Today I learnt of the passing of the man who taught me all about the markets. And a good few things about life too. Forgive me then for a moment to remember him.
Armed with a Classics degree from Cambridge, a dramatic flourish of melancholy from Northern Ireland, and a handy bit of know-how from amateur boxing, Ed had charisma, knowledge and tenacity in spades. We met just after September 11th 2001, at Merrill Lynch. I had just started as a graduate, plunged into the foreign exchange desk in the midst of recession, and the omnipresent Bin-Laden-induced threat of War. Ed had that memory seared upon him more than most, having been on an introductory trip to the ML NYC office and seeing the second plane crash into the towers.
During the mayhem, he revealed his true calling: teaching. He was the only person who sat down with me to give me a structure to this new crazy day that kicked off at 7am. “Write down the opening levels when you walk in”, he urged, “and a few bullet points from the morning meeting… that will get you through the day without looking like an arse”.
Looking like an arse was the usual state of affairs for a graduate trainee. He did his best to help me, not only to understand what was going on, but also to get used to an environment where failure meant money losses or even job losses. That meant no kid gloves, for which I am eternally grateful. You’ve never really experienced humiliation until the dealing desk turns round and looks at you when you take your first phone trade, and instead of “Mine” or “Yours”, you meekly tell the trader “His?”.
No-one laughed more than Ed, who thumped me on the back and told me not to f**k it up next time.
That was Rule No.1 of course: “Don’t F**k it Up”.
Rule no.2 was inevitably, “Never forget rule no.1”.
Fortunately he didn’t let me sink or swim too far on my own in those early days. He would step in if I found myself out of my depth, but never by patronising me. He would encourage me if I did something well, but never by promoting arrogance. A few months in, he called into the desk for a market round-up. I seriously reeled off some information about non-farm payrolls, technical levels and the Euro hitting parity against the Dollar. Silence. He chuckled. One of his excellent cigarette-and-alcohol-stained chuckles. I braced for the inevitable criticism. He simply said, “F**k me, you almost sound like a real salesperson, praise the f**king Lord we are making something of you my girl!”.
Having passed the test, I could join the various client events and drinking sessions in our nearest pub, the Viaduct. (Why they literally built an investment bank on top of a pub, I’ll never know). I was part of the gang. It didn’t matter that I had a cleavage, Ed just cared that I had a brain. For a team of 40 people with only 4 women in it, this was a blessed relief.
He and his Northern Irish buddy, the Ballymena Academy boys, were the only men who didn’t treat me any differently because I was a woman. They watched out for me. They wanted me to succeed.
In latter years Ed would tell me how proud he was of the part he played in my success. He could never, unfortunately, be happy with his own.
He was the cleverest man I ever worked with. The most charismatic with clients. The smartest about trades. The most humble. The most honest. Someone who I believed in as much as he believed in me. If only he could have believed more in himself.
The demons chase us all. If we are lucky, we can escape them or at least shove them where they haunt us least. For the man we called Little Old Edmundo, it proved an ongoing battle that ultimately ended only in the harshest form of peace.
He was no angel. The greatest teachers rarely are. It takes an understanding of both darkness and light to teach someone how to navigate the path ahead. We argued, we cried, we shouted, we hugged, we laughed. We learned. And what could be a greater gift in life than that?
— RIP My Friend —