A Senior Craft Talk at WVRC - May 25th
LEO TSENG was our Speaker, but before that…BRIAN BUMPAS led the Pledge. LENNY FRIEDMAN and JACK HARRIS combined to take us through America. Next up was WARREN DODSON, with the Invocation. “People are often unreasonable, unreachable, and self-centered. Forgive them. …Be kind, anyway. Continue to succeed…Be honest and frank, anyway…Build, anyway. People often forget tomorrow do good, anyway. So give the world the best you have, anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God it was never between you and them, anyway. Well said, WARREN, and Thank You.
We had no Visiting Rotarians, but there were guests. NICK KAHRILAS brought his wife, Laura they have been married for 16 years! SHANE WAARBROEK had a Special Guest, Kevin Badkoubehi, who is an attorney in Century City. I brought my neighbor, Special Guest Barry Marlin also an attorney, and also in Century City. PP PETER MORE introduced the guest of MADAME WU, Ava Yu.. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Vivid Magazine.
I escorted our two Air Force officers to the Podium. Lt. Colonel Tony Leppellere, who is the Commanding Officer of the AF ROTC at UCLA, introduced this year’s awardee, 2nd Lt. Adam Vogel. He was the most recent Wing Commander at UCLA, and has been selected for Flight Training. Lt. Vogel is among the top fifty cadets in the 5,000 person ROTC nationally. He received an engraved sword, and then President DON asked the question I was wondering about where do you keep a sword in the cockpit? As long as it doesn’t interfere with the ejection mechanism, you are OK, replied Lt. Vogel. He was of course still a cadet when the award was decided, and I’m sure our award helped him get his commission…Seriously, these three service awards are important events to continue WVRC is probably the oldest sponsor of all three units at UCLA, and as you get to know them, they are all outstanding students, who will make future leaders.
I did have two other announcements. One was a plea for someone to present the Navy ROTC Award on Friday, June 2nd at UCLA. Since that time, President DON has signed on, and will present an engraved clock to their outstanding Midshipman. And since I was already up there, I asked if anyone could join me as a Poll Worker. The Primary Election is Tuesday the 6th of June, and LA County is at least 5,000 people short of what they need to staff the poling places. Call me, or Charles Darden at (562)462-2621, who is with the County Registrar of Voters there is still time to sign up, and they are quite anxious for workers. It is a valued service to our Community.
This was a two-joke Thursday. There is a suggestion that we dig a moat along the border, 50 yards wide and quite deep, and dump the dirt in New Orleans, which needs a lift. We next transfer all the Florida alligators into that moat. President DON allowed as how he didn’t know if this would work, but he felt we should know about the plan as it develops. Next story two cars collide in a serious accident, on a cold, snowy road in the early morning. Each driver, one a man and the other a woman, is able to survive unhurt, but both their cars are totally demolished. As they crawl out of their cars, the woman says, “I see you are a man, and I’m a woman. This must be a sign that we should meet and live together in peace for the rest of our days. “ The man replies, “Oh yes, I agree with you completely this must be a sign from God.”. The woman continues, “Look at this it must be another sign. While my car is completely demolished, this bottle of wine survived. Surely this must be a sign that God wants us to drink this wine to celebrate our good fortune.” The man nods his head in agreement, drinks half the bottle, and then hands it back to the woman. She takes the bottle and immediately puts the cap back on. She hands it back to the man, who then asks, “Aren’t you having any wine?” The woman replies, “No, I think I’ll just wait for the Police to arrive”.
At this point, PP RON WANGLIN showed up. This is an event, since his office is now, and has been for some time, in Pasadena. Thus this visit brought up the subject of a fine. President DON, in his never-ending policy of fairness, asked PP RON how long it had been since he last had been fined. “Probably about ten weeks”, he averred (that means he spoke thus)… While this admission caused several suggestions, the ultimate decision was that it would cost him ten bucks per week, for a total of one hundred big ones. No one, really, could disagree with the fairness displayed in the thought process that led to this conclusion…
President DON introduced our Speaker, LEO TSENG. Leo joined WVRC in 1978, transferring from the Hollywood Club, where he was a Past President. He has been with Merrill Lynch for only 54 years, but seems to have found a home there. I particularly recall LEO’s presentations during Investor’s Day, when he has been known to suggest choosing investments by using a dartboard!
LEO was born in Shanghai, and while he didn’t say specifically, I think it was about 1926, since he and I are about the same age. The family moved about a lot, and thus LEO saw many parts of China. The Japanese invaded north China in 1938, and the Tsengs moved to Hong Kong, since, being British, it seemed safe. But on December 7th, the Japanese bombed HK, plus Singapore and the Philippines. Leo noted that in HK, plus Pearl Harbor, some unexploded shells were found, with Made in America stamped on them. evidence of our arms trade before the US entered the War, of course. So the Tsengs then moved to the northern hills of China where they remained throughout the War. LEO noted that Chaing Kai Chek’s best troops never fought the Japanese it was recognized that Japan couldn’t win, and thus the best Chinese soldiers were guarding the Burma Road and the Over The Hump air route to facilitate the delivery of supplies from India and Burma.
