A 35,000 feet view of the crisis | FirstRain

A 35,000 feet view of the crisis

Guest author: Dave Frankel, VP Business Development

I am writing this post from my American Airlines flight over Rapid City, South Dakota right now – connected to the internet via GoGo wifi . While I am generally a creature of habit when I get on my flights to and from CA (which almost always includes catching up on sleep), this time I figured I would try something new to see if it would improve the experience. I must say – I am hooked. I’ve already updated my Facebook status, participated in an email thread pertaining to a partner meeting I have tomorrow, got up to date on football news, checked in with my family via instant messaging (interrupting homework time), AND learned everything I needed to know about the our in-flight movie “Son of Rambow”. Who knew life could be this good?

It is a nice respite from what has been going on in the industry over the past week and half. As I was explaining to our Silicon Valley colleagues (who agreed with Penny’s post last week about how the financial meltdown hasn’t quite registered yet in sunny CA), there has been a dark cloud hanging over NYC since Lehman went down. The market swings, the daily debates about the proposed bailout, the questions about how the institutional investment industry is going to rebound, and the opportunities opening up to research providers are all regular topics of conversation for us in FirstRain’s NY office and in the field.

The truth is, no one REALLY knows what is going to happen next to this industry. As one of our Board members pointed out yesterday, there is not a person alive on the buyside that has ever traded through a phenomenon remotely close to this. Brokerage relationships are quickly being shifted, the availability of broker produced research is now in question, and consolidation and increased regulation appears to be on the horizon for investment managers, especially hedge funds. What this means is anyone’s guess – pundits, hedge fund managers, and common folk alike. One point on which we all can agree however: the art of institutional investing is going to be IRREVOCABLY CHANGED when the dust settles.

Despite reports of surging ratings for CNBC, I am personally finding the most thought provoking insights and opinions coming from the following: 1) sources I have already previously vetted from the web, like the daily updates from my friend Keith McCullough at Research Edge, the Integrity Research blog, Paul Kedrosky or John Mauldin’s Outside the Box, 2) sources published on the web that are forwarded to me from people that I respect and trust like colleagues or friends, or 3) of course, stories from the deep web that I might not regularly follow but that I uncover throughout the day from FirstRain. As I sit here at 35,000 feet reflecting on this, I realize that I have not felt the need to pick up the WSJ once in the past few weeks, and I certainly cannot remember seeing anything new and provocative on broadcast news about the financial industry meltdown. And, dare I ask, has anyone come across any market moving sell side research on the topic in the past two weeks?

Back to my decision to connect to the web via in-flight wifi. I must say, having tried it, I can’t see myself going back to transcontinental flights without being connected. Sure, I had to alter a routine that was working for me (and I definitely didn’t catch any zzz’s), and I am not quite sure about how much the option will allow me to accomplish in the future, but I see that the change is coming whether or not I embrace it. It’s probably better to be figuring out how to make the technology work for me (maybe download Skype before the next trip) than to think it’s just going to be a passing fad.

Next time, however, someone remind me to pack another laptop battery – my computer died before I was able to finish this post. With new opportunities come new challenges I guess.