From Wall Street Whiz to Data Mogul: The Timely Rise of Michael Bloomberg

In late 2019, 77-year-old Michael Bloomberg announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States, and the self-made billionaire with a net worth of more than $50 billion said in a statement on Twitter: “I am running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America.” ”

Immediately after Mr. Bloomberg announced his candidacy, his company, Bloomberg News, announced that the media conglomerate would stop publishing unsigned editorial articles and would investigate neither Mr. Bloomberg nor his Democratic rivals. Mr. Bloomberg has previously said that if he wins the presidential election, he will either sell the Bloomberg Limited Partnership or put it in a confidential trust. Some analysts believe that Microsoft may buy Bloomberg Group for $70 billion.

Bloomberg believes in the saying, “80% of life is just about being there.” Today, Mr. Bloomberg’s candidacy for president of the United States is only a “timely presence,” similar to his election as mayor of New York City after the 911 attacks of 2001. The philosopher Wittgenstein once said, “The world is everything that happens, the sum total of facts.” “If we understand the world as a combination of events, we find the key to understanding Bloomberg.

Bloomberg, founded by Bloomberg, is a large provider of financial data, trading platforms, news outlets, and social networks within the industry. The company’s Bloomberg Terminal, which is used by 325,000 financial services practitioners, pays a one-time payment of $24,000 to become a member, and “most of our information is behind the most expensive ‘paywall’ in the media world, with an annual subscription to the Bloomberg Terminal costing about $22,000, which equates to $88 per workday,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Bloomberg described Bloomberg as a cash cow, “Some people say we’re like Google in the financial markets, and in a way, the analogy is right.” Like Google, Bloomberg collects, sorts, and stores vast amounts of information that can be retrieved instantaneously, something people rely on every day. We use thousands of people and advanced technology to ensure that the information and data we provide is 100% accurate. When our clients search on Bloomberg terminals, they know they won’t receive any fake news or fake data, and they won’t tolerate that either. ”

01 The originator of data-based platforms

Today, digital transformation is becoming a movement that is sweeping the global corporate world, and in fact it is exactly what Bloomberg did 40 years ago. The primary version of digital transformation is called “automation”, and the advanced version is what today is called a data platform and “customer intelligence”. Everything in the physical world today is having a “digital identity”, and Michael Bloomberg was a pioneer in the decades ago when stocks, treasuries, futures data, and more were liberated from paper and manual transmission.

From the early 1970s until 1981, when he was fired from his former employer, Salomon Brothers, Mr. Bloomberg led the securities firm’s computer department and built the information processing system, which we commonly understand as “automation”, and the data access and analysis tools broke down the information asymmetry within the company and between the company and its customers.

In 1981, Mr. Bloomberg, as a general partner, was swept away by Salomon Brothers and received $10 million in cash compensation. This became the start-up fund for the Bloomberg Group, and after spending $4 million, Bloomberg successfully developed the first terminal and won a contract from Merrill Lynch.

It started when Mr. Bloomberg realized a business opportunity after losing his job, saying, “I envision a business that comprehensively searches securities data, allows people to choose what information they think is useful, and provides computer software that can be analyzed by people who are not mathematicians.” ”

“Every big brokerage company spends a lot of money collecting information on its own, and what’s worse, they rely on abacus and slide rules, or more modern tools like handheld calculators, to process this information…… If most companies used my data and analytics, I would be able to create an industry standard, and I also had the advantage that I was neither a broker nor a trader, and I wouldn’t lean towards either side, which would allow my product to have a level of independence that the internal systems of securities companies couldn’t match, and more importantly, no one was doing that at the time,” Bloomberg said. Looking back with today’s perspective, Bloomberg built a platform.

“In the 80s, in our little sweatshop, everyone forgot to leave work, and then everyone walked to the theater to watch a movie and relax,” Bloomberg recalls. ”

Merrill Lynch was Bloomberg’s first client, and for a time it was exclusive to this service, and it is not unrelated to Merrill Lynch’s later becoming the world’s largest securities brokerage and dealer. Because of his 30% stake in Bloomberg, Merrill Lynch’s CEO at the time was eventually persuaded by Bloomberg to allow Bloomberg to open up the system to more than a dozen of its “sworn enemies”, who soon fell behind the competition, and then the fledgling Bloomberg redeemed Merrill Lynch’s 30% stake at a high price to avoid ethical flaws.

02 The obsession of “being there”.

The accuracy and timely availability of information related to funds can be the difference between success and failure for financial practitioners. Getting data “in the spot” in a timely manner has also made Bloomberg’s business empire. The so-called “presence” is to show up in time.

