From the library of the New York Stock Exchange at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets in New York City, you're Inside the Ice House, our podcast from Intercontinental Exchange on markets, leadership, and vision in global business, the dream drivers that have made the NYSE and indispensable institution of global growth for over 225 years. Each week, we feature stories of those who hatch plans, create jobs, and harness the engine of capitalism right here, right now at the NYSE and at ISIS exchanges and clearing houses around the World. And now welcome, inside the Ice House. Here's your host, Josh King of Intercontinental Exchange.
I remember it like it was yesterday because of the date, December 5, 1996. It was exactly one month after President Bill Clinton, who had had political obituaries written for him two years before after midterm shellacking for the Democrats as new Gingrich sealed his contract with America, he'd won reelection over Kansas Senator Bob Dole. I'd been on the road for most of that year with the president, had been in Little Rock on election night, transported to Arkansas aboard of chartered 747 to take the White House staff down for the festivities and was enjoying being back finally for an extended stretch in Washington. So it was on that date in December that the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Allen Greenspan, spoke before the American Enterprise Institute in a speech entitled The Challenge of Central Banking in a Democratic Society.
Now, I don't have any kind of a Greenspan impression other people do, but that day the Fed chair said the following, and I'm going to quote, "Clearly, sustained low inflation implies less uncertainty about the future, and lower risk premiums imply higher prices of stocks and other earning assets. We can see that in the inverse relationship exhibited by the price earnings ratios and the rate of inflation in the past, but how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become the subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?"
That phrase, irrational exuberance, would become, whether true or not an apt descriptor of Wall Street In the late 1990s, especially from our vantage point in Washington, we all had televisions mounted in the walls of our offices. And while many of those TVs were tuned to CNN and in the following years would also be tuned to two brand new networks, one called MSNBC and another called Fox News, the other existing game in town was CNBC. Originally launched under that name in 1989 as the Consumer News and Business Channel and given a big boost when NBC CEO Bob Wright, made a guy named Roger Ailes head of the network in 1993.
At about the same time here at the New York Stock Exchange, the guy who had my job back then, Bob Zito, worked for the then chair of the NYC, Richard Grasso, and began a pilot project with a correspondent named Maria Bartiromo in 1996 to begin reporting live from the floor. That never happened before, and it ruffled a lot of feathers among the animals as the independent floor broker community separate from the NYC's leadership were known at the time. You want those media people to be down there with us while we're trading? Zito remembers hearing from one of the animals. In a word, yes, he did. And with that move, first with Maria and then with Bob Pisani, a wave of transparency opened Wall Street to the masses with their nest eggs and 401ks tied up in the stock market. Thousands of brokers making second by second trades from the opening bell to the closing bell. The arm waving throat clearing market mayhem that gave visual embodiment to Greenspan's dirt dry reference to irrational exuberance.
Today we're going to span the epic of irrational exuberance from 1997 to the present day 2022, with one of the men who watched it unfold before his very eyes. Our conversation with senior stock correspondent Bob Pisani, author of the new book, Shut Up and Keep Talking, out Now from Harriman House Books, who himself has been an institution within CNBC since joining the nascent network in 1990 and for quarter century has been the eyes, ears, and mouth of viewers right here on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor. Our conversation with CNBC's Bob Pisani on covering the markets through ups and downs, why stock pickers keep making the same mistakes and why sometimes you should meet your heroes. It's all coming up right after this.
And now a word from Genpact, NYSE ticker G.
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Our guest today, Bob Pani, is the senior stock correspondent covering the stock market, IPOs, ETFs, and more for CNBC. Bob began covering the real estate sector before coming to the trading floor in 1997. He's taking a break from breaking the news to join us here in the library to talk about his book, Shut up and Keep Talking, Lessons on Life and investing from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Welcome Bob Inside the Ice House.
Josh, thank you very much. Great privilege to be here with you. I have been here for 25 years and I can't tell you how honored I am to be working in this building and to be working for CNBC for 32 years. Two wonderful institutions.
Big day for CNBC and NYSE Universal. Today at the NYC you've got your new boss, Casey Sullivan, on the floor and David Favor just interviewed Jeff Shell, Bob Wright's ultimate successor, the CEO of NBC Universal in our newest edition to CNBC's presence on the floor, Studio M, There's a feeling of the old days here today on the floor.
Yes, it in the last few weeks we've seen some big names come in. It was UN week of course, a few weeks ago, we had some big people come in, including the Prime Minister of Japan. And it's wonderful to sit there in a small room with the Prime Minister of Japan, outlying some of his economic policies and some of his ideas for the direction of his own country. We're not talking about a correspondent here, we're talking about the Prime Minister of Japan. You're in a room with 200 people, including some of the leading people who list on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, the head of S&P Global is sitting next to you, literally, and he's talking about the future direction of his country. This is big stuff. And you're in a very privileged position. You're in a tiny little room with at most 200 people.
And the way I always look at this, Josh, I say to people, they say, What is it like to work at the New York Stock Exchange? And I say, Well, let me ask you something. What would you give to meet all your heroes? What would you give to meet every rockstar you ever wanted to meet? Every politician, any king, queen, whatever you ever wanted to meet. And in 25 years, I can say I've met just about everybody. Most of the time that bell ring is the source of all of this. And it's very important.
Years ago, this wasn't necessarily the way it was constructed. It was originally, the bell rings been done since the 1860s, but it was originally simply designed as a way to open and close trading and was usually done by an exchange official. It wasn't until mid 1980s when President Reagan came by, and then in 1992 when he came with Gorbachev and they were here, that it started becoming a bit of a thing. And you mentioned Bob Zito and Dick Grasso, they were a very large part of making that happen. They made a decision to make the bell ringing a event. And it was fabulously successful because they were able to get the rock stars, the kings and queens to come in.
And in 1999, the height of all of the dot.com craziness on the month of December, I met Muhammad Ali, I met Walter Cronkite and we talk a little bit about that. But all of your heroes suddenly descends, every baseball hero you ever wanted to meet, Mickey Vann, everybody comes down and you're just standing there next to them and you don't have a lot of time. Oftentimes you're not doing a formal interview, but you're there, you've got three to five minutes with Muhammad Ali, what are you going to say? What are you going to do? And that's such a wonderful thing about it.
People ask me, "Why have you stayed down here 25 years? It's a little unusual for a correspondent to stick around for 25 years." And I said, "Listen, you have no idea how much fun it is hanging out with the traders going out, getting their opinions, and just sitting here and watching world leaders come in and out of the building."
And at the same time, over the last couple weeks, you mentioned the Prime Minister of Japan, the President of the Philippines, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, all associated with UN General Assembly Week. But right before that you had Serena Williams, right before the US Open launching her venture capital firm. And then couple weeks after that, Ralph Lauren, the legendary CEO of Ralph Lauren Corp, NYSE ticker symbol RL. So there is sort of those callbacks to what Zito and Grasso tried to do from the existing generation, Ralph Lauren and the new generation Serena Williams.
There is a continuity there and it's very important. People say, Ah, it's just a bell ringing, it's some PR, it's a spectacle. Well, PR matters, showing people why you're there, and showing people that the Prime Minister is here to speak on issues regarding his country. That's not a PR event, that's a news event. The Prime Minister of Japan discussed, for example, the declining population rate in Japan and what he was planning to do about it. How to increase economic development, new forms of capitalism. This wasn't a pro forma speech. He's actually trying to do something very significant. Japan's a very difficult country because very developed, it's hard to move the needle in Japan. And I thought he gave a very major policy address on some very important issues like the declining population rate. That's a very, very important issue. And he spoke at length about that.
So my point here is these are not PR stunts. These are people who are here to have very serious discussions and sometimes they're here to talk business with the NYSE and listings and things like that, but often it's much broader.
And that moment that I talked about in Greenspan speech in '96, he was referencing what had happened in Japan. That moment I describe 1996, 1997, the S&P index was about 750 when Greenspan made those remarks. Three years later, by the end of the decade, December 4th, 1999, the S&P would stand at 1527, 3 times that level. And then the dot.com bubble would hit a peak in March, 2000, then burst with names like pets.com, webvan and boo.com, hitting the skids. What kind of parallels, Bob, do you see between what we've experienced since March of this year to today versus that period?
People ask me if there's something different. And the short answer is, well, the speed at which everything moves is different. There is something that is not different at all, and that is the construction of the human brain. The desire for people to suddenly get rich quick, to make money, the emotions that people have, fear, love, greed, lust, hate, these emotions have not changed since the days of the Romans. For thousands of years, humans have reacted to things in a certain emotional way. And I don't care how much technology you have, what has not changed is the way humans react in the way they interact with each other.
So what did we have in the 1990s that was so amazing? I got to CBC in 1990 and we were a startup, believe me, we were a startup. NBC was trying to figure out a way to compete with CNN. They did not want to do a straight news channel, it was Bob Wright, my boss at the time, and they decided on what they called CNBC. It was originally called the Consumer News and Business Channel. We weren't really sure what we were doing when we started. We knew we wanted to have a financial band. Our signature was the stock ticker below, but we didn't know exactly where this was going to go.
