What is Wall Street? A Brief History and Overview

Wall Street represents duality. There is the symbolic notion of Wall Street which invites comparisons to the likes of Gordon Gekko and perhaps even Martha Stewart. There is also the literal Wall Street that is a geographical landmark and epicenter of the financial world. In this article, we’ll look at both and gain a clearer understanding of the question, “what is Wall Street?”

What is Wall Street

Stock exchange

Wall Street is just shy of 1 mile stretching from Broadway to South Street in New York City. The entire region is eight blocks within the Financial District. This is the address of two major stock exchanges, The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ. Some simply call this the Wall Street Exchange.

This is the financial center of the US and some say the world. The location represents tradition and modernity. The NYSE still enjoys the reputation of frenzied trading between shouting clerks on the exchange floor. However, the NASDAQ is an automated, electronic stock market with regular trading hours of 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

Some of the largest financial firms have had a residence on Wall Street. This includes big players like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Every year tens of billions in profit are generated within this small setting. Some estimate Wall Street to be the home of over 200,000 jobs. When the recession took effect much of the fallout was experienced here. Many larger firms were acquired and tens of thousands lost their jobs. This was an example of the dramatic swings that have become the source of rage and romanticism associated with the address.

History of Wall Street

history of wall street

History tells us that the name Wall Street can be taken literally. Many historians believe that a wall was erected as a defense to protect against Native Americans in the earliest days of settlement. In time this became a popular meeting spot for those wishing to confer with others on the exchange of early financial instruments similar to the stocks and bonds traded today.

However, there is a darker side to these trades. Slaves were also bought and sold and in some cases even rented from this location. In later years the region became a business haven where names that are popular today began to take root. This was the birthplace of the Dow Jones average. Charles H. Dow devolved a simple, but effective method for tracking the market as a whole in the absence of modern computing. He selected 11 stocks that he considered representative of the entire market. His published reports would become today’s Wall Street Journal.

The devastation of the great depression was first felt on Wall Street. In October of 1929, the market crashed. This was the worst two-day decline ever experienced. The market lost 25% of its value. The second most dramatic drop would occur on October 19, 1987, known as “Black Monday” when the market lost 22.6% in one day.

Wall Street Companies

JP Morgam Wall Street

The answer to “what is Wall Street” is best answered with a review of companies that form the iconography of the address. JP Morgan Chase is one of the largest names in the world of Wall Street. The company purchased another major firm, Bear Stearns, during the turmoil of the recession spanning 2008-2010. The company has $2.42 trillion in assets and a business designed to provide asset management, equities trading, global banking, risk management and more.

Citigroup, Inc is another prominent Wall Street name. The multinational investment banking firm manages a robust credit card business as well as wealth management, private equity, and financial analysis. At 204 years old they’ve enjoyed a long history in the world of finance.

Other companies with big presence are Deutsche Bank, Barclay’s Capital and Credit Suisse.

Working On Wall Street Today

Wall Street Bull

The world of finance is driven by technology. Therefore, “what is Wall Street” is a question with a constantly evolving answer. Those with superior methods for leveraging technology for financial gain are the winners. This is evidenced by the deep analytics and computation insight that yielded vast wealth for so few during the housing bubble where only sharp financial acumen could understand the short-selling value of a market on the brink of collapse.

As technology has allowed for a more disparate composition of companies the name and location of Wall Street will always represent the core of the American drive to turn one dollar into two.


History Of The Financial Industry

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