Head of NYSE Trading Floors Worked His Way from Runner to Head of Cotton Exchange and On to NYSE Trading Floor Head
Tom Greene wanted to be a civil servant, perhaps a fireman, when he was growing up. However, despite his best efforts, those jobs went to returning Vietnam veterans. So he chose a vocation working with electricity, but that did not get him too far. Eventually, a cousin on Wall Street suggested he come on down there. And so began a career that has spawned 50 years, from his days as a runner on the New York Cotton Exchange to his role of Vice President at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) today.
Greene moved ahead in his career by never saying no and by being in the right place at the right time. He moved quickly to the mail room from his time as a runner on the Cotton Exchange floor, then returned to the floor as a price reporter. He was also a board marker, putting prices up on a blackboard. He worked in compliance and eventually started running trading floors.
Greene remembers when cotton first went to $1.00, the first big bull market he experienced in cotton. The Hunt Brothers run on the Silver market was also a memorable bull market, Greene said.
Albert M. Weis was a memorable chairman of the New York Cotton Exchange, Greene said, recalling Weis’s commute from Long Island to the exchange by plane. Paul Tudor Jones and Stephen Place, are other chairmen Greene became close to.
Greene also mentioned that NYCE and New York Board of Trade (NYBOT) (executive Joe O’Neill mentored him for many years. One day O’Neill invited Greene to the meeting room to meet the prime minister of Ireland, where plans for a new exchange were outlined. That led to Greene getting a passport so he could travel to Dublin and build the trading floor there, a plan that was created by Paul Tudor Jones to trade the U.S. Dollar Index contract.
Greene shared his experiences during the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and how without much light he and others were able to evacuate the building. Six people perished in that attack. The exchange had great teams working to bring in supplemental air to restart the exchange.
He mentions that the Coffee, Sugar, Cocoa Exchange (CSCE) had a hot backup venue that had become part of the New York Board of Trade when Coffee, Sugar, Cocoa merged with the Cotton Exchange. That backup site became the trading floor for the NYBOT after the 9/11 attacks destroyed the Trade Center.
When the New York Board of Trade was created by the merger of the Coffee, Sugar, Cocoa Exchange and the New York Cotton Exchange, NYCE executive Patrick Gambaro fought for Greene to manage the floor of the new combined exchange, a position Greene took on.
Greene said opening a futures market in the morning was like starting a horse race: it was organized chaos.
Through his work on the trading floors, Greene became involved with an industry charity at the NYBOT that was called Futures & Options for Kids. Greene came up with the idea of having a dress-down day on Friday, but to participate one had to throw a dollar into the hat. With 5000 traders on the floor, these days became a popular way to raise money for Futures & Options for Kids. That charity was shuttered when the floor closed.
Greene later became involved in the charity, “Building Homes for Heroes,” that builds homes for severely disabled veterans, something he continues to support to this day.
After Intercontinental Exchange bought the New York Board of Trade and announced it was shutting down the trading floor, Greene needed to find a home for the exchange’s options traders. He approached the New York Stock Exchange and struck a deal. ICE’s Jeff Sprecher then bought NYSE Euronext, bringing all the exchanges together.
Greene helped ICE build out new midtown offices in New York for ICE and NYBOT in the former space of MF Global, including building a grading room for coffee. After that, he was given a severance package.
As Greene worked his way out of a job, he told Tom Farley, who had been the head of the rebranded NYBOT and had moved to the NYSE, that he would be interested in helping if there were an opportunity. Farley gave Greene so much to do, including retrofitting the whole NYSE building, that Greene had a full-time job. Then Greene was asked to run the floor of the NYSE. Though Greene was reluctant because he had no background in equities, Farley reassured him, saying he would learn it. And he did. Greene continues in the role today and says he will as long as he has his health.