Au Revoir, Penserra Securities

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.

Maya Angelou

My last day at Penserra Securities was as advertised. A sugary stockpile of donuts delivered before the market open, followed by a breakfast bonanza of bacon and eggs. Then there was the cake, which weighed as much as my car and was without question the worst kept secret in my eight years at the firm. Wedged in between was a final, final order from a valued and decades-long customer with a demented yet delicious sense of humor (CTSH, lovingly referred to around Wall Street trading desks as cat sh**), whose last second execution before the final bell rang was accompanied by an office wide standing ovation. It was a fantastic way to go out.

And of course, this being Penserra Securities, there was a party. On a Friday afternoon. At the Fourth Bore, a local brew pub. All I can say (and remember) is that tequila shots go well with just about anything.

Prior to my arrival at work that morning, I sent the following note to every Penserra Securities employee. If you ever get the opportunity to meet one, shake their hand and listen to what they have to say. They’re bright, personable and smart, and if Penserra Securities were a stock, I’d recommend you buy it. Now.


To my Penserra friends and colleagues,

Today is my last unofficial official day as a Penserra employee. Unofficial, because technically I’m taking a leave of absence. Official, because it’s possible I won’t be coming back.

Today is a day to celebrate. Because of the steady, brick-by-brick pyramid of success achieved by everyone associated with Penserra Securities, I’m able to leave on such generous terms. I’ve been blessed to not only witness but share this tour de force with many of you over the past eight years, and everyone should take pride in not only what Penserra has accomplished, but what Penserra has become.

I first met George Madrigal in February 2009. Caucusing in the dreary, spartan sarcophagus of my former employer, a confident George presented to a cluster of grizzled trading dinosaurs his vision of Wall Street’s future, of how a minority-business enterprise focused on nimble execution of new trading products and techniques could not only survive, but thrive. Though I couldn’t understand much of what he was saying, my common-sense radar said George was a man you could trust as well as like. In short order, the rag tag team of Robert Goddard and Lee Geiger signed up and became Penserra Securities employees #4 and #5, respectively.

The ensuing two years were more challenging than a Kardashian saying no to a selfie. Robo and I could have made a fortune if, instead of trading commissions, we were paid on how often we were lampooned with “Who are you?” or “What’s a Penserra?” Many a morning, we Three Amigos would sit around the sarcophagus’s much-too-quiet trading desk, listening to the relentless clicks from the clocks on the wall, pondering whether there was enough cash in the till to make it through payday. But no matter how difficult the day, how trying the circumstance, or how high the obstacle, George maintained a steady, upbeat, and erudite temperament. He believed in the reality that would one day become Penserra, and his never-say-die attitude was emphatically infectious.

Fast forward to June 2017. Plush digs in Orinda. Offices in New York and Chicago. Seventy-seven employees listed in the staff directory. If Penserra Securities were a stock, it’s a better buy today than it was in 2010. How did Penserra get here? How did Penserra Securities not only find its financial footing, but also become such a harmonious, vibrant, and exciting place to work?

Look around you, and the answer becomes obvious. It’s due to good, decent, honest, hard-working, intelligent, and dedicated individuals like the Kelly Harris’s and Ashley Handel’s of the world. It’s the people, not the algorithms, that make Penserra unique.

And it’s these special people I will dearly miss, more than they’ll ever know. I will miss the mischievous banter of McLaverty Mile, and Harrod’s incessant softball chatter. Castelli’s Yoda-like wisdom, and Cornell’s curious curiosity. Dustin’s hearty laugh, and Jane’s muted giggles. Ernie’s swaggy stroll, and Kim’s luminescent smile. Kelly’s quips, and Zlatko’s scowl. Ashley’s sailor-like swearing, and Francisco’s patented love squeeze. Kyle messing up the donut order, and Instinet messing with Robo’s mind. Anand’s funky t-shirts, and Calvin’s comely entourage. JV’s second lunch, and Schmilinsky’s second bottle. And, of course, I’ll miss Sam, but odds are good his blind zealotry for the Raiders will forever fund my retirement.

If I could offer any words of advice, it would be these; follow the lead of George Madrigal. You can take this to the bank; under George’s decisive leadership and calm guidance, Penserra Securities will reach unimaginable heights. Why am I so confident? Because George has created a professional culture based on mutual respect, of egos being locked in a drawer, of not acting like he’s the only adult in the room. By his own example, George has proven that the key to Penserra’s success is to listen, not dictate; to exchange, not suppress; to appreciate, not disparage. The fact he’s doubled-down on Penserra’s future by investing the firm’s emotional capital in a video arcade, a poker table, and a spiffy new kegerator speaks volumes, most of which gets articulated at the nearest bar. And as Señor Madrigal himself has proven time and time again, there is absolutely, positively, nothing wrong with that.

To conclude, I wish to extend a huge thank you to everyone who made me feel so loved and appreciated during this final week. I now leave you with these parting words, a dictate I’ve uttered on a thousand Friday’s; call me if you ever need bail money.

Au revoir,


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