In the past, some people read history books and often lamented that “there was no hero at the time, so the vertical son became famous”, hooligans and even illiterate people actually became “Internet celebrities” in history during the drastic changes in society, especially during the period of changing dynasties. This sentiment is not quite correct. As the saying goes, “people’s destiny depends on self-struggle, but we must also consider the process of history”, and the most important thing is “presence” in the relationship between personal destiny and the “hot spots” in the historical process. Evie Genstein’s phrase “the world is everything that happens” states that the individual and the event cannot be separated.

Compared with the big figures who seem to be involved in the course of history, Bloomberg has a clearer sense of presence. While doing his MBA at Harvard Business School, he spent two semesters working in Cambridge for a small real estate company, near Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his recollections, “every day the new tenants would get up early, grab the newspaper in the hotel, read the real estate section, call the ‘next available agent’ to make an appointment to look at the property, and then go back to bed.” Later in the day, they go out to see the property.”

Mr. Bloomberg, who goes to work at 6:30 a.m. every morning, said: “By 7:30 or 8, all the potential renters who came to Cambridge had already called our company and made appointments for viewings, and I was the only one willing to come in so early to answer the phone, while the full-time staff who came to work at 9:30 sat there all day wondering — one after another walked into the office looking for Mr. Bloomberg.”

After joining Salomon Brothers, Mr. Bloomberg came to the office at 7 a.m. every morning, “and I came earlier than anyone but the founder, Billy Solomon.” If he wants to borrow a fire or chat about a sports game, I’m the only person in the trading room who can talk. At the age of 26, I became his ‘buddy’. With the exception of John Gutfreund, I leave work later than everyone else every day. When he needs someone to call his most important clients during non-working hours, or to hear him complain about people who have already come home from work, I am the only one present, and he is the number two person in the company, and I can rub his car home…… Keeping myself available isn’t a chore – I love what I do. ”

Bloomberg observed, “Life follows the law that every day you come across small, unexpected opportunities.” Sometimes a single opportunity can get you to the top of the day, but most opportunities, if worthwhile, can only take you a small step forward. To succeed, you have to take it one step at a time.”

He was quite resistant to the plan: “Don’t talk about the five-year plan or the Great Leap Forward, it won’t necessarily work for entrepreneurs.” The master planners will tell you to follow those specific, step-by-step strategies like slaves…… But that’s not the case in my world, it’s impossible to predict the future. You work hard because you can accumulate more opportunities, but the result is not guaranteed, it depends a lot on what kind of cards you happen to have in your hand, and I have always believed that you should play as many hands as you can, be as smart as you can and make the most of all the resources you have.”

Mr. Bloomberg, who claims to work 12 hours a day, six days a week at Salomon Brothers, has not upset the work-life balance, and he has never missed evenings or weekends with too much stress or dedication to work, saying: “I date a lot of girls, and I go skiing, running and partying more than most.” I just make sure that 12 hours of work is put in and 12 hours of fun. The harder you work, the richer your life will be. ”

Kazuo Inamori has also emphasized that his company never has a five-year plan, and that he prefers that everyone in the organization makes the most of each day, and at the same time, when the work is not satisfactory, it is better to change the attitude towards work than to change jobs. Kazuo Inamori sees work as a practice, while Bloomberg’s 996 is just about playing a few more hands and making sure he’s there when the opportunity arises.

The attitude of both ensures a certain “presence”. Mr. Bloomberg even thought that if he hadn’t been fired at the age of 39, he would have stayed with Salomon Brothers, and there would have been no Bloomberg.

In his recollection, Mr. Bloomberg spoke sarcastically of a habitual mindset: “When I filled out the college application form, there was a column ‘What are you going to do in the next 10 years?’ and I racked my brains to make up for so many meaningless words. ”

His attitude towards any project is also to “live” the less perfect product first, and then continue to optimize it, rather than relying on perfectionism to design it like competitors, which is easy to get caught in the plan.

03 The field should be as “transparent” as possible

In 1966, when Bloomberg was about to graduate from his MBA, he did not know what he should do in the future, and at the suggestion of his classmates, he called Goldman Sachs and Salomon Brothers to apply for jobs.

Both companies offered Mr. Bloomberg an offer of $14,000 a year, and Mr. Bloomberg, who was a small company at the time, offering a salary of $9,000 a year and a $2,500 loan, and Mr. Bloomberg chose the latter to become a securities salesperson. Mr. Bloomberg once recalled that the social status of salespeople at the time was so low that none of his Harvard classmates could understand that he would do such a job.

