Berndnaut Smilde (Dutch, b. 1978, Groningen, Netherlands) - Barn, 2015 Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art + Swoon Art House Residency, Boulder, CO, USA. Berndnaut Smilde and scientist Steve Tomczyk teamed up to build a prototype prism that would allow them to break light at a large scale.
Distance: 134 m.
Vincent Tomczyk LA-based paper sculptor, creates replicas of everyday objects completely with paper.
As an artist working primarily with paper, my art requires me to be part craftsman and part engineer. I learned a lot about how to construct things by working at my father’s side, in his workshop. I’m compelled to produce work that is visually poetic by using a medium that defies perceived limitations.
May 1, 1975 is a day that changed Wall Street forever. Today’s
40th anniversary of the SEC-mandated deregulation of the brokerage
industry marks the abolishment of exorbitant investment fees. My CEO, Fred
Tomczyk, wrote an inspiring piece in USA Today where he called for our industry
to continue to accelerate our collective push to transform and enhance our
offerings. To welcome new players and ideas. To continue to ask how we can be
It got me thinking.
I’ve witnessed this brokerage transformation for most of my
life. When I was growing up, my parents always talked about investing. They
first opened a brokerage account in 1970
based on a “tip” from a friend that gold was on the move. That worked out
pretty well as gold appreciated from $38.90 to $594.90 in ten years. Through a
positive experience with a commodity, they eventually started buying individual
equities. Dinner table conversation typically had something to do with the
stock market. One of my earliest memories is going to the library with my mom.
That’s where she would do her equity research. She spent hours poring over the
Standard & Poor’s and Value Line binders, feverishly studying fundamentals and
price data that was often three months stale.
When I got to college, my parents encouraged me to take
finance and investing courses as pass/fail electives just so I would be
slightly less clueless about what to do with my money. My Intro to
Investing 101 class sparked an interest
in me that would change the entire course of what I wanted to do with my life. When
I graduated and landed my first job, it was no surprise to my family that I
wanted to put my money to work.
Here’s how that went down. It was 1997. I called my Uncle Dave who was a
stock broker for Dean Witter in Virginia. He mailed me account opening
paperwork. I filled it out. I mailed it back in. In about what seemed like a
fiscal quarter later, I was finally all set up and ready to invest. Here is a
copy of the cancelled check from my very first investment. Note that at this
point I was still dotting the “i” in Nicole with a heart. In addition, I spelled Dean Witter wrong and
my personal checks were adorned with pansies.
I was a kid.
I invested in 93 shares of a local Delaware based credit
company called MBNA America (ticker KRB).
My commission on that transaction was $60.
Like I said, it didn’t surprise my family when I wanted to
invest for myself. But what shocked my family was the moment I made up my mind
that it wasn’t enough to just dip my toe in the water. I wanted to completely
immerse myself in investing. I wanted to work in the brokerage industry. This
was a major pivot for a young woman who previously enjoyed reading Victorian
literature and painting landscapes.
My dad suggested I call his Legg Mason broker for career
advice. Unfortunately, Legg Mason was only hiring the best and the brightest
finance and econ majors. I had zero pedigree, but a ton of passion. “Why don’t
you call one of those e-brokers?” he suggested. I still remember his
disparaging tone when he said “e-brokers.” But it was good advice and I ran
with it. I contacted E*TRADE in Atlanta, Georgia and asked if they were hiring.
They were. “What are the qualifications you’re looking for?” I asked. “Do you
have a pulse?” the recruiter joked. You see, at that that point, the
“e-brokers” were growing at such a ridiculous pace that they could not even
keep up with new applications coming in the door. They were recruiting like
crazy and I met the baseline requirement—I had a pulse. That was October of
1999. I’ve now been in this business for close to 15 years.
I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
Building my street
I remember my first day on the trade desk. Most of the
people calling in just wanted price quotes on stocks or to place an order over
the phone because that’s what they were used to with their full-service
brokers. People were still on dial-up internet. But it was the late ‘90s,
technology stocks were ripping, and people were making money like crazy. I’ll
never forget one guy I talked to who became a millionaire in a day because of
Yahoo call options. Or the day of the Red Hat IPO when the stock tripled in
value. The trading desk was an incredible place to learn about the business and
the anomalies of trading—the detailed stuff you might never get exposed to in your
career. Like a sponge, I soaked up everything I could about market making,
execution, derivatives, and pricing.
I had a job where I could learn about the industry and trade
while I worked. It was utopia.
Those were the good times. And then, the inevitable crash came which taught
me vital lessons at a very young age. Did I lose money? Yes. A lot of it. But
it didn’t really matter. I would have paid any price for the knowledge I
acquired in that correction and I was fortunate to have it happen when I was
younger. It humbled me and gave me pause to shift my focus to risk management,
fundamentals, and valuation. I was also pained by the conversations I had with
clients throughout the bubble burst. I spoke with nice people much older than me
as they struggled with tremendous losses. These were real people, some of whom
were not able to cover margin calls. My heart broke for them. I’ll never forget
In it for the right
In the years that followed, I moved my game over to TD
Ameritrade. There, I was able to focus my efforts on
helping Main Street investors. Nothing frustrates me more than when my clients
are referred to as “the dumb money.” It’s my opinion that Americans struggled
to outperform the markets in the past predominately because of two things—a lack of quality
education and information.
After the tech bubble popped, many looked to learn more
about options trading as a means to put less capital at risk. But most available
options education courses retailed for thousands of dollars just for mediocre content.
Education has since been democratized. That’s why I was so proud this year when
TD Ameritrade won #1 in Education from StockBrokers.com. I believe that quality
investor education should be free. Those of us who have been dealt
punishing blows by the markets owe it to others to share what we have learned.
The same can be said for access to quality information. My
parents did really well investing, but think about it…my mother used to
research the stock market via outdated library binders. Today, my clients
complain if there is a millisecond of latency—as well they should. The other night at a dinner at Gibson’s Steakhouse, I was checking tick-by-tick futures
prices on my mobile phone. We now have access to quality, real-time
Innovating for retail
The pace of innovation has been unbelievable. My calling for
many years now has been to level the playing field for the retail investor.
Every day my team comes to work with a true sense of passion. We want to roll
out capabilities that help investors make more informed decisions. I came to an
epiphany the other day when I noticed how many professional investors we now
have on thinkorswim®. It occurred to me that we aren’t just leveling the
playing field for the retail investor, we’re tipping it in their favor. Many professionals
are now using the retail technology. Mind blown.
Our work isn’t done. Not even close. But given that this is
such a special anniversary of an event that dramatically accelerated the
ability of everyday Americans to realize their dreams, I wanted to share my
story as a witness to this evolution. And to thank Fred for pushing not only
our team, but the entire industry forward. By partnering together there is so
much more we can accomplish to help the clients we serve.
Options are not suitable for all
investors as the special risks inherent to options trading may expose investors
to potentially rapid and substantial losses. Options trading subject to TD
Ameritrade review and approval. Please read Characteristics
and Risks of Standardized Options before investing in options.
TD Ameritrade was ranked #1 overall out of 15 online brokers
evaluated in the StockBrokers.com Online Broker Review 2015. TD Ameritrade was
also rated #1 or Best in Class (within top 5) in several categories, including
“Education” (3rd year in a row). Read Full Article (Read Full Article links to:
Commentary provided for educational purposes only. Inclusion
of specific security names in this commentary does not constitute a recommendation
from TD Ameritrade to buy, sell, or hold.
All investing involves risks, including loss of principal.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Supporting documentation for any claims, comparison,
statistics, or other technical data will be supplied upon request.