Jimmy Dunne talks about right-hand issues and left-hand issues. And when he switches back and forth between those two classes of concern his tone and demeanor change.
As managing partner of Sandler ONeill & Partners LP, Mr. Dunne, along with the rest of the firm, is in mourning for five colleagues who are confirmed dead, including Herman Sandler, a co-founder and senior managing principal. And they are focused on offering aid and support to the families of the 61 colleagues, two consultants, and two visitors still missing. And they refuse to give up hope of their recovery.
On the other hand, Mr. Dunne says that Sandler and its staff are ready to rebuild and are in many respects back in business already.
Sandler was located on the 104th floor of the World Trade Centers tower two and sustained catastrophic damage as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
In an interview Tuesday with American Banker, Mr. Dunne said that comforting the families of the missing, deceased, and the people with us ... is really on my mind.
That is what he called the right-hand issues.
But there is also the business to run, the left-hand issue. And when Mr. Dunne talks about it, his voice takes on a strength and determination it doesnt quite have when he addresses the more personal side of the equation.
Sandler ONeill, founded in 1988, moved into the trade center just days before the bombing in 1993, and because of that event, it developed a contingency plan to store computer records and continue equity trading in the offices of Sandler ONeill Asset Management, a subsidiary in midtown Manhattan.
Sandler also arranged emergency space for its investment banking unit and fixed-income sales and trading at the companys clearing agent, which was at the time Morgan Stanley and is now Bank of America Securities, based in midtown Manhattan.
Morgan Stanley had sold its clearing business to the former NationsBank Corp. in 1998, and NationsBank later bought BankAmerica Corp. to form Bank of America Corp., headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.
Everybodys effort has been extraordinary in fulfilling that plan, Mr. Dunne said. It is almost like striking back, he added. Bank of America, which Mr. Dunne characterized as a big brother to Sandler, played a key role in the firms business recovery.
Kevin Browne, managing director of broker-dealer services at Banc of America Securities and a business associate of Mr. Dunne ever since Sandler started to use Morgan Stanley as its clearing agent in 1991, said the bond between the two companies was strengthened after the first terrorist act and when NationsBank took over from Morgan Stanley.
(Banc of America Securities also had a unit of about 400 administrative employees in the trade center, and a company spokeswoman said that three people are still unaccounted for.)
Sandler always treated me as a business partner, never just as a supplier of services, Mr. Browne said.
But despite the help Mr. Browne extended to Sandler eight years ago, when Morgan Stanley made space available at its Brooklyn site, he said that he had not anticipated he would be facilitating the kind of business Sandler needs to conduct now.
Mr. Browne said that as of Friday Bank of America prepared the space and resources for Sandler and the latters employees moved in Monday. This made it possible to pull together the knowledge of the client base, which remained with Sandler, and the files, which were stored at Bank of America.
It would have been hard to imagine that we could accommodate and operate effectively the operation that we are operating this week, Mr. Browne said. Monday was an almost uneventful day in how we supported the business, he added.
But B of A can only do so much when it comes to the larger damage Sandler sustained.
We have executed a fair amount of fixed-income transactions and a tremendous amount of equity transactions, and we continue to work on the 15 deals we were working on and have really received a tremendous amount of comfort and support from our clients, Mr. Dunne said.
He added that he hopes his competitors get the same sort of support particularly Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., which was headquartered on the 87th and 88th floors of the trade center and has a long list of missing of its own.
I want our competitors to succeed, he said. Sandler started fixed-income trading on Thursday, when the bond market itself did, in a session that Mr. Dunne described as cumbersome and disoriented. But it was emotionally valuable for the firm and the clients, to show that Sandler can do transactions, he said. We have got our tapes, a lot of our people, but we also have a level of cooperation that we never had before, from our competitors and from everyone.
Mr. Dunne said that he will be adding people in sales and trading and added with confidence that the new employees will be of the highest professional level and the right character. That is a left-hand issue. I have done that before. That is not hard for me, he said.
Indeed, many on Wall Street shared Mr. Dunnes confidence that Sandler would be able to manage a full recovery.
The initial Sandler partnership was small when they first started, and that team has shown a remarkable ability to be focused on growing themselves, Mr. Browne said. I certainly sense the same type, the same kind of, energy and commitment that I saw at the early days of the firm. I would bet that they can build the firm again, he said.
Richard Bookbinder, managing member of Bookbinder Capital Management LLC, a fund of funds, echoed that notion and said that he believes Sandler will be able to rebuild all the components that made up the company, research as well as sales and trading.
It is very difficult to talk about replacement, said Mr. Bookbinder, who was a founding partner of Sandler and left the company in 1997 to found his current company. He said that Sandler had a particularly well developed team approach and added that this team effort makes up a good part of the companys success, and he added that this could also prove an important component now, as the team lives on and can integrate new members.
This is a strong organization, he said. These people are very committed. He added that the top-down approach that was part of the Sandler philosophy should make it possible for younger people to lern quickly.
It was an attack on our country, on our capitalist way of life, and they killed my friends and many people I care about. Do business successfully is the only way I can respond. It is terribly important for all of our people to demonstrate that we are still here and in business, he said. And that is what I am doing.
If I say I its a mistake, this is not about Jimmy Dunne, he said. Am I trying to do the right thing, provide the right leadership and do what we need to do? I dedicate my life to that. But the reason why we are able to do what we do for these families, for each other, and our clients, its because we have 18 partners and a group of incredibly talented and focused people who are operating at a higher level than any of us thought we could ever do and I am grateful for that opportunity.
The Sandler ONeill & Partners Foundation has already collected about $2 million to support families of the companys employees, as well as those of Sandler consultants and visitors to the company at the time of the attack.
And this foundation is furthering a lot of the causes of [Mr.] Sandler and Christopher Quackenbush (who is missing), and that is how they are going to be kept alive, Mr. Dunne said. And we are now accepting checks.
Mr. Quackenbush is head of investment banking.
We are talking to families constantly, Mr. Dunne said, preparing for funerals and long consolations afterward. We look for space, and we need help in all these areas, and people have been phenomenal, he said. Fred Price, Sandlers director of research, is dedicating all his time to leading the effort to comfort and help families and friends, Mr. Dunne said.
I do have an extended family, I have a lot of kids now. And in 20 years my children will meet children of someone who died, and what they say about my childrens father, that is what I will be judged on, Mr. Dunne said. That is what I am looking at: A generation.