Capitol, home to the world’s greatest deliberative body, the Statue of Liberty, symbol of freedom to the huddled masses. And there is the New York Stock Exchange.
It is the home of the American Dream. Any kid can dream to build a business, and the American people can participate through an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange.
Through it all – wars, terrorist attacks and pandemics – the trading floor reminds us that all of that can be achieved.
We are certainly at a most delicate time in our nation’s economic history and policy makers are grappling with decisions and courses of action that history will judge.
Much can be done to help ensure that this time-tested engine of American prosperity continues unabated.
Incentives must continue for savings and investment, disincentives such as proposed taxes on stock transactions must be scuttled and a broader swath of Americans must have access to shares in private companies.
When the bell is rung again on Tuesday morning, we will remember the lives lost to COVID-19, and then we will get back to our work of making sure that every American dreamer continues to have their shot.
When the cure comes and when the vaccine is perfected, I will bet that the creator’s shares will be traded at the New York Stock Exchange – and that those men and women who made it happen will ring the opening bell.
Ari Rubenstein is the CEO and co-founder of GTS, the largest Designated Market Maker at the New York Stock Exchange.