Maria’s Note: Maria Bonaventura here, Rogue Economics’ senior managing editor. For today’s edition of Inside Wall Street with Nomi Prins, we’re doing something a little different…
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Nomi at our offices in Delray Beach, Florida. Nomi and I talked about her career on Wall Street… how she got there at such a young age… and how her early life shaped the strategies she shares with us in these pages today.
Now, I’m sharing our exclusive conversation with you. Read on…
Maria Bonaventura: When you were 19 years old, you became an analyst at Chase Manhattan Bank.
At the time, Chase Manhattan was one of the biggest banks in the country. That was before it merged with J.P. Morgan & Co. in 2000.
How did you land such a coveted job on Wall Street at such a young age?
Nomi Prins: I was studying Mathematics at SUNY Purchase, after a short stint at a community college. In my final semester at SUNY, I got a job at IBM in White Plains, which was a 20-minute drive away. I bought my first car so I could drive there.
One of the senior programmers I worked with at IBM was talking to a headhunter. This headhunter was trying to find him a job in New York City.
My mom would take me to New York when I was a kid. We’d go see shows and concerts there. So I’d always wanted to live there – in the city, in the middle of the action.
So I called up the headhunter. I said, “Hey, I’m getting my degree in mathematics with a straight-A transcript. And I’m working as a programmer. I want to work in New York City. I don’t care what I do.”
The next day, a Friday, I took a day off from IBM, and I took the train to New York City.
I interviewed with the head of the analytics group at Chase, who worked with their traders across foreign exchange. They were trying to convert their analytics and old code to C++, the new code at the time.
By Monday, I was working at Chase. This was just before I turned 20.
Maria: Did you have any interest in the markets before you got to Wall Street?
Nomi: I had an interest in being financially independent. I was always prudent with money. And I understood how money offers freedom.
I had a strong independent streak anyway. By the time I was 14, I wanted to support myself.
That’s why I went to a community college first, after I graduated from high school at 16. Then I went to SUNY, a state college, for my undergrad, and to New York University for grad school. I did that so I could finance my own education.
So in that sense, I knew about numbers and money. But from the standpoint of Wall Street and banking, I had no desire at all to work there up to that point.
That said, I enjoyed working with math and analytics. I enjoyed working with sets of information and data, solving puzzles, and forecasting what could happen.
I got that from my dad. He was a world-renowned statistician, and he did a lot of groundbreaking forecasting work at IBM.
And as I came to know, those skills are very useful when it comes to markets and investment strategies.
Plus, as it turned out, Wall Street was an exciting place to be. I mean, it was New York City!
I had a sense of the culture and the beat of the city, whether it was theater or music. So I could be involved not only with Wall Street and my education, but also in the arts.
Maria: We’ll come back to the arts in the future, Nomi. Because, for readers who want to get to know you better, that’s a big part of who you are.
But for today, I’m curious. What drove you to stay on Wall Street?
Nomi: I stayed with Chase for five years. During those five years, there was tremendous development in analytics on Wall Street.
Now, before I got that job, I always thought I’d work at a technology company. It just so happened that Wall Street offered that path in technology. I could use programming… mathematics… statistics… probability… and forecasting.
This was in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Computers were developing as well. So technology, much like it’s doing today, was leading the way.
I was in the middle of all that change for finance and technology – for programming, for analytics, and everything else.
What really drove me to stay on Wall Street was that ability to be at the cutting edge of things that hadn’t existed before. And it turned out those things are in finance and technology. These things were new not just to me, but to Wall Street at the time.
So even though I didn’t plan on being on Wall Street, it worked out well.
Plus, I’d always had an appetite to work and travel. So at Chase, I positioned myself to work in the London office for a while.
From there, I could travel and look at things very quickly from a global standpoint. That jived with my desire to be in the thick of the action… And to not just believe what I heard from others, but to really see it for myself.
Maria: Let’s talk about that desire to be in the middle of the action. This is something you’ve been doing for subscribers of our paid advisory, Distortion Report.
You’ve only been with us for about two months, and you’ve already put out several fantastic boots-on-the-ground videos.
You’ve spoken to subscribers from Florida… California… Tennessee… and even from one of the biggest copper mines in the world, in Arizona. And subscribers can expect to see lots more of that going forward.
So let me ask you… What drives you to travel, and to always check things out for yourself?
Nomi: Well, we all get characteristics early on from our parents, right? That was the case for me with traveling.
My parents came over to the States from Europe. I was first-generation American. My mom was an avid traveler, and she still is. She always wanted to experience the world, and she pushed the family on that.
My dad was also an avid traveler, but his story goes back beyond that…
He grew up in Holland during World War II. Twelve different families or orphanages hid him during the war. Some of the orphanages were built underground.
He wrote a book about it later in life. In it, he explained how he used his brain to escape possible death multiple times.
For example, he learned how to play chess at a very young age. Even as a child, he could often beat the adult at the table. And that endeared him to the people who were protecting him.
As a survival tactic, he got deep into the strategy and the math of chess. And then, very early on in my life, he taught me everything he knew.
In our family, chess is something you do to calm yourself. To this day, whenever I land somewhere on my travels, I play chess on my computer. It’s just a habit.
All of that was instilled in me during my childhood – that idea of looking past what’s right in front of me and learning to forecast.
Like what you’re reading? Send your thoughts to [email protected].