What changed the whole world was the Netscape IPO in August of 1995. All of a sudden the world woke up to this shiny new object. It was a browser in Netscape called the internet. And if I had to say one point, that was the point. Our ratings were not that great. All of a sudden right around there, we started getting real numbers and they started going up really fast and they went up in line with the NASDAQ volume. We used to track it and NYSE opening, if you get a big IPO opening, any tech opening, we got a lot of attention and people watched.
And that's when I get back to this human emotion thing. The idea something's going on, the greed aspect of it, Oh my gosh, I'm missing something. The FOMO, the fear of missing out, all of that started kicking in. And we have the confluence of perfect events. We had new technology, we had the internet, we had browsers, we had software and hardware that combined that allowed people to start trading at home for the first time. And we had media to actually discuss this in real time, which is CNBC and some other outlets too. So you had this sort of perfect storm of events that occurred around a new shiny new object, the internet, a new technology. You had new technological capabilities enabled people to interact with that in terms of expressing their opinion, trading stocks at home. And you had a new communication, medium TV, and really a network focused on finance and stocks for the first time. And the whole thing just expanded from there.
So the dot.com thing happened, we can talk about why that happened. But the simple reason that it happened, is that eventually everyone realized that there was way too much money. What is a bubble? A bubble happens when you have sudden dramatic moves up in asset prices that are not tied to any fundamentals. You mentioned pets.com. We had people throwing money at organizations that not only were not making money, they had no prospects for making any real money. And you could say, why did everybody just wake up and say, Gee, we're throwing a lot of money at something. This is the odd thing about human behavior. Suddenly they care, they don't care, and then they do care.
And suddenly in the middle around March of 2000, everybody woke up and said, We've been throwing money at these companies for several years and none of them are making any money. My God, this is kind of dumb, isn't it? Well, what a mass psychosis happened at this moment in March, 2000 where everybody woke up and said, I'm not sure this is worth it anymore. Well, this is the mystery of dealing with human beings. And that's essentially what happened.
Now, is this happening today? No, I don't think to any extent. It might have been in cryptocurrencies to a certain extent. But my point is, I became a behavior in behavioral economics when I saw this happening. And behavioral economics purports to study how people really react, not how they're supposed to react. And we can talk about this a little bit and how that impacts stock trading and the way I look at things. But there are a lot of parallels with dot.com and some of the things that happened today, but it's also different. The key thing is just remember, human beings are the same now and we're the same 2000 years ago.
Human beings are the same. Human beings are beset by emotion, Bob. Human beings love to tell stories to one another. You write in your book about legends like Jimmy McGuire and Art Cash and two master storytellers. And before we dive into the book, and we're going to take it as you write it, I want to hear Art leading the floor broker community in song 11 years ago, a December tradition back in 2011,
Will Nelly see the sun shining again in 2023?
Yes, it certainly will. And that song was written in, as I recall, 1903. And it was a sentimental song and a barbershop quartet singing had been done on the floor of the NYSE since the 1860s, particularly around the holidays. And that song became very popular in the 1930s as a way of saying, we're going to get through this and everything will be okay. It was particularly resonant and I remember singing very loudly in 2008 and Aretha Franklin came down to sing out front of the NYSE. And this is when I talk about what it's like to meet your heroes. And that was December, 2008.
Boy, talk about a lousy year. We thought the market was bottoming after a terrible year and a half. It was down almost 50% and hadn't. We didn't know this, it didn't bottom until March, 2009. But she came down on the floor and everybody sang very boisterously, Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nelly. And she came out and sang there. It was one of the great moments to meet her. I'm happy to talk about Art Cash, but particularly Jimmy McGuire when I got here in 1997, he was one of the great legends of the floor. He'd been there decades already. He was Warren Buffet specialist. He was a specialist for Berkshire Hathaway. And you have to understand how difficult it is having a new guy come in. I came in the summer in '97 and there were 4,000 people on the floor. There were 4,000 people on the floor. The NYSE floor did 80% of the volume in all stocks traded on the NYSE, 80% happened on the floor. You can imagine the information.
But it was a very privileged organization. It was really almost like a fraternity. You were part of a club. And here I am, I'm coming in and you can imagine the information on that floor. It's massive, but how do you get to it? Because the guys didn't necessarily trust the media in general. To them we were outsiders, and it's hard to describe that fraternity and what it was like. And they were very particular. These were older guys for the most part. They brook no crap from anybody. They cursed, they drank and it was wonderful to be with them, but you had to work very hard to get their trust. They weren't sure whether you'd go on TV suddenly say, Yeah, I just talked to Joe Smith and he's selling pharmaceutical stocks or something. That would be horrifying to them. All they wanted was some kind of way or trust with you where you could describe what was going on, without in any way, endangering their business, which was understandable. And it took a long time to get that trust.
And Jimmy McGuire and Art Cash and Bolt kind of stepped up and said, This guy, Pisani, you can talk to him. He's okay. And that got a lot of doors open. I remember Warren Buffet came on the floor and Warren Buffet did not give interviews back then. I mean it was really rare to see him. And Jimmy McGuire insisted that I come over and meet him and say hello to him. And it was one of my finest moments. And he came back again a second time and I just said to him, Gee, how you feel about Pepsi into some general questions? And he gave me some comments and I got a picture of him holding his wallet. This is a famous joke he always does. People were trying to pick my pocket and pick my wallet. It's one of my prize photographs. It's in the book, A picture of me and Warren holding his, Warren's wallet. And Jimmy made that happen.
The point is, in your career, there's always somebody, and I don't know if people at home listening, there's always somebody steps in and helps you out. And you always remember those people are, and Jimmy McGuire and Art Cash were two who really mattered among several.
And we're going to get more into Art in a bit. There's always someone who steps in Bob and helps you out. The book title Shut Up and Keep Talking is a reference to the people who help you out. The orders that you get that come over the IFB or Interruptable Feedback device that you have in your ear, the little device that reporters wear. The name for IFB actually may be a acronym from former NYSE Telex, whose line of earpiece sold under the model name IFB. Either way, why name the book after the broadcast commands that you get in your ear?
I didn't know that, that it may have been named after that. It's IFB is Interruptable Fallback I believe, but the publisher asked me, we were talking about the book and the publisher said, What do they say to you when you're waiting to go on the air, because you have a device in your ear. It's an IFB. And people are always fascinated by the mechanics of television. How does it work? And I said, Well, you can have any kind of conversation you want, but usually the producer's busy trying to figure out how the show's going, making sure everything's going smoothly. So typically you'd hear a command that says rap, which means shut up, or stretch, which means keep talking. So you could say anything you want, but typically you hear some variation on shut up and keep talking. And he said, That's it. That's the book title. Shut up and keep talking.
I looked, but your first broadcast from the trading floor proved elusive to find. But just weeks onto the job came the first of many historic market events that you covered in your career. Let's take a listen.
Let us head back now to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Our own Bob Pisani has been polling traders, specialists, and brokers on the floor. And he is here now with more insights on today's activity. Robert.
Hi Ron. Well, it's interesting. We had the DOW down roughly 7% today, but I watched some of the tech stocks, some of the financial stocks drop 10 to 15%. I've been keeping an eye on those Latin American stocks, I saw stocks like Telebras, Telefonos de Mexico, TAR, the Argentine telephone service, drop even more than that in the 10 to 15% rate. So really quite a blood bath today in the techs and in the financial sector.
So Bob, history doesn't repeat for-
That's painful listening to that.
I mean sometimes history rhymes. What did that experience in 1997 teach you about the right way to cover a crisis?
What happened here was the after effects of what we called the Tiebout crisis or the Asian Tiger crisis. And when I get worried and I'm on the air and there's a lot going on, I'm under a lot of pressure, I tend to talk faster, my voice pitches up a little bit and I'm talking very fast there and my voice is pitching up. And I can tell, what had happened was they shut the stock market down a half an hour early. And this had never happened before. The circuit breakers had kicked in. And those of you don't know, after 1987 and the big 22% drop, the SEC said, this doesn't happen very often, but we need to avoid panic. And so what should we do? And the idea of a circuit breaker, where you suddenly stopped trading for some length of time, had been around for decades, but nobody ever done it. And they decided to institute it. And this was the day it had actually happened.
So the market close to 3:30PM instead of 04:00PM. And Ron and Sona, who was the anchor there was saying, Folks, you might be able to surprised it's four o'clock and market's been closed for half an hour. So Bob, what happened? And I'm sort of running through it as if it's a bit of a normal day, but you can hear by the slight speed in my voice that the training community was pretty frazzled.
So what had happened was there had been an attempt by the emerging market countries, Indonesia, Thailand, for example, Malaysia, to attract a lot of new business. And of course the problem was their currencies were tied to the dollar. And as the dollar began moving very rapidly in the mid 1990s, they had all sorts of problems. And because the currencies were tied to the dollar and interest rate scenarios started changing, money started flowing out-
... and interest rates scenarios started changing, money started flowing out, simply put. And this was a major, major problem for them. And this contagion sort of came over into the United States at this time. And after that, there was even more contagion, because global demand for commodities dropped, so oil dropped, and Russia had a major problem. And it's because of the fact that oil dropped, Russia defaulted on its debt in the following year, and this caused a massive problem globally. There was a hedge fund, long-term capital, that was out there, and they had a model based partly involving Russian debt. The model did not account for the fact that the Russians would actually default on the debt, that wasn't in the model. And this caused an enormous problem. Alan Greenspan, who you referenced earlier, actually had to step in and sort of help everybody out, because they had a black swan event.
