Leaving Wall Street Behind: Five Former Traders On Starting Over

Facade of the Stock Exchange buidling on Wall Street Getty While Americans brace for the threat of automation and the fear that computers will take over their jobs, one industry in particular has already seen a seismic shift–Wall Street traders. The past decade has seen thousands of jobs eliminated with algorithmic trading replacing humans. One example–the once boisterous floor of the NYSE has gone from its 1980’s heyday of around 5500 traders to a few hundred (if that). Once a high-paying ticket to instant wealth and early retirement, many traders have found themselves needing to pivot. "The industry has almost been completely taken over by computers, so most workers have needed to totally reinvent themselves," says former trader Mark McCooey, now a wealth manager at Morgan Stanley .

So what’s next after the trading floor? Here, five former traders who left the industry for a variety of reasons (not just automation) share how they transitioned into totally new careers. Patricia Floersheimer and Trudi Wagner Olivia Rae James Trudi Wagner

Trading days: I grew up in the hospitality business, but I wanted to test myself to see if I could handle Wall Street. As a life long athlete, the adrenaline of the New York Stock Exchange was my fix. I held a seat on the Exchange as a Vice President in Equities at Goldman Sachs & Co .

Reason for leaving: My departure from the trading floor was the advent of electronic trading. When I started in 2000, there were 56 Goldman employees on the trading floor. Today, there are maybe one or two left. When those final days came in 2007, I was ready for change. I just didn’t know what it was. However, the financial world was falling apart at that time, which made it an even easier decision to never go back. YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Next chapter: Currently, I am the co-owner of two businesses in Charleston, South Carolina. goat.sheep.cow. and goat.sheep.cow., north. We sell a curated selection of artisanal cheese, charcuterie, wine and gourmet grocery items, plus we have a café and wine bar.

Pivot process: goat.sheep.cow is the result of my friendship with my business partner Patricia Floersheimer. We met when she was co-owner of a bottle shop that I frequented when I lived in New Jersey. In 2007, I decided to work for Patty on a part time basis to learn the foundation of the business. It was at this time that Patty was in the process of selling her home and wanted to move to Charleston. We were both tired of New Jersey and ready for an adventure. In 2009, we moved and walked, ran, ate and drank every inch of the city to understand the neighborhoods in our market research. We launched goat.sheep.cow in early 2011 with 80% cheese and 20% wine.

Goodbye to all that: I miss the people and certainly the paycheck of my former life, but not the politics of the corporate world. Goldman was like swimming in a shark tank daily. Getting into Goldman was a feat and you pedaled hard to stay there. The endless politics were draining though, and I felt it brought out the worst in some people.

Financial reality: I make way less now than I did as a trader, but I’m my own boss and that’s priceless.

Hurdles: The biggest challenge to the food business, besides very tight margins, is personnel, or lack there of. All restaurants are short on staffing and it’s an endless cycle of always hiring and training and having people move on.

Job perks: I am happy that I get to work with my best friend in a business that we built from the ground up. I love seeing and talking to my customers and helping my employees. Among many things, I encourage them to save money and exercise financial discipline because there surely will be rainy days. Mark McCooey Molly McCooey Mark McCooey

Trading days: I was the COO of The Griswold Company, Inc on the Floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Many people from my family also worked on the Floor, including my Dad, uncles, and cousins.

Reason for leaving : Electronic trading emerged and the emphasis shifted to the speed of execution. Additionally, the percentage of the domestic order flow being done on the NYSE dropped precipitously. After 25 years of a very successful business, we decided to shut it down.

Next chapter: I am a currently a Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley .

Pivot process: I was lucky enough to have a broader experience at my company than just being a floor broker which helped. When I left the floor, I held a multitude of roles, culminating in becoming the COO of our firm. Some of my responsibilities included running the company’s retirement plan, sales and client management, human resources, and helping manage a small private equity fund. All these experiences allowed me to make a seamless transition into being a Financial Advisor where I was performing many of the same jobs

Goodbye to all that: What I miss the most about the trading floor is the camaraderie. When it was busy, you were just focused on executing trades on behalf of your customer, but when it was slow you had the opportunity to really get to know people and build strong, life-long friendships.

Financial reality: I knew from friends in wealth management that it would take three to five years of very hard work to build my book while I wouldn’t be making a lot of money. I knew I was making a huge bet on myself and there wasn’t a lot of room for error. For the first few years, I was making substantially less than I made when working for our family firm. What nobody tells you is that the majority of people who embark on a career as a Financial Advisor, fail, so every day you are employed and continue to build your book of business should be looked at as a successful day.

Hurdles: This job does have one monstrous challenge however—raising assets. It is difficult to ask people, you don’t know, for their hard-earned money and ask them to trust you.

Job perks: What I love is putting a plan together for my clients and watching their hopes and dreams come to fruition down the road. I have one client who was able to double the price range of houses she was looking to buy, all because of the investments I made for her portfolio in just two years. Jamie Kutch Courtesy of Jamie Kutch Jamie Kutch

Trading days: I was a NASDAQ Trader for Merrill Lynch . I loved the rush of making, and or losing as much money as many made in a year in minutes. At that point in my life, I was young, willing to wear a suit every day to work and thought success was based upon salary. I was starkly wrong and after 9/11, made the change to pursue a much richer life and I don’t mean financially.

Reason for leaving: My decision to pursue this path came from years of feeling like I was on a hamster wheel. The tempo of New York life was draining my soul. I burned out from trying to gain status and playing the corporate shell game and trying to move up the ladder.

Next chapter: Today I am the owner of Kutch Wines . I produce California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the ridges of the Sonoma Coast. My office space is in various vineyards. Instead of halogen lights overhead, I look up to the sky. I have replaced charts and Excel for weather maps.

Pivot process: The change from Wall Street to Pinot Noir was fast. I networked with a winemaker and said in an email that he was living my dream. His response was to come out to California and he would assist me with starting a wine brand I could call my own. He told me that if things worked, it would be one of the best decisions of my life ,and if not, I could go back to my corporate life. He ended by saying how unwise it would be to reflect upon this in later years and never take a leap of faith. With that, I packed one bag and booked a flight.

Goodbye to all that: I don’t miss much from my former life. The order of what I do miss is: family, friends, pizza, bagels and taxi cabs. That’s it! When they say the west is the best, it seriously is true.

Financial reality: It took eight years for me to surpass my best financial year on Wall Street and over 14 years making wine and starting my company, I have only grown financially and never taken a step backwards. I am so proud and happy to rule my own destiny, and to no longer make money for a bank but to make a […]

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