Jul 6 2011

John Mack on the inside of the financial crisis

A friend recently sent me a link to a talk John Mack gave at Wharton that I think is absolutely fascinating. I’ve read a number of books and articles about the key events surrounding the financial crisis but I find these sorts of first person accounts so much more interesting. And I think Mack is an extremely engaging person.

I started my career at Morgan Stanley as an analyst in 1994 and actually had a great personal encounter with Mack that was probably my most memorable moment working in the banking industry. I was just starting my 2nd year at MS and was holed up in an empty office editing a draft of an offering document. Having undoubtably slept only a few hours the night before, I’m sure I was hardly the picture of professionalism with my slightly long hair, undone tie and stocking feet up on a chair, when in walks the head of my group, the head of the Investment Banking Division and John Mack. Mack says to me: “Do you mind if we use this conference room for a few minutes?” Startled, I respond something to the effect of: “Of course. I was just using this for a quiet place to review this document,” and started to gather my things. Walking out of the office, Mack calls to me and says: “I know a quiet place for you to read up on the 42nd floor.” (that’s the executive floor). I sort of chuckle but quickly realize that he’s serious. He introduces himself and picks up the conference phone: “Barbara [I’m making that up – I can’t remember his assistant’s name], Seth Levine is on his way up – can you please make him comfortable in my office.” Five minutes later I’m sitting in John Mack’s office. Alone. Reading (or trying to read, at least) and mark up a prospectus. And for context, at the time my apartment in NY was maybe 300 sq ft. Mack’s office was probably 8 times that size. I was sitting at a small round conference table, but the room also contained a sofa and chairs seating area, at least two desks and plenty of other things I was likely too nervous to notice. About 30 minutes later Mack comes back and proceeds to sit down and talk with me for probably 20 minutes. What did I study in school? how did I come to work at Morgan Stanley? how has my experience been? etc. The man is as engaging as he appears on this video. I can see why so many people are incredibly loyal to him.