Wendy Land-Carillo has spent the past three decades working in the trading industry, starting out filing and photocopying for $170 a week, and now as a floor broker and liaison to upstairs clients for floor execution. Along the way, she owned her own business for 18 years, which she calls "the best thing I ever did." Wendy talked to us about learning on the job, the importance of her professional relationships, and how she went from studying art to the trading world.
FAST FACTS ABOUT Wendy
Where she’s from: Long Island, New York
Education: Bachelor’s degree in finance
Where she lives now: Metro New York City
Growing up she wanted to be: an artist
Now she’s: a floor broker in the trading world
Tell us about yourself growing up!
When I was young and growing up, I always took art classes. I played the viola growing up. I always did something artistic. I mean, I played tennis, and I skated, but I love art. I floated through high school. I was an average student, Bs and B plusses. Much better in English and history than math and science. I would rather go to the art room.
I was excited about going to college. I was more excited to be getting away from home than anything. I had good friends growing up, which was nice, but I think I’m more driven than anything because of the way I grew up. I think I got very lucky and didn't get lost in a bad situation. I turned it into a positive once I left.
You were studying art in college. How did you get into the world of trading?
I went to the University of Buffalo for a year and a half. I went for architecture, and then I switched to art because it was what I was really interested in. I ended up leaving home with 5 dollars in my pocket. My boyfriend at the time, who I ended up marrying and I’m still with, had a friend on the floor of the American Stock Exchange, and I needed a job. I had no money, and he said, “Maybe you can interview and get a job.” I went down there, and I got hired by Drexel [Burnham Lambert] to photocopy and file. That’s how I started. I’ve been doing it ever since, and that was in I think ’82.
I started out running up and down stairs photocopying and filing all their tickets. That’s all I did for 170 dollars a week, and within six months, they kept promoting me to be their head clerk, but they only gave me a 20-dollar-a-week raise. I ended up leaving, going to another firm for three months, and then, after that, going to the company I’m with now, and I was there for six and a half years, and then I left that company, and I started my own firm with a partner.
I had the attitude that if I was going to do this, I was going to be really good at it and try and make as much money as possible and not let anything get in my way.
What do you think led you to rise so quickly when you started out?
I had the attitude that if I was going to do this, I was going to be really good at it and try and make as much money as possible and not let anything get in my way. I learned as much as I possibly could from everybody that I could about everything that I could. I’m very good at dealing with people on the phones, taking information and funneling it out there fast. I became very fast at it, and that’s what you had to do back then. It’s more electronic now, but back then, everything was phones. There was no internet. You weren’t IM’ing. It was all based on you, and hand signals, and dealing with the broker. It was more personal back then. It was I guess how you talk to people, your interactions, and I watched. I learned as much as I could without getting trampled on, because that was the tough part.
Did you do any formal training, or did you learn everything on the job?
It’s just learning, picking people’s brains, learning, watching, and doing, and that’s how you teach other people to do what you do. I had to take my Series 7, and I failed it the first time I took it. It was a horrible test, but I passed the second time. Most of what I do on the floor is just mimicking, copying, knowing how to read people, and learning, and following other people’s lead.
Can you describe what you do now?
I’m in a booth with many people, and we take orders from clients, and we get them executed on the floor of the exchange. That’s the simplest way to describe what we do. Since everything is on the internet, I only have chats, and we do everything via IM at Bloomberg. We put it into our chat, and then we copy and paste it to our various clients who trade that product. They’ll chat me back and say, “Oh, this is my market. This is what I plan to do.” We try and put clients together on trades. We’ll have one side of a trade, and our job is to try and find somebody to do the other side of that trade. Basically, I’m a facilitator for my clients.
It’s a little less complicated than it used to be because there are fewer traders on the floor now. So there are not as many people as there used to be getting in your way of putting trades up. I used to stand on the box so that I could be taller than all the guys so I could see what was going on, but now everybody’s equal on the floor. It’s just one tiny little floor.
How do you build good relationships with your clients?
A lot of the clients I’ve known for a very long time, and sometimes it’s also word of mouth. People hear about you. Then they’ll call you, “Oh, I hear you do a really good job, and I’d like to do business with you.” The other way is you look people up on Bloomberg or LinkedIn, and you try and find them to become clients. You take them out, and you talk to them, and they become interested in what services you can offer them: I can offer you a good rate as far as how much I’m going to charge you to do the business. I can offer you a better quality of service. I can get the other side of your trades. I can find people who will help you. My relationships, most of them, are pretty long. I’ve known a lot of the people I do business with for a good 20 years. It’s all through meeting other people who will recommend, “hey, you should talk to this person,” or “hey, you should talk to that person.”
Do you specialize in particular products?
We try and do a bit of everything. The trading side people will trade a certain sector or a certain product, but we’ll do business in any sector. Whatever the clients want to give us, we’ll do. We have the ability to take our business and do it anywhere we want, even though we’re situated on the New York / Amex. We can do the business on any floor.
Running my own business was the best thing I ever did because it was a huge learning experience.
What was it like running your own business?
I owned my firm for 18 years, which was great. Running my own business was the best thing I ever did because it was a huge learning experience. I didn't know anything when I started.
