Monday, March 29, 2010

Bells Are Ringing

If you ever get the chance to participate in a bell ringing ceremony for the New York Stock Exchange, grab it. It’s a lot of fun. Recently, the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University held a panel discussion on the Future of the Capital Markets. One of the panelists was Duncan Niederauer, the CEO of NYSE Euronext, and as part of the program, the Jones School was honored by being allowed to remotely ring the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange for the close of trading on March 29, 2010.

For those interested in the actual mechanics, the bell actually starts to ring 15 seconds before the close of trading and trading stops when the gavel comes down. The interval between the start of the bell ringing and the gavel coming down is to allow traders to complete their trades. Given that we are talking about professional traders and New Yorkers to boot, it’s never a problem completing trades in that last 15 seconds.

When you ring the bell at the New York stock Exchange, the only one who has a challenging role is the CEO, who has to simultaneously depress a button and remember to bring down the gavel 15 seconds later. This is the corporate equivalent of walking and chewing gum at the same time. As most CEOs are used to having someone else perform such complex tasks, it can sometimes be a challenge. Everyone else on the podium simply has to clap and look engaged.

Doing it remotely is a lot more fun. You get these cute little commemorative cowbells and you get to ring them and shout like mad for 15 seconds. Everything else gets taken care of back in New York. At Rice last Thursday, it seemed as if the entire school was in attendance. We rang our bells and shouted like mad and it was great. And yes, I’m in that picture somewhere.