A trip in the Wayback Machine

I needed to find a financial services-related speech for a potential new client.  Problem is, although I’ve written a ton about financial services, most of it hasn’t been in speech form.  So I had to step into the Wayback Machine and I emerged in the year 1991.

Now, 20 years ago I was…well, 20 years younger, and 20 years less experienced as a speechwriter.  So I wasn’t exactly sure how well the writing would hold up.  But from the very first paragraph, it made me smile:

Many more books have been written about the financial industry in the last five years than are worth any serious person’s attention. While some of them may give you a sense of the industry, most are little better than supermarket tabloids. The most widely read book around [our firm] is Liar’s Poker. The plot is relatively simple: The boys from Animal House trade their togas for suits and go to work on Wall Street. It’s a sometimes funny book, with amusing caricatures. But The New York Times has it on the wrong best-seller list: the book is more fiction than fact.

That voice you hear, that’s unmistakably my client’s voice.  Gruff, opinionated, no patience for fools.  And of course he had been one of those “amusing caricatures” in Liar’s Poker.  We knew everyone in the room had read the book, so we dealt with the issue first thing.

Then, a few paragraphs later, some words that would work just as well in a speech dated 2011:

Many people entered the securities industry in the last decade expecting to be made millionaires before their skin cleared up. One commentator noted a few years ago that “one of the best ways to make money is to be standing around when large sums of cash are changing hands.” But most of the people whose skills consisted of merely “standing around” are now standing around in minimum-security prisons. The people who thrive at [our firm] – and elsewhere in the industry – are innovators, people who seek to participate meaningfully in the international flow of capital and investment.

Yes, I know it’s fashionable these days to trash the financial services industry.  And yes, there have been excesses – no doubt.  But without some intermediary to funnel capital from those who have it to those who need it, the business world couldn’t exist.

Anyway, I enjoyed the speech.  I hope my potential client does, too.

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