Long before Michael Bloomberg built his financial data and media empire — and back before his twelve-year reign as mayor of New York City — the multibillionaire started his career on Wall Street, working in the Salomon Brothers’ bank vaults.
In the ensuing 15 years he would spend with the firm, Bloomberg grew close with then-managing partner William Salomon, the son of one of the firm’s three founding brothers.
So in a tribute to “Billy” Salomon, who passed away at 100 in December, Bloomberg wrote an op-ed to eulogize not only his former boss, who he said was like a father to him, but also a way of life on the Street that has also come to pass.
“Salomon was always a meritocracy. Billy didn’t care what college you went to,” writes Bloomberg, noting that Salomon himself did not go to college, but rather worked his way up through the family firm.
“What’s more, he was as respectful to the guy who cleaned the bathrooms as he was to the senior partners.”
Bloomberg recalls seeing Salomon fire a trader for breaking the firm’s strict no-gifts rule by sending a customer a case of wine.
And the time he completely embarrassed a trader who’d said he would buy some shares, shooting back, “‘How did you get that kind of money in your personal account?'”
But it wasn’t just the way Salomon managed his employees, Bloomberg writes — it was also the way he treated the company’s clients:
The firm always came first, and customers always came before profits. Billy understood that the customer’s trust was the firm’s most valuable asset. If you sacrificed that trust to make a quick buck, then you destroyed more value than you could possibly create.
Evidently, those practices have stuck with Bloomberg, who said he learned more about management from Billy Salomon than he did completing his MBA at Harvard.
But on Wall Street, a lot of them are now a thing of the past.
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