Imagine an office without a fax, without copying machines, without overnight express, without PC’s or servers, without Excel or Word, without an Internet or intranets, without e-mail or instant messaging, without voice mail, cell phones, BlackBerries – without most of what might now be considered indispensible office tools. This would have been typical of the nineteen-seventies and early eighties.
Imagine, also, that the office was in shareholder services, an office at the epicenter of a paper storm that threatened daily to blow completely out of control – a paper storm generated by surging stock-trading volumes and robust merger and acquisition activity. Truckload upon truckload upon truckload of stock certificates, letters of transmittal, bond coupons and myriads of the other documents that orderly securities transfer depended on. And behind it all, a frantic scramble to get information from paper into electronic form, so that mainframe computers could take on more of the load. (The PC hadn’t yet arrived.)
There was no general loss of control. Somehow things got done. And now, looking back, many of us wonder how on earth this was possible. Unbelievable hours were worked. We share war stories and inside stories. We tell of prodigious production feats and competitive battles lost and won. We recall companies that came along, and others that disappeared, and personalities that drove the process, or at least added memorable touches of color.
All in all, it was a period of remarkable professional achievement. Shareholder services were transformed, not only in the sense of how things get done but in who gets them done. Here we tip our hats to those who were part of the process.