Imagine you have all these models and assume it's going to do the following, and you think, "All right, well, it'll be in certain parameters", but you don't have a parameter that says, "Oh, the Russians are just going to walk away and default on their debt." And this was a major sort of wake-up to the world order. And what had happened was the world got really complicated and complex, and it turns out all of these new instruments that people were creating to allow you to invest overseas, they didn't reduce complexity, they increased complexity. And increasing complexity increases risk, and that's kind of what happened. There were risks out there that were hard to account for, and really long-tail risks like... What's the chances the Russians are going to default on their debt? I mean, really, does anybody think that's going to happen? But it did happen. And so, now, everyone had to account for that. And we were dealing with that at the time. It was quite a baptism by fire, because I had only been there a couple of months. And getting your hand around a global crisis when you just walk into the job, I can remember being very stressed about it.
Talking about baptisms, your father's background as a child of immigrants growing up in the Bronx sounds like a lot of folks who found their way to the trading floor, but he followed a different path. How did he make it from Arthur Avenue to Palm Beach?
Yeah, my father was a poor Italian kid from Arthur Avenue who made it out. And for his whole life, he was Horatio Alger. I mean, he believed in America. Our family's from the south of Italy, they were farmers, they left in the early 1900s along with millions of other Southern Italians, came to New York City. And he believed in the country, he believed in capitalism.
In 1970, he bought me my first stock. I was 14 years old, and he said, "Robert," got me two shares of a company called Kawecki Berylco, they made beryllium, which were a heat-resistant metal, and it was used in the space program. And I was really interested in NASA. Man had just gone on the moon in '69, I'm 14, I was going to major in physics. And he said, "I know you're interested in the space program. This company makes stuff for the space program. I hope you'll invest in the United States and invest in the country. I'm a stock investor." And I'm 14. I'm not that interested in the stock market, I'm interested in the 1960s, and the Rolling Stones, and a little bit on the space program. And I sort of ignored him, but my father got out of the Bronx, got a job with United Airlines in public relations in Philadelphia, and that was the ticket out. They had the route to Hawaii. That was the biggest thing in the world in 1959, take your girlfriend or your wife to Hawaii, Don Ho, TK Lawrence.
I know those travel posters, right?
Oh boy, they're famous. And he had one heck of a good time, believe me. But he became a real estate developer in the early 1960s, with him and his wife, Barbara, at that time. And the important thing is, he was successful as a real estate developer as well, and kind of rode the economic expansion through the 1960s and survived pretty well through the downturn in the early 1970s. So he wanted me to go into business with him in the mid 1970s. I'm 20, 21, somewhere around there. And said, "Robert, it's time. Ralph Pisani and Sons, successful real estate developer." He built apartment houses in Philadelphia. And I said, "I don't want to do that. I want to be a writer. I want to be a journalist."
And I'll never forget, my father looked at me sneeringly and said, "Robert, how much money does a journalist make?" And I said, "I don't know." And he said, "You want to go into a business you don't know how much money you're going to make?" To my father, a poor Italian kid from Arthur Avenue, this is incomprehensible. And he said, "Robert, we're builders. I have a nice car in the garage. I have a nice house. We can build you one, and I know how much money you can make working with me. Are you interested?" And I said, "No." And he was furious, could not... Gave me the speech, "If my father had offered me this job, I'd get down on my knees."
And we didn't talk for several years, but he ended up teaching real estate development. He was an adjunct at the University of Pennsylvania, was friends with the head of the Real Estate Center, and brought me in, teach the course, and we wrote a book on real estate development. Came out in 1989, by sheer dumb luck, the month CNBC went on the air. One of my best friends became a producer, invited me on as a guest, and they hired me as the real estate producer. This is sort of what serendipity is like. I didn't plan any of that. My father was close friends with the head of the Real Estate Center. He wanted us to write a book on the curriculum. We wrote the book. My friend was there at CNBC. This is what I say to people about serendipity in your career. Recognize the role that fortune plays, but you are not a leaf blowing in the wind. You can make something of opportunities that are presented to you. Just realize, a lot of it is luck.
I mean, let's stick on that idea of serendipity and career journey a little bit, Bob, because in those years that you were maybe wrestling with your dad's vision or ambition for what your life and career might hold, your youthful exploration summarized in your book, Shut Up and Keep Talking, is, as I'm going to quote you here, "I hitchhiked through Europe and the Middle East. I went to hundreds of concerts. How could someone who grew up admiring Norman Mailer and Hunter S. Thompson skip on the chance to chronicle those experiences in detail?"
The hard part of this book was, when I met with the publisher, they said, "We want you to tell what it was like to be on the floor, but we don't really want you to write a memoir of your life. We don't want you to write a financial history, but we understand you've intersected with financial history. So we're sort of giving you an odd assignment. This is a little bit of a mishmash of a memoir and a financial history. And you figure out how to do that." And that's the way I did it. If I were to get involved in what happened in the '60s and '70s, that's a whole other left turn. But I'll leave it at this. My heroes when I was growing up were what I called the New Journalists, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe. These guys were a little bit crazy, and they were all very involved in the idea of writing about their times. And they wrote very personally, this is what the New Journalism was about. It was sort of abandoning the concept that you're a perfectly objective journalist, and they inserted their opinions in their writing.
Today, this is not as popular a style as it used to be, but when I was growing up, these people were public intellectuals. Susan Sontag, I mean, she had an enormous influence on the way people think and write. So people looked at their ideas. Today, people don't read books on the level they did 50 or 60 years ago. And so, the concept of how to influence people or public influential, public intellectual is very, very different. You could be derisive about it and say TikToks are public intellectual these days, which sounds like you're downgrading intellectuals, but the world's changed rather dramatically. People don't read as many books as before. People don't even read as many articles as before. People read short concepts. But the influence that those people had on me is still very real.
You talk about the influence of writers, you also mentioned the influence of musicians, and a lot of people who didn't quite understand this about you had that drilled home while you were often reporting from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They could see these concert posters behind you in the study from where you were broadcasting. And I'm curious, if you think about the average length of a classic song of two and a half to three minutes, it sort of compares somewhat to the average length of Keep Talking, a good hit from the floor. Do you think about sort of the architecture of a song while you're standing in front of a camera, thinking about how you're going to lay out a story in front of yours?
Wow, that's a really interesting question. I'll tell you what's a better metaphor, is the weather. The weather is a good metaphor for reporting on financial matters, because if you think of it this way, you can say, "There's a storm blowing in from the East Coast, and the temperatures are going to go down. It's going to be raining for several days, and we don't know if there's going to be flooding or not. But you ought to be prepared." You can say, "Listen, we've got some bad economic reports in the last day, and this is likely going to put pressure on the stock market. We're probably going to see volume spike up. I don't know if this is going to be a permanent change in direction, but it's definitely influencing people's opinions." You see, you can... There are weather metaphors that parallel how you talk about the stock market. In fact, I often say I'm the weatherman for the stock market, because what happens for me, because I don't anchor a specific show, I'm on shows as things are happening, so the market will fall apart, and they'll call at 11:20, while I'm sitting there on the phone with somebody, and say, "Bob, come on, explain what's going on."
And it's very simple. You try doing this. It's in the book, I have a phrase that, "Talk, make sense, employed. Don't talk, don't make sense, unemployed." You better know what's going on. And if somebody calls, even though you're in the middle of... And you haven't been looking at the market in a half hour, you better be able to go on TV and start talking about it. And so, you're constantly in a state of mild agitation, always staring at that screen, looking at what's going on, because you never know, something could go weird and suddenly you have to go on the air and talk about it.
Songs are a very interesting way to look at it. I suddenly became very popular because, during the pandemic, I showed my rock posters behind me. I collect 1960s rock posters, and it's a wonderful hobby, Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore, and there's only a small group of people in the United States that collect them and they're wonderful works of art. These people who created what is called psychedelia, that model, I think of them as sort of like the Toulouse-Lautrecs of their time. Toulouse-Lautrec became famous in the 1890s in Paris, doing the Moulin Rouge, for example. And they were poster artists too. And you can buy Toulouse-Lautrec posters today. They're expensive, but you can buy them. And these people were like that. And I think they create a new visual art form that still impacts the world today.
It's interesting you're talking about that, because our family would go to the ski house in Vermont in the '70s, and their walls were filled with what I remember seeing in your office behind you during the pandemic, from the Toulouse-Lautrec posters to the Grateful Dead posters, and the psychedelia that was there. That memory is so vivid to me, and as well the sort of sense of how you keep yourself going through work and career, talk, make sense, employed. I want to listen to Bob Wright, the then president of NBC, explaining what CNBC, the Consumer News and Business Channel was and also was not.
Launching CNBC has been an elaborate undertaking, but its aim is quite simple: to see the world through your eyes. But before we tell you what we are, let us tell you a little bit about what we're not. We won't be a rip-and-read news service passing along someone else's impression of the news. And we won't drown you in a mass of meaningless statistics and numbers. In short, we won't tell you anything without telling you what it means to you, how it affects your life and your money. As we've said, we'll try to see the world through your eyes, and CNBC will have its eyes open 24 hours a day.