I was working for the company that I’m working for now. I had been there six and a half years, and I was not getting paid equal to men. I wanted equal pay, and I didn't get it. I felt I was being taken advantage of, and one of the men I was working with, who ended up becoming my partner, kept saying, “You know, we could do this on our own. We could bring the business in on our own, have these clients, and make some money just like these guys are doing instead of just making a salary.“
I started my company in ’89. My husband was a trader on the floor at the time, and he had done very well in the crash of ’87. We had some money set aside, and he said just go for it. What do we have to lose? I asked for more money from the company I was working for. I asked for probably something ridiculous because I knew I wasn’t going to get it. I really wanted equal pay, and I know that all the men were making a lot more.
I said, “all right, let’s go for it.” We started our own company, and I’m going to say the first two years, it was difficult, but I was making so much more than I was before, like three times as much. It became worth it even through all the struggles, all the mistakes. Then I got pregnant in ’91 / ’92. I had a child in ’92, and we wanted one of us to stay home. So my husband stayed home, and he raised our son. I ended up continuing to work, and the business really took off in the ‘90s. It was cool, but still, running your own company, it’s difficult. It’s very hard. I thought it was good. I did well.
The overhead was ridiculous, and it got to a point where it just wasn’t worth it anymore, and that was in 2007. The guy I work with now said, “Come back here and you can work.” I took my business, and I left my partner, and I shut it down. Now I just work for a salary. The business consolidated so much. The rates came in so much.
Were there overhead expenses that are unique to the trading world?
Besides salaries, you have all of the equipment that you have on the floor, all of the exchange fees, your brokers’ badges, your accountant, your compliance. They just pile, and pile, and pile. Social security, you have to match and you have to match FICA. People don’t realize when you run a business, all of the expenses. You have to do all these things, and those are all the things that I didn't know when I started.
Running the company, it came to a point where it became too much for me. It was great in the ‘90s. But when the expenses started piling up, and the profit margins started coming in, and the rates started coming in, that’s when I had to start taking a hard look at it. That’s when my partner started really not understanding that we needed to make changes, and he refused, and that’s when I had to separate myself.
In your job now, is there a commission involved or just straight salary?
When I first came over, I worked for just commission, and that lasted three years. Then my boss said, “why don’t you just take a salary and make it easy?” And I’m like, you know what? That’s fine. I don’t want to stress about how much business I bring in anymore. I’m 54, and at this point, I’ve been doing this forever. Now I make a nice salary. Do I stress about my clients? Yes. Am I very protective of them? Yes. Do I feel like they’re still my own even though I work for somebody? Yes. I’m very attached.
I work for a wonderful guy. I think he’s just like me. He’s as crazy as I was running a company. He’s very high strung, which I am at work. He’s very high intense, which I am at work. It’s all about work when you’re there. Nothing should interfere. You should be doing your job, watching the screens, doing this, trying to do your business. That’s what it should be about. I’m very intense that way.
You mentioned your husband and your son. What fills your time outside of work?
I like to work out. When my son was growing up, we spent a lot of time with him. We like to go to Yankee games. We watch a lot of sports on TV. We go out for dinner. I’m very interested in art still. If I go to a museum here and there, I would be very happy. I love to spend time in Manhattan. The Met is my favorite museum. Will always be my favorite museum. We listen to a lot of music and stuff like that. When I retire, I will definitely go start taking a couple of art classes again. It’s something that I definitely miss doing in my life. I would love to start painting.
It’s hard to know what opportunities are going to suit you until you try them.
How I ended up on Wall Street is just weird. It’s not something I ever intended to be. I fell into it. I got very good at it, and I also think that I had a little bit of luck involved. Maybe right place, right people, right time. I learned from the right people. I had good teachers around me. I picked a lot of people’s brains. I tried to understand as much as I could of everything that I needed to learn, and I still learn every day. I learn new things, and I speak to intelligent people all the time.
It’s an interesting business. I have this incredible drive to be very good at what I do, in a very male-oriented world. I drove myself to try and be better than them and not let them put me down, especially I would say in the ‘80s.
So what advice would you give someone who wants to do the kind of work that you do?
You need to be very focused, be very aggressive, and pay attention. I think [my skills] translate everywhere. Make sure that [your bosses] know everything that you’re doing, and don’t let them take advantage of you.
How does your life now compare to what you imagined being an adult would be like when you were a teenager?
It’s funny. When I was growing up, I never expected to make a lot of money. I never expected to have a really big house or anything like that. I wasn’t really sure what I expected because I didn't have such a great life as a teenager, and now I love my life. I’m so proud of everything I accomplished. I have a wonderful husband. I have a wonderful son. I don’t have a gigantic house or anything like that, but I have a nice house.
My life is more I think then I ever expected my life to be, I guess is the best way I could say it. I’ve exceeded every expectation that I had. When I was growing up, I never wanted kids because of everything I went through, and then I ended up having this beautiful son who turned out to be amazing. My husband and I lived together for a while, and we didn't want to get married. Then we got married. We’ve been together for 30 years. My life turned out really good. Everybody has problems, but my life turned out way better than I had ever imagined it to be. I really feel like I got lucky in my life. Oh my gosh, I am so grateful for everything I have. Everything.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Check out books Wendy loves!