By Dawn Kopecki
Keep swinging with the former Wall Street workers swapping music for money.
The lead singer of aged inventory spent last year looking for a job after cutbacks at Credit Suisse Group AG. Three other members of the same band, formed by mortgage-bond traders at the bank, no longer work there.
The group has kept playing, belting out covers of U2’s ‘Vertigo’ and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Gimme Three Steps’ even as members have been shaken by the financial collapse. Front-man Allen Oppici, 45, and saxophonist Jason Weyeneth, 30, are now working elsewhere on Wall Street, trumpeter Mike Marriott retired, and vocalist Carla Lynne Hall, 41, has changed careers.
“It’s the music that keeps us together,” Marriott, 46, said from his vacation home in Naples, Florida. “The fact that I’m hanging out at the beach and a lot of guys have left the firm hasn’t diminished our desire to play together.”
Aged Inventory, named for a bond that sits in a trading book for more than 60 days, is one of three acts with talent from mortgage-bond dealers playing in New York at Refi Rock, a financial-industry charity fundraiser that has expanded to twice a year from annually.
“It’s great when all these people work so hard and then you can go to an event like this and look at your coworker up on stage and for a minute, they’re a rock star,” said organiser Russell Middleton, 47, a mortgage-bond trader who ended up at JPMorgan Securities Inc after losing his job twice since 2007.
More than 183,700 Wall Street workers have been fired in the past two years amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, according to Bloomberg data.Refi Rock’s Spring Fling grew out of Halloween fundraisers started in 2004 by Middleton, who continued the event after finding himself out of a job at HSBC Holdings Plc in 2007, and again in 2008 when Bear Stearns Cos folded.
Middleton said he has sold 1,400 tickets at $40 each to the event at the Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier moored in the Hudson River as a museum, and expects to reach the site’s 1,800-person capacity.
“It’s a great way of doing something else other than work Wall Street,” said participant John Ou, the 39-year-old lead guitarist for cover band Yellow Man.
By day he is a director in the fixed-income group at Guggenheim Capital Markets LLC in New York.
“Even though things have been challenging for the industry and economy, I think the community and Wall Street is still making charity a real priority,” Ou pointed out.
During the day’s programme, Middleton said he was trying to match the $50,000 Refi Rock raised last October for the Boomer Esiason Foundation, a group named after the former National Football League quarterback that helps to fund cystic fibrosis research.The event is sponsored by Jersey City and the New Jersey-based Tradeweb, an electronic bond and derivatives trading network owned by Thomson Reuters Corp.
Half of Aged Inventory’s eight original band members still work in the US offices of Zurich-based Credit Suisse. A ninth member, drummer Tom Graf, 45, is a Credit Suisse client as a managing director of structured products at Boston-based Standish Mellon Asset Management Co, his second job since the financial crisis began in 2007.
Marriott, who ran the structured products business at Credit Suisse, said he started seeking early retirement at the end of 2008 after having one of his best years at the bank.
The hours and pressure were intense, he said, and the work was increasing, including a weekend when he helped the government value Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc assets before that bank’s unwinding in September.
The father of three said he once worked 38 days without a break. “At some point you have to say that’s enough,” he said.
Hall, the vocalist, began as an administrative assistant for Credit Suisse’s fixed-income desk and eventually moved to the human resources department. Credit Suisse cut her along with 500 other employees in the first quarter of 2008.“It was stressful because so many people were losing their jobs and morale was low,” said Hall, who is now pursuing a music career full-time. “I’m much happier,” she said. “I feel like I’m living the life I always wanted to.”
Oppici says he was fortunate to lose his job in November 2007, before firms started slashing bonuses and when Credit Suisse was trading above $64.
The company’s American depositary receipts, each worth one ordinary share, rose $2.10, or 4.9 percent, to $44.79 last week in New York Stock Exchange trading.
Last year “wasn’t a bad year to miss” said Oppici, who didn’t work at all in 2008. He performed at Credit Suisse’s 2007 holiday party a month after he lost his job. Marriott played at his own retirement party in April.
“The whole stigma about getting laid off and what that meant, it’s become different than what it was,” Marriott said. “It doesn’t mean you were a bad performer. A lot of jobs just disappeared and a lot of good people lost their jobs.”
This article is courtesy of Bloomberg.