So Bob, what were those early startup years, as you described them, like, and how did dealing between two giants of their respective industries, General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, and Tele-Communications CEO, John Malone, make it possible?
Well, it was wonderful to be part of a startup. We didn't know how hard it was going to be, because it took several years and a lot of investments for us to really start getting ratings, and of course the internet happening, but it was a big risk for NBC. First off, there was a lot of hostility on the part of the local affiliates towards cable. I mean, think about this. You're running the NBC station in Hartford or someplace, and suddenly NBC says, "We're going to start a competing news network. Maybe not 24 hours, but 12 or 13 hours." The local affiliate in Hartford's going to call up and say, "What are you guys doing down here? You're creating... You're competing with us? Wait a minute, we're part of your network." So there was hostility on the local level. Wright had to overcome that. Wright had the vision to say, "Guys, you see this CNN over here? They're killing it."
Now, there wasn't a lot of people making any money in cable, frankly. MTV was making money. I'm not sure CNN was making money in 1989, but they were getting a lot of attention, and Wright had the prescience to understand that you can't get too far behind when suddenly a competitor's getting a lot of attention. So they decided to launch us, not in New York, but in New Jersey, which was cheaper, away from unions, it seemed to me, and easier to operate. And we were really a startup in the very beginning. I know some of our colleagues in New York kind of looked down on us like we're the gang that couldn't shoot straight over there, but we were scrappy, and we were young, and the bet paid off.
They eventually had to buy our competitor, FNN, in 1991, and spent a considerable amount of money. Jack Welch had to be convinced to do it, but fortunately, Jack Welch, who was the head of General Electric, that owned NBC, was a big fan of NBC. Jack loved television. And NBC was part of his grand plan to sort of create this gigantic conglomerate of General Electric. It's hard to describe a conglomerate like General Electric. They made light bulbs, they made jet engines, they had a financial arm, and they own NBC. This is an enormous organization, but Jack really was a backer of ours, and we all loved Jack. It's hard to describe how influential Jack Welch was in the 1990s. He was like a corporate God, and we all looked up to him. And whenever Jack came down on the floor, we just made a point of gathering around him to hear what he had to say.
Now, I will tell you, that led to problems later on, and I describe it in the book, some of my own personal investing. In 1993, I opened a 401(k) with GE, and the first thing I did was put all the money into GE stock. It was the only stock I could own. We're restricted. I can't own individual stocks, so I can own mutual funds and ETFs, but I can own the company that I work for. So I was so enamored with Jack Welch, I put a lot of money in. By 1999, I had 50% of my 401(k) in GE stock. Now, that is not a sound investment. You do not put large amounts of your money in your own stock. It's too risky, and it violates all sorts of rules about diversification. There's no hard and fast rule on this, but generally, you should not put more than 10% of your money, of your 401(k) into your company's stock.
Now, the problem was, I knew this. It wasn't like, "Oh, I didn't know this." But I knew it, and I did it. And this is what I talk about, behavioral economics. Not what you think you should be doing, but what you actually are doing. And what I actually did was I exhibited classic biases. What biases? Overconfidence, overconfidence in my company, overconfidence in Jack Welch's ability to eternally deliver. And of course what happened in 2000 was, when stocks started moving, it wasn't just dotcom. After 2000, Wall Street started re-evaluating what they were willing to pay for something, a conglomerate like General Electric. And the answer was a lower amount, a lower multiple. Jack had tried to buy Honeywell and failed to do that in 2000. Europeans would not allow the deal to go through. He eventually left. And I held onto GE stock for several years after that. And there's another rule. GE stock was having a very tough time for a number of years, and by the time we got into 2007, it was clear it was a problem. And I didn't do anything with that until then. And there's another rule. At some point, you must understand when to cut losses. If you talk to a professional trader, the one thing you'll hear from everyone who really knows, and there's a whole chapter in the book about this, "Learn to cut your losses." And I didn't do that either.
And again, this is that misplaced confidence. I eventually sold for a loss. From 1993 to 1999, summer in 2000, bought, and held, and sold it, 2008 was, it was dropping dramatically, at a loss. I figured out roughly, it was after 16 years, it was a loss. And I saw Jack Welch at a party in 2010, and I said, "Jack, I hope..." and I was terrified to tell him. I said, "Jack, I hope you're not going to get angry at me, but I couldn't take it anymore. It was a loss. 16 years, and I had to sell. I sold everything. I hope you're not mad at me." And he looked at me and said... He patted me on the shoulder and said, "Bob, it's fine. It's not a problem. But you tell everyone that I never sold." Now, I don't know what his position was. This was 2010 or so, and I don't know, but I was always hopeful that Jack was the kind of man who knew when to cut his losses, which I didn't know, and which I didn't understand about myself. And this is one of the painful things you really have to acknowledge sometimes about yourself. It was a painful chapter to write.
I mean, talk about classic biases, Bob. When you started at CNBC, there wasn't the visibility into audience the way modern technology and data allows through ratings that record how viewers are tuned in or not in 15-minute increments. So you constructed your own idea of the typical viewer. Did you ever go out and find out if your idea of a Midwest middle-aged woman matched the analytics that... And do you rely on CNBC's metrics today to adjust on what and how you cover stories?
No, I didn't. And I'll tell you why that story happened. When I got there in 1990, suddenly you're staring into a TV camera. It's just a black hole. It's really just black. You're looking at it, and who's listening? Who's watching at the other end? I didn't even know who I was talking to. And we didn't have great numbers on viewing audience. So I made up a viewer. The woman... I was the real estate correspondent. This woman I made up was living in Minnesota. Her husband worked for 3M, who was in Minnesota. And she was an accountant. She had two boys that were 24 and 28 years old, and she was in her mid 50s. And she was very interested, because her sons were going to buy a house. And she was an accountant, so she knew what a mortgage was. So I could... The question is, what level do you talk to people at? They know what a mortgage is, but they might not know what a mortgage-backed security is.
So this is how you talk at an even level to people. Don't go all over the place. Assume they know a certain thing, level of information, talk at that level. If you throw in some new thing, like a mortgage-backed security, tell them what it is. So I got very practiced at watching that woman watch me. And if I did a good job, I could actually see myself saying, "Hey, she liked it. That was good. I mean, she got something out of it. I explained what a 15-year mortgage was versus a 30-year, and how much her son would save if she had a 15 instead of a 30-year." And sometimes I tried to get fancy and explain things like the Thai baht crisis, and I could see her wrinkling. She just kind of shook her head and said, "I don't get anything out of this." And that's how I knew. It kind of kept me steady for years. And I've talked to other people about this, and some people... I seem to be a little bit unusual, and that I actually had someone that I actually was talking at to keep my knowledge at a certain level when I was talking to people. But other people just kind of assume anything. So they don't have a lot of thinking about this. It bothered me. So that woman eventually faded away to me, and I hope that she's happy out there, wherever she is.
I'm sure she's happy out there, Bob. I mean, you and I were talking a little bit about Jimmy McGuire earlier, also mentioned Art Cashin. And you write about Art's decidedly anti-email and technology approach, but you and I both got emails from Judy. Where does he get the craft of storytelling that isn't obvious at first glance? And can you share Art's version and lessons from the assassination of John F. Kennedy?
The important thing about Art Cashin is that, if you were to actually pass him in the street, you'd look at him and you wouldn't be very impressed. He wears rumpled suits and doesn't particularly try to dress to impress anybody, and he doesn't care. But what I learned about him was how neat and orderly the interior of his mind is. First, he's one of the great raconteurs of all time. What's a raconteur? It's a teller of stories, but it's a little more than that. He's also one of the great partners sitting at a bar of all time. I have spent 25 years sitting in bars with him, and this is his university, he calls it. He never went to college. He learned his craft on the floor of the NYC from guys who had been there in the '30s, and hanging out in bars with these people.
And Art never had much use for academic theories. We tried talking about efficient market hypothesis or something like that. He would tell stories to explain things. I'll tell you about the Kennedy thing, but let me explain, tell you a story about how he explained price discovery. So how do you explain what stocks go for? How do you explain that? He'd just tell the story about JP Morgan and Lewis Tiffany. And he said one day Lewis Tiffany knew JP Morgan liked diamond stick pins. This is like 1900, literally.
And he sends JP Morgan a diamond stick pin. And he said, "Mr. Morgan, I know you like stick pins. This is an exquisite example. My price is $5,000. Would you like to take it? If so, please send me a check for $5,000. If not, send the stick pin back." Morgan sends him a note that says, "Dear Mr. Tiffany. As you say, this is a magnificent example. However, the price is a bit excessive. I have returned the box to you. In the box is a check for $4,000 with the stick pin. If you would like to accept, please cash the check, and send me the stick pin back. If not, good talking." And Tiffany's thinking about this, he said, "Hmm, okay." And he sends a message back, and says, "Mr. Morgan, thank you very much. However, I do think the stick pin is worth $5,000. I thank you very much. I hope to do business with you in the future." Sends the messenger off. So Tiffany opens the box to take the stick pin back, and in the box is a check for $5,000. The stick pin is not there, and it's the note that says, "Just checking the price." And that is how Art Cashin talked about price discovery. He told a story. He was a master storyteller.