The family eventually returned to Hong Kong after the War. But to get there, they took a hazardous sampan ride on the Li River. Many peasants lined the riverbanks, threatening to throw hand grenades unless a toll was paid and the crew urged the passengers to pay.
Turned out the crew and the peasants were in cahoots, and the hand grenades were simply toys! Back in Hong Kong, LEO completed two years of college. He then spent 21 days sailing from HK to San Francisco (it now takes less than half that time). LEO well remembers sailing under the Golden Gate in SFO. He moved to LA, graduated from Claremont, and got his Masters at UCLA. So LEO joined Merrill Lynch in the early fifties and he’s still there!
The first day he showed up at work, the DOW was at 257. and now it’s over 11,000. Generally, we are a low interest-rate country, with very low savings. This easy money causes us to grow. When he started, there were only three units the NY and American Stock Exchanges, and the Chicago Mercantile. Seats were selling for the low to mid six figures today they sell for the low to mid seven figures. Also today, anyone can own a piece of the Exchange they have recently gone public and their stock sells for $60. There was an Over The Counter market, the predecessor to NASDAQ. Today the whole trend is toward globalization, with the NY and NASDAQ bidding for almost all the other Exchanges. He expects this to continue, with trading anytime during the 24 hours of the day and some of this is taking place right now.
In his beginning days, brokerages were mostly partners, who risked their own capital. Merrill was the first brokerage house to be incorporated, in 1959, and in 1971 the offers stopped to the public. He has seen a progression of ways to deliver stock quotes, from a ticker tape to the present availability of all stocks on your own TV. He remembers when the US trading volume reached one million it was historic and today the average dollar volume is two billion. When he began, everything was processed manually, and sometimes they had to stop trading, or even shut down, in order to catch up. Today, the instant transmission of information is all driven by technology, and it is amazingly fast.
A full-service broker today has to be familiar with a bewildering array of services, from stocks and bonds to insurance, the derivatives, option and index funds the list goes on and on. There are now many strategies in the market, each designed for a specific purpose. To get this knowledge requires a lot of training, and of course the government has added to the mix of types of investments. He added than HENRY (last name not shown, for security reasons) had enlightened us on Aesops still the classic bottom of the barrel as far as programs yet offered. This caused the aforementioned HENRY to spring to his feet, alleging that LEO (of all people) had bought himself a brand new Cadillac convertible, and was driving about the country enjoying the favors of the many young ladies he encountered. LEO’s rejoinder here was truly classic. He first noted that he thought HENRY had the story wrong, but then added that a Chinese person had gone to the Ophthalmologist who told him he had cataracts. His Chinese patient immediately replied, “Not Cadaracs, I drive a Rinkon.”
As a historic perspective, you may recall that in 1911 the Supreme Court ordered that Standard Oil be broken up this was before anti-trust legislation had appeared. It then became Standard of NY, NJ, Ohio, California. Now, fifty years later, Chevron and Texaco have merged back. Exxon, which is the successor to Standard of NJ, has merged with Mobil - so everything that goes around, comes around. The classic ‘safe’ investment for widows and orphans used to be AT&T. Then, Ma Bell was broken up into Baby Bells, and now the babies are getting back together. During the sixties, there was an investor named Charlie Bludorn, who bought everything in sight, under the umbrella of Gulf and Western. He bought, whether the businesses were related or not. This was the era of the Conglomerate, but it is now fading. There is recognition that companies should stick to what they know best, so many are shedding bits and pieces along the way.
Sometimes the sum of the parts is worth more than the total of the whole. Banks and brokerage houses now do some of the same things, per a change in the law. When he joined, the NY Stock exchange provided fixed commissions can you imagine that today? Recently, the Sarbanes-Oxley bill now provides transparency in stock transactions but in the old days, something like the ENRON blowup would never have even been reported. This is, of course, an improvement. He envies people like SHANE WAARBROEK, who are going to see a lot of changes in the industry, most of which will be for the good.
In the brief Q&A allowed, PP STEVE SCHERER asked what LEO’s father did that caused them to move around as much as they did. In China at that time there was a bank, called Postal Savings and Remittance. It was based on people visiting the Post Office, and it figured that they would want to send money to their relatives, so they installed just one window for savings and remittances. He moved around in a region, setting up these banks, and thus they moved frequently. TONY MARRONE, When you moved into the interior of China after the War started, how far did the Japanese get in their invasion? They got about to the middle of the country. LEE DUNAYER, What was the most fun era for you? I’m still in the business because I love it I can’t think of any period of time that it was stressful for me.
LEO, you certainly told a great story. We Thank You!
If it weren’t for marriage, men would go through life thinking they had no faults at all