For my final post on TravelMusings, I leave you with information about a great new walking tour company in New York City—The Wall Street Experience.
Andrew Luan is your guide on this journey through the canyons of New York’s financial district, arguably the most important financial center in the world. And he’s a tour participant’s dream—an inside expert. He has lived and worked on Wall Street for years, most recently at Deutsche Bank (until he was one of thousands laid off due to the financial crisis), where he was a vice president trading structured credit bonds and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), a type of asset-backed security that has been blamed for the industry’s troubles.
In front of Federal Hall, looking at the original J.P. Morgan building. (Photo: D.M. Airoldi)
Luan offers four types of tours, but the signature Financial Crisis Tour ($45, 2 hours) is the one to take if you’re interested in insider information about what factors led to the financial collapse; how and when those on The Street realized it was imminent (months before it actually happened); perspective on the culture inside a large investment house; and how the industry and area might look in the future.
You’ll also get easy-to-understand explanations of CDOs and tranches, securities, ratings—Luan says Standard & Poor’s gets paid by the very companies it rates, making for a conflict of interest—asset, credit and equity markets and more, with copies of actual reports, charts and graphs, and bond sales sheets used by traders and analysts.
The tour starts at 15 Broad St., in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Today only 10 percent of the floor is now used for trading, with the remaining 90 percent taking place online. Our group also learned that the equity asset class traded at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) represents just $10 percent of the $100 trillion financial market industry.
You’ll see several of the area’s other key financial sites—including the Merchant’s Exchange, Bank of the United States (the first bank to collapse during the Great Depression), J.P. Morgan & Co., Deutsche Bank, AIG, Goldman Sachs and, of course, the Federal Reserve—as well as many historical attractions. Be sure to check out the marks on the original J.P. Morgan location, made from dynamite when the building was bombed in 1920, and I learned that Maiden Lane was so named because it used to be a stream where young women came to wash clothes.
Andrew Luan showing equity market charts used by analysts and traders. (Photo: D.M. Airoldi)
Luan is a font of knowledge—not just about the finance industry and historical attractions, but also of architecture—and he clearly enjoys sharing his insights to help people better understand the finance industry, Wall Street and human behavior, at least when it comes to investing. He even hands out laminated cards to remind participants of the lessons learned on the tour. “My goal is to give visitors a real understanding and sense of Wall Street, while also providing a historical context,” says Luan, who developed the tour after having given an informal one to visiting friends and family members who kept recommending it to others.
One thing I would like to see added to the tour is the ability to enter some of the buildings we learn about, not just view them from outside. But I know that’s a tall order for an industry and area of New York City that requires high levels of security. Otherwise, the Financial Crisis Tour exceeded my expectations, with Luan sharing more insider info than I thought would have been possible, taking us to an extra site that isn’t typically included and sticking around for any additional questions from participants.
“This is just about the best walking tour I’ve ever taken,” said Harriette Shakes of Palo Alto, Calif., who was in my group. I have to agree.
The Wall Street Experience, Financial Crisis Tour. Cost: $45 per person + tax, 2 person or $90 minimum; children under 15 free. Hours: Mon., Wed., Fri. at 10 a.m.; Sat. at 1 p.m. www.thewallstreetexperience.com