I was pretty good at telling stories before I met him, but I learned how to craft stories. How do you tell a story about the stock market? It's not easy to do, necessarily. I mentioned before, weather metaphors that you can use, but I got better hanging out with him. Now, in the Kennedy assassination, of course, there was a very famous story about him, and Art tells this story, about a Merrill Lynch guy in Dallas, and the Merrill Lynch office had the day off because the president was in Dallas, and everybody left. And the guy who ran the office was sitting there, and just sort of minding the office because there's nobody there. And the guys came back early, they said... He said, "What happened? You're going to watch the president." "No, they sent everybody home." He didn't show up. He said, "What happened?" He said, "We don't know, he just didn't show up."
And then he turned to everybody, "Can somebody give me a bullish reason why the president wouldn't show up for the parade? What just happened?" And nobody said anything. So I don't I am not thinking about it. He said, "Well, can somebody give me a bearish reason why the president is not going to show up?" And they batted around, and it took a couple of minutes for him to say, "Guys, there's got to be something wrong here, something really wrong. I mean, maybe the president got called out because there was a nuclear attack." This was missile crisis time. "Maybe something happened here. Sell the accounts." And so, Art tells this story of... Why is he telling the story? How do you use deductive reasoning to figure out an event? Okay, so today we have, this is not... Today's not 1963. There is instantaneous analysis. In 1963, there wasn't. He uses this as a way to use inductive and deductive reasoning to try to understand an event and make an interpretation.
Deductive reason, you try to understand an event, and make an interpretation about what happened. He was full of these stories, and still is. My point is, you can really influence people by learning how to tell a story, and something quick and interesting. Journalistically it's very important, but even for you as an individual, if you want to influence somebody, tell them a quick story that has a point, and that hopefully is amusing. It has to have a point. That's what I learned hanging out with Art. Like I said, he's one of the great people of all time to have a drink with.
Art is a living legend, a great guy to have a drink with. He doesn't make it down to the floor as much as he used to. Perhaps related, earlier this year, one of the places that he really liked to have a drink, Bobby Van's, shut its doors. Does that mark the close of an era on Wall Street forever?
Not necessarily. There are other places that are opened, two or three of them. Yes, to a certain person of Art's years, a lot of the very famous places are gone. Years and years ago, Art showed me a menu from a place that was around the corner, called Eberland's. It was one of these old spaghetti and shot places. The menu had spaghetti a la Cashin, and I think a $1.95. It was 1965 or something, and the martinis were $1.00. I said, "What's the spaghetti a la Cashin?"
He said, "We used to go out all night, and we'd come in at 5:00 AM in the morning, and the place was open. The spaghetti was the favorite thing that we all ate, as a hangover cure, essentially." He said, "I was there so much they named the dish after me."
There are places still around. For example, Harry's is still here. Harry is one of the great restaurateurs of all time. The 50th anniversary of Harry's Bar is coming up in a couple of weeks. I think Harry is even going to come down and ring the closing bell at one point, and they're going to have a party there. You're going to see a lot of old faces at Harry's. That's still around. That's one of the great hangouts.
We've talked about Art, Jimmy Maguire, we've mentioned Dick Grasso, and Bob Zito. You talk about some of the exciting IPO events that you've covered, stemming from the transformation of that era. Let's listen to a unique and somewhat different sound emitting from the Bell platform.
That of course, Jimmy Page. For our listeners, he was standing on the Bell podium, flanked by a more typical group of men and women in suits, a bit of a different setting for a rock star. How did that Bell typify the impact that Grasso, Zito, and others had on the exchange experience for the companies, and often, somewhat to the dismay of colleagues broadcasting from Post nine, your friends who are trying to get their report out over that din of that electric guitar?
That was my favorite bell ringing of all time. We could talk about other ones, including Jack Ma from Alibaba ringing the bell, that was pretty momentous. This was it. It was 2005, and Edgar Bronfman had come down on the floor. Edgar Bronfman was IPO-ing Warner Music Group, and he brought along Jimmy Page, of course, the founding guitarist for Led Zeppelin. For those of us of that generation, what would it be like to meet all your heroes? This is one of them. Meet Jimmy Page, my God. Not only did Jimmy Page come on, Jimmy Page walks up with his Gibson Sunburst guitar, and instead of pushing the opening bell, he pays the opening to "Whole Lotta Love."
The floor went wild, because all the guys had brought worn out copies of "Led Zeppelin II," vinyl, and "Zoso," and "In through the Out Door," for him to sign. We're all just screaming, even I'm screaming, I'm just so happy because Jimmy Page is here. As you know, you ring the bell, and you come down the stairs. Most people don't know this, but there are two ways you can go when you go down the stairs. You come down the stairs, and you can make a right that goes down a little staircase outside, onto Broad Street, or you make a left, and you come down on the floor. I'm standing there, I've got the microphone in my hand, I've got the TV guys behind me, I've got a hundred guys with worn copies of "Led Zeppelin II" all waiting to say, "Hi Jimmy." Edgar Bronfman and comes out, down the stairs, onto the floor.
I say, "Hi Edgar."
"Where's Jimmy?" And.
He said, "He left"
He said, "He had to go." It is well known jimmy Page gets stagefright, and little agoraphobia. It's known he doesn't like hanging out, and dealing with people. We were all really hopeful, though, that he was going to come and hang out with us, a silly idea I suppose. He decided not to, and I had to sit there and chat with Edgar Bronfman. That was the kind of thing that you have happen. Nobody expected him to actually start playing a guitar. You literally couldn't hear the belt. Bronfman actually hit the bell, but you couldn't hear it, because it was so damn loud.
The other one I think that really was quite amazing to me was when Jack Ma came in 2014, and did Alibaba. This was the biggest IPO of all time. It's hard to describe this, a $25 billion IPO, and I think the company was $230 billion market cap. Jack Ma owned 6% of this. He sold some stock on that day, and I remember doing a report that his net worth was almost $19 billion. Imagine this, this is what it's like. All of a sudden you hit a button, and your net worth is $19 billion. It was a staggering number that we had here. Mark Zuckerberg had done this a little while before that, with Facebook, and his net worth was even higher. I think it was closer to $22 billion on the day he sold, the day it went public.
These are big events, and again, I get back to how privileged it is to be here. You take things for granted after a while. Even guys who move gold in and out of vaults for a living get tired of moving gold around, but you're moving gold around. When you're standing next to a guy like Jack Ma, I was in the booth with Jack Ma, and all of a sudden, this guy is worth $19 billion. You're standing next to him, chatting with him, and we had to wait for a long time for it to open that day, because it was such a complicated IPO. We were all standing there saying, "We're going to order lunch. Do you want the pastrami Jack? What do you want to do with this?"
He said, "Whatever you want." These are the kind of moments that make it really special. This is what you work for.
After the break, Bob Pisani, CNBC's senior stock correspondent, and I are going to highlight some of the lessons he's learned over his career about the markets, and human behavior, all found in his new book, "Shut Up and Keep Talking." That's all coming up right after this.
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Welcome back. Before the break, I was talking to Bob Pisani, CNBC's senior stock correspondent, about his career, and about his book, "Shut Up and Keep Talking." Bob, I want to turn our attention away from the bell podium actually, to the trading floor, where you often become half play by play announcer and half mic'd up player. I want to listen to a cut from one of those experiences.
The book is frozen, the book is frozen. 35 million opens at $42. Uber priced, $45, 32 million shares, opened at $42, and you can see, trading just above that right now, $42.34. Obviously guys, this was not what they wanted, the price is below. I think, the most important thing from the point of view of the executives that are out there is, the deal got done in a very difficult week.
Uber, we just had Dara back to the exchange a couple weeks ago, for the NYSE's Board Advisory Council, talking about diversity of the company. He's now been there a couple of years. That was such a momentous day, building on the Alibaba story in some ways. How has your access and job changed over time, with what you do in the middle of a scrum like that?
The important thing is, there's a very important deal being made here. The company is going public, and there are certain procedures that have to be followed to make sure the book is built, to make sure people are in the right place when everything starts. Obviously, what I'm looking for is to be in the middle of the scrum, to describe what's going on. There are traders who want a piece of the action on the floor, they want to buy, or they want sell. They have orders to buy and sell. There are the DMMs, the designated market makers, who are trying to build the book in conjunction with the people upstairs. Upstairs means the book runner, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, or Morgan Stanley are the three most common ones. There are a lot of things going on here. The important thing is, there's a lot of big money here.
This is not minor league stuff here, this is billions of dollars. First of all, you have to be able to report what's going on without interfering with what people are doing. You want to see if you can get people to comment without sticking microphones in their faces, annoying them, or saying, "Will you please get the hell out of my face here?" You learn how to do that. You learn how to get people to respect you. They understand why I'm here, they understand what I'm doing. At the same time, I have to respect what they're doing. This is a very serious matter. Billions of dollars are at stake here, and they are in charge of getting this thing out. There are a lot of people that have gotten to this particular moment. People's careers are sitting here. It's hard to describe how important an IPO is for most people.
