Maureen Lowe provides a first-person, behind-the-scenes account of ringing the opening bell for the Nasdaq trading day.
As you might have seen in our announcements earlier this week, the Nasdaq invited FTF to ring the opening bell yesterday as we kicked off our annual FTF SMAC NY event focusing on social media and compliance in financial services.
When the call came on Tuesday morning, it was answered by our company prankster, Kenson David, so when he told me about the invite, my first response was, ‘You’re joking.’ But even as he continued to assure me that he wasn’t, I still wasn’t too sure. At the same time, my body became filled with excitement and anticipation and I was hoping with all my might that it was true.
Once he finally had me convinced that this time he was not, in fact, joking, I without hesitation shouted out, ‘OF COURSE, I DO!’ which erupted in laughter and cheering throughout the office, and some jumping up and down on my part.
After a bit of coordination with Nasdaq officials and some of the FTF SMAC speakers, we were confirmed later that day as the official opening bell ringer for Thursday. Then, the more important decisions came about such as: What was I going to wear? What? Wait, I have to talk for 90 seconds. What am I going to say?!?!
I don’t think I can put into words exactly the exhilaration that was in the air at the office for the next 36 hours. Directions and instructions started flying over from Nasdaq and we had a short amount of time to pull it all together but the FTF team rallied and got it done.
More importantly, my outfit was decided and my opening remarks were written and rehearsed about 100 times through a combination of saying them out loud as I walked the streets of NYC to practicing in front of a mirror.
Nasdaq officials issued a media alert on Wednesday that was picked up by all the major financial news organizations.
As I was frantically working away at my desk Wednesday afternoon, a LOUD ‘Oh my gosh you are on CNN Money. This is crazy!” came from our same prankster, but again, this time, he was not joking. The excitement in his voice for me, for FTF, for the event was something you don’t often find in employees.
The emails started to come in from peers and colleagues: ‘Saw you on Yahoo! Finance!’ ‘Saw you on MarketWatch!’
We were out there, like really out there, and people were noticing.
The morning of the big day felt for me like what Christmas morning used to feel like when I believed in Santa: there was an inexplicable magic in the air. I was excited for me, my team, my family and friends.
My smartphone was all abuzz with Facebook posts, text messages and phone calls.
When I was all put together, I stood at the mirror outfitted in the most expensive shirt in my closet, a pinstriped suit and red high-heeled pumps and said out loud to myself, ‘You got this. Own it,’ as I walked out the door.
As I made my way to Nasdaq in my red high heeled shoes, there was a spring in my step. I stood taller and walked with confidence but was filled with giddy excitement. I kept telling myself remember every moment, enjoy every second, even these minutes as you walk down 44th Street toward Times Square. From the moment I arrived at the Nasdaq Marketsite, the staff could not have been any nicer, more excited for us or more accommodating.
As I stood at the front door and looked up to see the FTF logo on the big screen, I told the doorman with a gleaming look on my face, ‘That’s my company. We are ringing the bell today (as I made a bell ringing gesture with my hand,).’ He couldn’t help but laugh and opened the door for me.
When the production staff came over to get our group from the lobby and brought us into the studio, it really started to become real. We entered the studio and an exchange segment was going on live. We still had about 30 minutes before the opening bell ceremony started but I was so grateful for the time.
I spoke with the production staff, the host, the camera crew and I became more comfortable in the environment. We did a dry run of what would happen and when. I was told it would be live on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News and I felt my eyes widen as they went down the list.
We did a photo shoot with the group and individually which immediately started to rotate up on the giant, Nasdaq screen/tower out in Time Square. We were all elated and were taking pictures of the TVs in the studios showing our photos out in Times Square.
Finally, it was go time.
The host, David Wicks, vice president at NASDAQ OMX, walked up to the podium, gave an amazing introduction about FTF and the FTF SMAC event. Then the moment came when he introduced me and called me up to the podium.
From then on, everything felt like it was happening in slow motion but at the same time it was going so quickly. My heart started pounding a bit more heavily as I walked up to the podium, but I reminded myself, ‘You got this.’
As I stood up there with the FTF logo behind me, my supportive team in front of me, I took a second for myself (but just a split second) to take it all in and then I started speaking. I nailed it.
I remembered everything I wanted to say and I said it with confidence. David came back up on stage and presented me with a crystal plaque which I held up in the air like I had won an Oscar! It was a symbol of achievement for all of us and it deserved to be raised up high.
Then, everyone from our group along with men and women from the U.S. Air Force in attendance to honor the six decades that the Air Force has been serving this country were called up to the stage.
From the FTF team, we had Sarah Hathaway, vice president, Eugene Grygo, chief content editor, and Jett Schilling, sales director. Representing our FTF SMAC speakers were Marla Bergman from Goldman Sachs, Nathan Bricklin from Wells Fargo, Mark Bisard from American Express, and Mitchell Bompey from Morgan Stanley.
At 9:29, we were instructed to cheer as loud as we could for a full minute and we were told the louder we cheered, the better the market did, so we and the Air Force members, screamed and shouted and clapped for a full minute. (For the record, it was a great trading day).
As we came closer to 9:30, we counted down, out loud from 10 seconds. At the one second mark, I was to hit the bell (which is a touch screen), pick up a giant electronic pen, and sign my signature to an i-pad-looking screen which was immediately projected on the giant Nasdaq screen in Times Square.
I practiced this during rehearsal, but this time when I signed my name, I added an exclamation point. A few more seconds of cheering and clapping continued, and then it was done.
As everyone started to get off the stage, one of the senior Air Force representatives stayed behind to shake my hand. He said I had a dynamic that most people don’t have and that I did an amazing job and not many people could do what I just did, the way I did it.
Needless to say, I was stunned and so incredibly appreciative. It was the first feedback I had received. Up until that point, I had no idea what anyone else thought about not only what I said, but about how the whole ceremony was perceived.
I told him how much it meant to me that he took the time to tell me something so kind.
We were then quickly ushered out to Times Square for a second photo shoot.
This time, we were taking shots in front of the large Nasdaq screen which was scrolling the photos of our group taken earlier that morning. We were all having a blast re-living the moment, laughing and exchanging stories about our experiences.
But, little did we know, the camera man was still filming. The reel from these moments is almost more fun to watch than the actual ringing of the bell (I said almost) because it captured the pure excitement and gratification we all felt for what had just happened.
After the photo shoot, we hopped in cars and made our way down to the FTF SMAC event because despite our 15 milliseconds of fame, there was an event to run after all. Needless to say, we were all on a “bell high” for the rest of the day.
During the cocktail reception after the event, our bell ringing group celebrated with a bottle of champagne. We will forever remember this experience and we will forever be connected in a special way because we experienced it together.
The only thing I would have changed about this day would have been for the whole FTF team to be present, but this was not possible with the event happening simultaneously.
When I started FTF eight years ago, I never imagined how much we would have accomplished in such a short amount of time.
But, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for helping me to have this opportunity. Thank you for noticing what we are doing and for supporting our growth and success.
But most of all, thank you to the FTF team who work so hard every day to make this company what it is and for believing in what we are working to achieve. And last, but certainly not least, thank you Katie Flanagan, for organizing and producing an amazing FTF SMAC NY event this year.
Next time, you will be up there ringing the bell too for our IPO!