The Hair-Raising Way Brokerage Accounts Came to Be Insured
In the late sixties and early seventies, Robert M. Bishop was the most hated man on Wall Street.1 It was not his appearance or manner that aroused antagonism. His voice was well modulated and controlled, his words well chosen and precise, never communicating anger or warmth. He wore gold-rimmed glasses, was not tall or muscular -- verged on appearing frail -- and was invariably polite. Seeing him for the first time in a neutral setting, say across the room at a friend's cocktail party, one might take him to be an English professor at a New England college -- which would not be far wrong.
Back in the forties, Bob had been director of public relations at Trinity College, where his writing skills, directness, and lack of equivocation earned him the respect of the press -- even though he did not fit the stereotype of a hearty, comradely public relations man.
In 1951, Trinity's president, G. Keith Funston, became president of the New York Stock Exchange and a few years later asked Bob to join him there. As Keith's personal assistant, Bob's previous skills and experience were immediately put to good use. He visited out-of-town offices of member firms, found out what kind of services they wanted, and when possible saw that the services were provided. He established a NYSE- member-firm newspaper, for example. He became moderately well liked by people in the investment business. Neither Keith nor Bob anticipated then what Bob's chief responsibility would later be -- and how the exercise of that responsibility would cause many members to feel anger when Bob's name was mentioned.
In 1960, Keith made Bob associate director of the Member Firms Department, and Bob became partly responsible for supervising the finan