It's my favorite part of my job. This is where you watch capitalism in action. A lot of people get very rich. Do you know what I really like? I love watching the management bring their family on the floor. They're holding hands with their wife, and their eight year old daughter, and she's all dressed to the nines, and they're just standing there, they ring the bell. The procedure starts, and you know this Josh, at 6:00, 7:00 in the morning. People are starting to come in upstairs, they bring them into the board room, there's a little presentation. This is the way of saying, "Welcome, you have arrived."
This is the IPO day for your company. You have worked your whole life to be right here, and your family, your senior management's here. You come down onto the floor, you sign the book, you get the pictures, and you go ring the bell. You have to push that bell. Most people don't know this, you have to hold the bell for 10 seconds. Some people, of course, get very exuberant, they hit the bell longer. There are a lot of funny stories about people who just keep messing with the bell. Then, you hit the gavel, and you come down on the floor, and you wait for the stock to go public.
This is when it's really fun, because they're staring at that board, and they're seeing the indication. It's $20, and the indication is it's going to open $21 to $22. You could see what they're doing. They're calculating their net worth, and they're saying, "Holy crap, I've got a 100,000 shares here at $20. I either got it for free, or I got it at $2, because I'm an insider, an early person from the early hire." You can literally see them trying to figure out, and in most cases, we're not talking Jack Ma level. In the case of Jack Ma, it was about $18 billion, his net worth, as he started opening.
You watch this, and their whole career is unfolding. There's 100 to 200 people standing there for the company, most of them were original hires, and there are a few venture capital people that always show up for this thing. It's just a wonderful spectacle to watch. In recent years, the last decade or so, the NYSE has also brought a bell on the floor, so that when the company itself goes public, they get to ring a bell in front of where the post is for the designated market maker. You get more people clanging and beating the living daylights out of that bell, and more pictures that are taken. It's just a great watch on capitalism, to watch this happen.
As we were talking, watching this happen, people coming down from the bell podium, one of the premises of your book, Bob, is the people that the job has helped you meet, including those CEOs, but also legends, like Walter Cronkite. I want to listen to Walter's final sign off for a second.
This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of the CBS Evening News. For me, it's a moment for which I long have planned, but which nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost two decades after all, we've been meeting like this in the evenings, and I'll miss that. Those who have made anything of this departure, I'm afraid, have made too much. This is but a transition, a passing of the baton. A great broadcaster and gentleman, Doug Edwards, proceeded me in this job, and another, Dan Rather, will follow. Anyway, the person who sits here is but the most conspicuous member of a superb team of journalists, writers, reporters, editors, producers, and none of that will change.
Furthermore, I'm not even going away. I'll be back from time to time, with special news reports and documentaries, and beginning in June, every week with our science program universe. Old anchorman, you see, don't fade away, they just keep coming back for more. And that's the way it is, Friday, March 6th, 1981. I'll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years.
What brought Mr. Cronkite to the corner of Wall and Broad Street? How did he influence you then, and also now?
This is one of those things that Bob Zito did with Dick Grasso. They had a thing called the Millennium Bell ringing series. This is December, 1999, and it is hard to describe what it was like here on the floor in 1999. I would say it's probably the greatest year of my life. We didn't know that we were approaching a market top, but it was so much fun to be here. I always say to people, I wish there was one year in your life, for all of you, when you can feel like the wind is at your back, and everything is going right. You don't quite know why, and you're smart enough to know that it's a little luck involved in all of this, but you're nonetheless appreciative. Boy, were we appreciative. Dick Grasso had a party in the second week of December, of 1999, and it was the grandest party on the floor you could possibly imagine.
Zito had engineered this thing called the Millennium Bell Ringing series, where they were going to bring all sorts of famous people, for the entire month. That's when I met Muhammad Ali, he came down on the floor. No matter what you hear about Muhammad Ali, when you meet him... I'm six feet, he's 6'3". Three inches taller is not that much, but man, when I walked up to him and shook his hand, his shoulders were way wider than mine, and I'm not a small guy. When he shook my hand, his hand went around my hand. I just remember being startled by his presence. He was greatly diminished by 1999, even then, he was imposing to stand eye to eye with him. I have a picture with him, it's one of my favorite pictures of all time.
Walter Cronkite came a few days later. Boy, talk about meeting your heroes. I admired Muhammad Ali, but Walter Cronkite was my hero. One of the reasons I wanted to be a journalist was because of him. Walter Cronkite characterized an ethos that is almost vanished, very straight down the middle reporting. He became famous for this as the voice of the country, essentially. It's hard to describe the impact he had on my generation. He's been gone for 40 years, he's been essentially retired as the anchor for more than 40 years. His straight reporting was so important that, when he turned against the Vietnam War, and made a public comment, which was startling for him to do that, Lyndon Johnson famously was supposed to have said, "If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost the country." That's how influential he was.
He came on the floor to ring the bell, and Dick was there. I could almost not contain myself, I was so excited. He wasn't doing an interview, but I went right up to him, and I just shook his hand. I said, "Mr. Cronkite, thank you for all that you've ever done." I'm like some I gushing teenager, and I said, "I became a journalist largely because of what you were doing, and I'm just so happy to meet you," and that's all I said.
He said something startling to me, he said, "I'm amazed about how popular financial reporting has become, because it was never that big of a thing. CNBC's becoming a big thing, what do you think about that?"
I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh, Walter Cronkite is interviewing me. This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me." I was so happy. We had five, eight minutes together, where he was going back and forth about financial journalism. I was a little terrified that he was going to berate me, because he had been very critical of the trend in broadcast journalism towards more opinionated anchors, and more opinionated reporters, and was very much opposed to that. I was afraid he was going to say, "CNBC, you people talk a lot about what you think, and you ought to stop doing that," but he didn't. At the end, I said, "Geez, you're so much fun to be with. Why did you leave?" He was required to be retired at 65.
He patted me on the shoulder just like Jack Welch did, and said, "I left too soon." I'll never forget that. That's all he said. He didn't say anything more, he didn't elaborate anymore. He just looked in my eye and said, "I left too soon." He was a special correspondent, he was particularly interested in the space program, but they never utilized him in the way that he wanted to be, and he expressed some regret about that years later. Other people came in over there that thought he was the voice of the past, and they were trying to figure out other people, younger people. I think he was a little disappointed about that.
From those exuberant moments in 1999 approaching the millennium, people like Muhammad Ali, people like Walter Cronkite, passing the year 2000, and into the next century, a whipsaw effect. "Shut Up and Keep Talking" really captures the way the turn of the century was, from the highs of the dot com era to you being interviewed by Maria on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, September 11th, 2001. Let's take a listen.
The real panic, in my mind Maria, I was out front, as you were, when the second explosion occurred, because so many people had been attracted to what was going on. The explosion through debris on top of a lot of people. That was when the real panic began.
When Walter Cronkite broke into his regular broadcast report on JFK's assassination, all you had to do was see a couple of wire photos that he held up on the camera. Two decades before, Pearl Harbor was reported on radio only. How did video change the way the country experienced the event on 9/11 and how did it affect you, and those around you, reporting on it?
It changes everything. When you have a visual image of a building like the World Trade Center are coming down, you can describe that in print, or describe it on radio, but the impact of seeing that building come down, with the plume of ash around it, it's hard to describe. I was out front when the second building came down, and I can tell you, the visual impact of the people around us... I was right around Century 21, and the plane hit, and what I remember very clearly is the sound of 10,000 people gasping, inhaling, 10,000 people. It was a startling sound. About 20 seconds later, the metal started coming down around people from the impact, because we were on the other side of where the impact happened. All of a sudden, you started hearing pieces of metal coming down around you, and that's when people turned and ran.
That's when I saw real panic. You talk about what goes on in human brains, nobody was stopping to talk to anybody. No one was stopping to say, "All right everybody, calm down." Everyone started running, and I saw people get run over. I saw people run over people. I saw a woman trying to pull up a guy from his collar, and get slammed down, and gravel embedded in the side of their face. Everyone just panicked, because you could hear this metal clanging around people. If that falls on you, you're probably going to get cut in half.
It was a very difficult day for everyone. What I talk about in the book is not that day, it's what happened in the months, and even the years after that, the emotional impact of working downtown. Everyone had someone who died. Everyone knew people who had passed away in this terrible tragedy. There were concerns of imminent, additional terrorist attacks in the weeks afterward. There was additional fear. There was the smoking ruin of the trade center itself. The smell is very hard to describe, just acrid burning furniture, and human remains, which made it so depressing.
There was the fact that we were in a recession, and the New York Stock Exchange, of course, itself was experiencing a situation where the trading volumes were changing. We were going to electronic trading, and business was down. It was really a difficult time for all of us, and yet, what I remember most is every single day, everybody came to work. Everyone was unhappy, many people were really depressed, I was. What saved me was, I went and learned how to meditate. There is a chapter in the book about how meditation saved my career. I decided to stay at the NYSE, and CNBC as a result of what I learned from meditation. The point I want to make is, everyone came to work. Everyone at the New York Stock Exchange, from Dick Grasso on down, Tuesday it happened, and Monday, everyone came back. Everyone came to work.
Speaking of the mindset of meditation now, and everyone coming back to work, it's been almost a half century since Professor Burton Mallkiel wrote "A Random Walk Down Wall Street," he also writes the forward of your book. What is it, Bob, about a trader's psyche, that they think, despite mounting evidence, even in your case with GE, they can beat the market?
