Twitter IPO: The last great physical NYSE event?
The beauty of capitalism was front and center yesterday in lower Manhattan as the newest darling of the tech world—Twitter—willfully decided to become a publicly traded company. This, ladies and gentleman, was the premier moment of the year for the too often-demoralized locale known as Wall Street. And, it sadly may be the last time we witness such a high degree of financial euphoria.
The New York Stock Exchange won the Twitter IPO sweepstakes when the San Francisco-based company chose the world's largest operator of financial markets to list its shares and begin trading under the symbol "TWTR." If you wanted a classic, old-school, lesson on the process of an American company raising money by issuing stock, the Twitter IPO story would be told in chapter one.
It was a symbolic moment of American capitalism at its finest.
Now, if I'm sounding a bit wonky with this message, all one has to do is look at recent history and understand how sensational it is to see a company with gravitas listing its shares at the NYSE. Sure, they'll be other IPOs there; but Twitter was a big deal. And, fortunately, all of America was able to watch with pride and understand what actually takes place in the building on the corner of Wall and Broad.
(Read more: Twitter honchos hit $4 billion jackpot)
The nucleus of the main trading floor is Post 8, which had a gathering of well over a thousand people waiting for the first shares of TWTR to hit the tape. As the Designated Market Maker continued to announce the indications of soon-to-be-traded shares, millions of Americans were fixated in the middle of the action as CNBC's cameras—and floor reporter, Bob Pisani—provided a play-by-play moment of a company on the goal line of raising billions of dollars.
And, just as the world watched the first orders executed, there was a sense of melancholy by the old-timers on the floor.
The men and women of the NYSE is as close a group as you'll ever find in corporate America. It's a fraternity of people, serving as ambassadors of American capitalism. For some reason, the perception of "fat cats" willing to backstab the next trader for a lousy fraction of a point is ridiculously false and unnerving. It's the absolute opposite.
The Twitter IPO was a success because of human interaction, which is the makeup of the NYSE. It wasn't because of fancy computers and cerebral algorithms. It was, quite simply, people and the ability to communicate.
Twitter chose the NYSE not necessarily because of its storied past and evolution into the automated universe of electronic execution, but for its personal attention to detail. This is critical and remarkably valuable when finalizing multi-billion deals; and it's an X factor the electronic marketplaces just can't learn. Investment bankers and dealmakers realize these attributes are why the Twitter IPO was such a huge success.
The NYSE is about to rewrite its own story when the IntercontinenalExchange (ICE) finalizes its takeover of the company that started under a buttonwood tree way back in 1792. The deal is expected to close next week; and even though execs at ICE have said they plan to keep the trading floor, the financial services sector realizes this is not a binding promise. The end may not be around the corner, but it unfortunately isn't far away either.
(Read more: Twitter's warp-speed boost for 'Star Trek' star)
NYSE CEO, Duncan Niederauer, has been vocal over the years about his desire for an all-electronic, 24/7, stock market. Realizing his competition at places such as Nasdaq and BATS have created these networks, while serving as seeds for unregulated dark pools, Duncan believes this is the future for trading. As a result, deals—like the one with ICE—further promise more computers and less people. The result is likely to turn the NYSE upside down and make big physical events, like the Twitter IPO, unlikely to ever return.
The question then turns to the people of the NYSE: the humans who made the Twitter IPO a success. Some may retire, while others turn to a quieter workplace behind a computer and reflect on the way it used to be on the trading floor. Regardless, though, this group will always be part of that loyal fraternity known as the New York Stock Exchange.
NYSE historians and aficionados will note the irony of yesterday's robust traditional trading environment for a 21st century tech giant's IPO, just as the exchange re-engineers its own business model. But for a few hours, it was great and nostalgic to see the likes of Art Cashin, Doreen Mogavero and Kenny Polcari do what they have always done best: human trading. It's a lost art, but it was nice to relive it for what may be the last time.
Todd M. Schoenberger is the founder and managing partner of LandColt Capital LP, and serves as Portfolio Manager of the LandColt Onshore and Offshore Funds. Follow him on Twitter @TMSchoenberger.