It's official: Wall Street is now less popular than road kill, or chicken pox, or even, pardon the expression, Congress. That ugly fact emerged from the exit polling during the recent elections. Seems that 47% of Republicans and moderates -- not fiery Democrats, but calm-tempered business-loving types -- blame Wall Street, not Congress, for our current economic malaise.This monstrous fact was the subject of a panel discussion at a recent meeting of the Securities and Financial Markets Association last week, and the trade press reported the angst this caused. Wall Street less popular than Congress! How low can you go? I wasn't surprised to hear this. During the recent elections, both Democrats and Republicans ran against "New York" -- Wall Street, that is -- or, as Sharron Angle did, simply avoided the subject of the financial services industry completely. Seems the financial markets are just too much of a hot potato even for the supposed guardians of the free markets. So what's Wall Street to do about all of this? I'm not sure that any of the bigger firms actually care about any of this, as long as the money is pouring in, as it surely has been doing recently. However, in a purely selfless, giving spirit, I hereby offer some practical ideas that can be immediately deployed to improve Wall Street's public image. In no particular order:
How do even the most repulsive Congressmen get re-elected? By bringing home the bacon, that's how. Yes, I know about the gazillions of dollars that Wall Street plunges into the economy every year. But that's not good enough. These banks need to personally enrich people in a brand-improving way. Naming rights for concert halls won't do. No, I want to see Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs ( GS) making the rounds in East St. Louis, distributing turkeys at Christmas. If it worked for Al Capone it can work for him. I want to see Citigroup's ( C) Vikram Pandit working a soup kitchen in Camden. Build playgrounds, put books in the libraries, etc. Show empathy, or at least have an assistant look up the word in a dictionary.
So that's my free advice. Do what I say, and you'll be the best-loved bank on the Bowery.