This is a good idea about behavioral psychology, and what goes on in a human brain. Most people don't want to believe that they're average. In fact, this is very well studied. This is a big thing in behavioral economics. You ask people, "Are you a better than average driver, car driver?" 80% say they're better than average. By definition, you cannot have 80% better than average. Most people will rate themselves better than average in almost any task. As a father, 90% say they're better than average, and we know that can't be statistically true.
People want to believe they're either better, or they can beat things. This is why people bet on sports, and it's why people bet on stocks. The evidence is, and I'm going to talk now specifically about the stock market, we now have decades of studies indicating that active stock pickers do not outperform their benchmarks. In fact, it's really overwhelming. Standard and Poor's has done a very rigorous study every year for 25 years, it's called a SPIVA study.
Rigorous study every year for 25 years. It's called a SPIVA Study. And this year they just came out a few weeks ago. And the average big cap stock manager, active stock manager, after 10 years, 90% of them underperform the market. 90% underperform. And this is when you account for things like fees for example. So here's a good question. Why is everybody, so I mean, you think like 90%, that's not even as good as chance for crying out loud. Why are people so bad at this? Why are people so bad? In fact, and I talk about this in the book, why are people so bad at predicting the future at all? It's not just professional stock pickers. Amateur stock pickers are terrible. By the way, the analysts are not good at it either. The strategists are not good. The record of the Federal Reserve on predicting where the economy going is terrible.
How is that possible? You'd think the Federal Reserve would have information nobody else has? How is it that they don't have very good records? Well, you look at this and all you do is you look at the facts and you see, everybody's terrible at predicting. Why? And there are a number of reasons why this is happening. One of the main things is what we just talk about that biases prevent people. It infects their ability to make accurate predictions. So for example, overconfidence thinking that I was right before, I'm going to keep being right, or thinking that future trends are going to look like past trends. I list in the book. There are dozens of these that behavior economists have undercovered a better biases that influence and infect your predictions. So that's one major problem. Biases that influence their decision making.
The other thing is a little more philosophical. It's that there's a certain element of the future that is unknowable to everybody. So think about this, you're an analyst, it's December. You're exposed to predict what the earnings is going to be for a company you cover one year from now. So, you've got a company and it's trading at $10, and maybe you think it's going to make a dollar. How do you know that's right? And it turns out there aren't literally millions of potential variables that can go into a stock price. It may not seem that way, but actually there is, from everything from the weather to the macro economy to the local economy, to the management, to the health of management, there are literally thousands of variables. And it turns out to be so complicated and tricky that it's almost impossible to actually do it. Think of the weather and I'll go back to the weather, it's a metaphor.
You know this famous story about the butterfly flapping its wings in Africa and it creates a current that eventually becomes a hurricane in the Atlantic. So, think about why is weather forecasting so bad? I mean, it's gotten better. So out three, four, five days, but weather forecasting is terrible when you go out several weeks, you can't do it. Why is that? And it turns out exactly what I just said. There are trillions of variables that go into it, and they're trying to figure out better models that incorporate larger amounts of data points. But it's still really difficult. So you have to have a certain amount of humbleness about this whole game. The stock picking game, the forecasting game about anything. The forecasting, the eagles game. Think of the variables. We don't have a way of understanding variables. Think of individuals. Think of your career.
Maybe you had a mentor who helped you out. I walked down the street, I meet my friend at CNBC and suddenly she's there. And if I wouldn't have walked down the street, I wouldn't have met her. And maybe I never would've gotten a job at CNBC. Maybe you get sick, maybe I walk across the street and get hit by a bus. You might think, oh that's kind of out there. But no, that actually happens all the time. Weird things, misfortunes diseases, things you can't predict. And this is one of the things where you have to be comfortable with the idea that there are certain aspects of the future that are unknowable. And here's the second point, as the farther out you go, the worse it is. So you can get weather forecasters that are pretty good for three, four, five, six days, but go out a month, they can't do it.
This is the same with stock picking. You can get the Federal Reserve analysts, they have a fairly good record predicting where's the GDP going to go six months now, three months now? But if you go out more than a year, it's terrible. And so there's something, look at the data, and you have to conclude there is something about when you get further out in the future, that ultimately is a noble, we lack the model to understand the impact of things, because certain things we can't predict very well. I know that's very frustrating to a lot of people, but when I finally understood that, I became much more calm. I mean, this is what we're supposed to do, is tell people what's going on, and it's hard to figure the game out. If people are interested in this, a book that really solidified the thinking around this.
Philip Tetlock wrote a book called Superforecasters a number of years ago. Tetlock's a very influential researcher at University of Pennsylvania. And he looked at all of this and he looked at the whole history of forecasting. And said, "Why is it so bad?" And talked about the things I talked about. And said, "Could we improve this?" And he started a thing called the Good Judgment Project, and discovered that you can get better as a forecaster, you need to have certain traits. So what he discovered was, forecasters aren't necessarily better because they're smarter, they're better because they have a certain mindset. And he identified two kind of different kinds of people, foxes and hedgehogs. This is a famous essay that was done by Isaiah Berlin years ago, but he said, "Hedgehogs are people who have a certain ideology. They believe one big thing, and they sort of fit the world to this ideology they have. Foxes are open-minded people, they don't have any particular ideology. They change thinking as the facts change." And he said, "Those people are better forecasters than the hedgehogs and having an open mentality."
And he talked about can we train people to actually have this? And he could. And he did a number of experiments with the defense department and discovered that there are ways to get better. So people interested in this. I highly recommend Philip Tetlock and the Good Judgment Project and the book Superforecasters.
Zee, you said a certain amount about the future will be unknowable. You almost need a wizard in any way to potentially even see anything about the future. Your personal wizard of the market's Bob was John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, who passed away in 2019. I wanted just hear a little clip of Mr. Bogle.
Correct Bob. I mean right now we have an industry filled with ETFs which would not have been made possible without the thinking that you could actually create a fund that is simply an index of the S&P 500.
And the great irony here about ETFs is Jack Bogle was not always a big fan of ETFs. This is ETF's independent of mutual funds. He felt in the earlier days that ETFs would encourage too much active trading because you could trade them in today unlike a mutual fund. And he really resisted this for a while, the concept. Fortunately, Vanguard, which had since moved on, he wasn't running Vanguard at the time, when very big into ETFs. It turned out to be a fantastic move. Vanguard itself, quickly surpassed Fidelity. It's big rival because Fidelity was slower getting into the ETF business. And as a result of Vanguard's decision to sort of go against Jack's wishes, Vanguard is now a giant, that's number two in the ETF business.
So Bob, Jack Bogle launched Vanguard the same day that the NYSE abolished a set commission. Is it possible to separate the impact of visionaries like him from how market structure was evolving to allow both cheaper execution and the rise of ETFs?
Yes, that was definitely an aspect. Now the ETF business didn't come in until the early 1990s. Jack launched Vanguard as you mentioned in 1975, which was the year they abolished fixed commissions. That was a real changing point. It allowed the rise of Schwab, Charles Schwab for example. And I think that was a real pivotal moment. It's hard to describe what it was like with fixed commissions. The NYC had them. And the simple thing way to look at this is you could have spent 1% to 2% to do a execute trade prior to 1975. When they abolished the fix commissions, it allowed new organizations to come in, like Charles Schwab. He came in because of that and it changed the whole landscape. And as a result, investors today have a very good deal. That commission costs of practically gone to zero. Many cases they are zero and the spreads are much narrower.
The bid-ask spreads. So pricing is much improved. As for Jack Bogle, I'll tell you what he taught me. There's a whole chapter in there. And one of the things when you write a book is there's a quasi-memoir, is you have to look back and say, "Okay, what do I know? All right, I want to tell you what I know." And you write down a few pages, this is what I know. And then you say, "When did I come to believe all of this? How did I come to believe all of this? Who taught me this? I wasn't born knowing this, somebody taught me this. I why do I strongly believe this and I'm going to write a book on it? And it turned out there was four, five, six people that had enormous intellectual influence on me, that basically taught me what I thought was the right way to view the markets.
Burton Malkiel, who wrote Random Walk Down Wall Street. Charlie Ellis wrote a very famous book called Winning the Loser's Game. And there were some other people that were out there including Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy Siegel, who's got a new addition of the book out Wharton professor and a friend of mine. Enormous important research on the trend in stock prices and bond prices for 200 years. Jack Bogle had a book out in 1999 called Common Sense on Mutual Funds. And it was probably the single most influential book in my life. I had met Bogle in '97 in a phone call. I called him when I became the stocks correspondent and he was very nice. I got him on the phone. He was already just about retired as the chairman running Vanguard. But he said, "I watch your channel, and I like it, but you have too many people on who you think know the future, and they don't."
We had various people on at that time that were quite famous. Stock pickers and he said, "I'd like to see a little bit more about long-term investing. I'd like to see more about index investing." And Bogle had already in 1993, the first ETF for the S&P 500 was around, Bogle had already launched the Vanguard S&P 500 fund, more than 20 years before that. And he was pleasant but professorial, and we became friends. His influence was very simple. He said, You have to understand the way the market is. It's a combination of return, risk, cost and time. Return is how much money do you think you can reasonably expect to earn over time? Risk is how comfortable are you with losing money? How much would you be comfortable losing? Without losing money or your psyche. Cost is how much are you really paying to do this investing?