What attracted Mr. Bloomberg to Salomon Brothers was the working atmosphere, where the flow of information was likely to be smoother. Later, with Bloomberg’s promotion, he also encountered a series of office political problems.

Years later, the Bloomberg team built an information processing system at Salomon Brothers, which was nothing more than a solution to the problem of internal information being “blocked” as much as possible, and Bloomberg was later forced to “start a business” to make information more transparent to various stakeholders on a larger level, and thus gain great wealth.

Mr. Bloomberg said he was Bloomberg’s emperor and had hoped that someone would remind him when he was undressed. When Salomon Brothers’ performance was declining, he suggested that then-managing partner John Gutfroingd create a chief of staff position and let him be the truth-telling child, but this suggestion was not adopted.

In Bloomberg’s view, the work environment influences employees’ work habits more than management orders, so partitions are not allowed in Bloomberg’s workplace, saying: “Employees must develop the ability to concentrate and be unaffected by a myriad of distractions, but the biggest benefit is that they can absorb the information around them while they focus on other things.” Openness also allows them to always face their colleagues, preventing the childish idea of having colleagues make things difficult for them. Like the truth of the market, transparency leads to fairness. ”

Bloomberg often struggled with office space, and every time he rented an office it proved too small and inadequate, he said: “The overcrowding of the office was a sign that I lacked the ability to plan for the company’s growth, but it was also a safety valve, and the limited space limited the number of people we could hire, keeping our budget under control.” In a sense, this also proves that Bloomberg is less planned for the future.

04 Fair or unfair

Bloomberg once said that if a person works as hard as his competitors, then his win rate will always be 50%, and if he works harder than his competitors, he will have a better win rate, “because giving more almost always leads to greater success, and in turn you will have more fun, and then you will be willing to give more because you are rewarded, and so on”. In his view, unfair competition can win, and “unfairness” comes from putting in more effort.

Interestingly, during his more than a decade as mayor of New York, Mr. Bloomberg promoted many good governances, but one policy was controversial. To address the underrepresentation of Hispanic and African-American students in high-quality public schools, he proposed a plan to dramatically increase the weight of standardized test scores in the admissions process to so-called good schools. The plan backfired, and the schools were flooded with children from middle-class white, Asian-American families.

Mr. Bloomberg, who came from a middle-class Jewish family, was an instinctive proponent of a “meritocratic system” in which “only highly test-oriented, entirely merit-centered evaluation criteria are fairest to the average person.” When he received his acceptance letter to Harvard Business School, he imagined how excited his father would be if he lived.

In fact, this is a continuation of a system adopted by Bloomberg when he led Bloomberg, arguing that “the company’s main assets are not technology, databases, unique communication systems, not even customers, but employees”, so Bloomberg is always “optimising” people compared to “most companies never optimize their teams unless they are forced to”, which may also be understood as an internal purge.

05 Learn to authorize and dislike to buy

For an entrepreneur who takes 996 as fun, it is not easy to let go of management, and it will be full of doubts to buy other companies’ products and services or even acquire other companies. In addition to buying a radio station in New York and entering the radio and television industry, Bloomberg’s “related diversification” is all DIY, just to make the financial platform more self-sufficient.

Bloomberg admits: “Engaging in hands-on to hands-off is a gradual process for me, but it’s not always pleasant. I like to do things myself and get my hands dirty. If we want to continue to grow and not rely on me alone, I have to hand over power. That doesn’t mean I’m happy about it, but as I’ve grown, I’ve become more and more recognizant of the importance of delegating and anyone who tries to micromanage a large agency will eventually fail. Often, when we give someone else a project to do, I remember that the standards are not quite the same as Bloomberg’s avant-garde culture, and I’d rather do it ourselves. ”

Mr. Bloomberg had a high-risk hobby of flying airplanes and had two engine failures that narrowly escaped death. While at Salomon Brothers, Dick Rosenthal, his partner who had a feud with Bloomberg and forced him to lose his job, died in this activity.

Faced with the unplanned situation caused by this activity, he concluded from it: “Don’t panic, do what you are usually asked to do in training, and do it just right, no more, no less.” He thinks he loves flying because he likes to be in a state of being consistent with his words, “You have to do it, not just say it.” It’s also a matter of “presence”, where the person has to deal with the problem at hand, and not think too much about what will happen next.

Bloomberg also hinted that good results are just an adjunct to “doing it”, with the former gold medal trader on Wall Street saying: “Wall Street portends great wealth, although in reality I rarely hear of anyone who has actually made a fortune there.” From John Rockefeller to Sam Walton and Bill Gates, great financial success has come from starting businesses in the real world to produce concrete products, provide jobs, create value, and help people. ”

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