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Open Forum speeches

November 5, 2011

Last night Andrew, myself and Christian gave the Open Forum at Zucotti Park, representing the Alternative Banking working group. I wanted to share a couple of the speeches we used here. Andrew wrote the first part, and I wrote the second and third parts (the third part was adapted from FogOfWar’s breakdown of the banking system). Because we used the human microphone to speak, it had to be written almost like poetry. For now I’ll only share the ones I wrote, since I haven’t asked Andrew for permission to publish his. The event was videotaped and I’ll post a link to the YouTube when I know it. Hopefully we got a few more people to come to our meeting this afternoon.


I want to say something
about my background
When I was a kid
I wanted to become a mathematician
I was a nerd
I loved math because
it made everything
either true or false
it made everything
feel clean and safe
and I liked to feel that way

I worked hard
I went to college
I went to grad school
I was a post-doc
I became a professor of math
at Barnard College

but when I finally got there
I realized I wanted something else
I wanted to be in the real world
I wanted to be part of this city
I decided to work in business
the only job I knew how to get
was as a quant at a hedge fund

I didn’t know anything
about finance
I went there anyway
I learned a lot
I worked with smart people
I learned how they think
I learned how the markets work
I learned how to predict the market

I started to see the system
as an enormous junkyard
and the role we played
as the scavengers
we were the junkyard dogs
we used math and computers
we skimmed off the top
of the enormous system of money

this math is not clean
this math is not safe

there was something wrong
whose money is this?
Where does this money come from?
I couldn’t understand it

I asked other people there
whose money is this?
this is the system they said
it’s just money in the system
your question doesn’t make sense

but I thought more about it
I realized this money
it comes from somewhere
it comes from people
it is their savings
it is their mortgage payments
it is their retirements
some of them are rich
they can afford to make bets
but not all of them are rich
most of the system is made
from normal people’s money

I finally decided
I had to go
it didn’t seem right
to take that money

I went to work at a risk firm
we tried to understand risk
but after some time there
I realized something
people don’t care about risk
not the way they should
I left that place too
I left finance

but I still wanted to do something
about how the financial system works
which is why I’m here

I’m very thankful to you
that you are here too
and we know something
we know the system isn’t working
let’s figure it out
let’s talk about it
let’s understand it
and why it is failing
and let’s make it work
it needs to work for us
it needs to work for everyone
Thank you


What is banking?
there are four parts

The first is old-school
traditional banking
the institutions in this
are Banks and Thrifts,
Credit Unions, and Payday Lenders
they take deposits
they start checking accounts
they make loans
they make mortgages
they give out credit cards
they give out debit cards.

The second category of banking
is Investment Funds
the institutions here
are pension funds
mutual funds
index funds
and hedge funds
the collect money from investors
to invest in the market
this is how your 401ks
get into the system

The third kind of banking
is investment banking
here the institutions
are the investment banks
like Goldman Sachs
they give advice to companies
like when they go IPO
or need to raise money
they also make trades
that are supposed to help
their clients

The fourth kind of banking
is Insurance
the institutions are
the insurance companies
they pool risks
they make big pools of money
from lots of people
so that when bad things happen
the pool can pay
instead of one person
we use this system
for Home insurance,
for life insurance,
for car insurance,
and for medical insurance

I am telling you this
to let you know
that this system is big
but it is not infinite
it has been set up by people
and it can be understood by people
and it can improved by people
please join us
the Alternative Banking group
we are meeting tomorrow
Thank you

Categories: #OWS, finance
  1. FogOfWar
    November 5, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Hmmm…think I heard that “four parts of finance” somewhere before. ; )

    Good meeting today!



  1. November 6, 2011 at 2:00 am
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