Look carefully at your mutual fund, 2% a year. Really? I can show you what the impact of paying 2% a year is on your returns. It erode your returns. And he was very good at showing the power of compounding interest. So there's cost. Time is how much time do you have to invest? And he made a good point. He said, "Look, if you start investing at 25, and you stopped at 85, you have 60 years of investing. That's a long time." And he said, "Think of long timeframes." So think about this year for example, I'm applying Jack Bogle. We're down 20%. That seems like a horrible thing, and it is. And it's an odd year. Stock market normally doesn't go down in a year, and 20% is very, very rare. But look at it over many years, is it going to matter that much 10 years from now if you're an investor?
No. Now obviously if you're much older, maybe you want to be more careful about how much you've got in stocks. But Bogle kind of opened my mind just to some very simple principles. Think long-term he showed that indexing beats active. He was not against active management by the way. He was very involved in building out active management at Vanguard. Capital opportunities. He helped create these active management. His key was if you're going to do active management, make sure it's low cost. Because the thing that kills the active managers, even a good one, is the high fees eat into the alpha, into the outperformance. And he was very insistent on that. So the thing that he said 40 years ago, when he was talking about this, 50 really, is relevant today. Because, and again I get back to this behavioral psychology, the things that motivated men haven't changed at all. And Jack recognized that.
Bob, as we begin to wind down our conversation, you and I have had a number of conversations since so many of us worked from home, worked remotely during COVID, we've come back, we've watched more people begin to come back. We've watched the New York Stock Exchange begin to become once again the gathering spot at the mixture of finance and investing and media. We've watched this passage of time together, and you've mentioned a couple times in the book and also in our conversations, burnout, a topic that the station is covering a lot these days. Can you share why you think it's important to push through to stay an inch wide and miles deep and what advice you might have for someone feeling a little bit of burnout in 2022?
Yeah, I burned out three times, and I described them in the book. I thought it was important to explain to people. In 1993, after three years as a startup, I was working ridiculous hours. I burned out, I've actually went to see a cardiologist. I was having like heart palpitations and cardiologist said, "You've got to learn to relax. You are showing signs of stress, muscle tension across your chest and this is not a heart problem. It could develop into one." And what I did was I took more time off. I was terrified they were going to fire me, but nobody noticed, it could everybody else was stressed out too. Then 2000 9/11, combined with the dot-com bust, dramatically reduced interest in the stock market. The NYSE was hurting people, friends and relatives were dead. And I thought to myself, it's been a good 10, 11 years, was almost 12 years run.
And I thought about leaving and I learned to meditate. I joined the Buddhist Meditation Society in Midtown, believe it or not. And what they taught me was, there is nothing you have done here. Events have happened. You cannot control the events that have happened. However, you can control your response to them. So think of it this way. You're walking in your house, and you stub your toe on a chair. You cannot change the fact that you stubbed your toe on a chair. What you can change is your reaction. You could pick the chair up and throw it through the window, if you want, but there are alternatives to it. And what meditation taught me was there were alternatives to thinking, "This is it. My career is over and I need to move on. I need to find something else." Because when I examined it, I realized I really liked my career.
I really liked the stock exchange. I really like CNBC. I was just kind of depressed because things were changing. And meditation teaches you to get comfortable with change. And it's when you fight it, that's when you start having a problem. So change your relationship with change. I don't want to get too deep into this, but that saved me. And I went back and I renewed my contract, I was going to leave, and I'm still here. Finally, the other time I burned out, 2009, the dot-com bust. This was an emotional disaster for me and my generation. I'm a baby boomer. I saw people selling at the bottom. Remember it's buy low, sell high. It's not buy high, sell low. This is when I became a real behavioral economist, because I saw what people really do. They don't act rationally. In March 2009, we were at a bottom. I didn't know this, nobody knew this, but we were.
And you would think though, the market was down 50%, unless you think the US economy is going to zero, no rational person would sell their stocks down 50% from the high. You do the opposite. You actually buy or you hold on. Rational people don't sell. And yet I reported, I actually went back and look at my records, the mutual funds selling had increased, because it was another leg down and people couldn't take it anymore. They finally was capitulation, as market would call it. But what I saw, and this happened in real estate, people sold their second homes at the bottom. So I remember saying, "This is going to be a generational scar on my generation about the stocks." And it was. And I looked at it and said, "Oh my God, I thought about leaving again." And I decided to stay for various reasons. I was still meditating.
What I would say to people were burnt out is examine the reasons why you're burnt out. In 2002, I was burnt out because some friends of mine were dead. I was burnt out because the stock market wasn't the hot thing. We were famous for a while. And we weren't so famous in 2002, I was burnt out because downtown was still a mess, and people were still an emotional mess. And I learned how to think past that, and come to terms with change. And that's the hardest thing, is coming to terms with change. And I think that if you can figure out a way to do that, a lot of people will realize they're not as miserable as they really think. They just need to change their relationship sometimes with things and with change in general. So this is a difficult time.
If I would've told you three years ago, "Let me tell you something, you know there's going to be a global pandemic? You know million people are going to die in the United States?" And you'd say, "That's a stupid idea. That's like a bad science fiction novel from the 1970s." But it happened. If I would've told you three years ago, "You know that it's going to be a conventional ground war in Europe. Russia is going to invade the Ukraine with tanks and it's going to be like World War II, with tanks, finding tanks." You'd say, "First off, that's ridiculous. Nobody is going to have a conventional ground war anymore because it makes no sense at all." Wrong. That happened too. Two black swan events and nobody's list of things that could happen anywhere happened. And think about the fact that we're all still here, some of us are diminished somewhat or having difficult times, but we're still here.
So this is what I keep telling people. How would you going to plan for that with these two things that happened? There wasn't any way. You have to be somewhat resilient. You have to change your relationship with change. And that's kind of the way I keep dealing with it. I don't have anything more deep or philosophical to say about it.
You still meditating to help get through?
Yes. And as in the book, I keep talking about how I wish I got to go past 15 minutes a day. If I can get past the job, the job is very simple. When you have a job like this, when you're senior markets correspondent, you have to surrender to the job. If you say, "I don't want to do 12 hours a day thinking about damn stock market for Christ's sake." Which is what I do. I want go out and I go live in Thailand for a while with my wife and write another book. You can do that, but you can't have this job. So this is what I talk about you have to be comfortable. And it's when you fight that, when you say, "God damn it, I don't want to do 12 hours that day thinking about the stock market." That's when you're in trouble. And when that time comes, and my wife, been having conversations with her, "How many years are you going to eat 12 hours a day thinking about the stock market?" That's when you figure out a way to exit gracefully.
You think about what Cronkite whispered into your ear, Bob, you write that you plan to work into your seventies. But our senior stock correspondence like old Anchormen and never really put down the mic.
Walter Cronkite did. And he was 65 years old and I think he wanted to stay a little longer. And there'll be a time when that's going to happen to me too. And what happens in meditation is you don't fight it. You figure out a good time. And one of the hardest things I have found in life is to develop an exit strategy. It's very easy for someone to lock into something. You can lock into a job. I locked into CNBC. If I wouldn't have met my friend who had the job at CNBC, wouldn't have mattered. You can lock into a relationship with somebody. You can lock into a stock investment, you can lock into a lot of things. But when you want to figure out how to get out, that's hard. How do you get out of a relationship? How do you sell a stock? When do you decide it's time to leave your job or your career? It's not a job, it's a career, in my case. I elected to stay here.
And I found that's very difficult. I find that people flounder on that. And the problem is what criteria you'd be using at that point. And it can change for different people, but people need to think about an exit strategy, and what the criteria are they need to use to do that. I talk about that a little in the book.
Well, maybe one of the only ways in which we can get you out from behind your podium at the New York Stock Exchange is to have you up in the library for a two-hour podcast. But a lot of the market day has transpired since you and I sat in front of the microphone. I got to let you get back to cover the closing bill. Bob, thanks so much for taking little time out and talking to us inside the ICE House.
Thank you Josh. And again, it's such a great privilege to be at the New York Stock Exchange and to be employed by CNBC. And I hope everybody sort of thinks about who've had a career for a long time. Reflect back, and some people will say, well, it was wonderful, and other people will say it wasn't. But the important thing is to have made the effort and to have participated in your times. And I felt I've done that.
That, and much, much more, Bob. Thanks so much.
Thank you Josh.
That's our conversation for this week. Our guest was Bob Pisani, CNBC's senior stock correspondent and author of Shut Up and Keep Talking, Lessons on Life and Investing from the Floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The book is out, October 18th, can be pre-ordered anytime, if you're listening to this episode. If you like what you heard, please rate us on iTunes so other folks know where to find us. And if you've got a comment or question you'd like one of our experts to tackle on a future show or a suggestion for someone you'd like us to talk to, like Bob Pisani, email us at [email protected] or tweeted us at ICE House Podcast. Our show is produced by Pete Ash with production assistance in engineering from Bill White and Ian Wolf. I'm Josh King, your host, signing off from the library of the New York Stock Exchange. Thanks for listening. Talk to you next week.
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