Day: July 6, 2020

The History of this 309 Year Old American Small Business is Chiseled in Stone

(A July 4th tradition, first published on on July 3, 2014)

Founded in 1705, 71 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, The John Stevens Shop in Newport, RI, continues to design and hand-letter one-of-a-kind inscriptions in stone, practicing a craft and using methods and tools that date back to the Romans. Nicholas Waite Benson, 49, has been the owner and creative director of the business since 1993. A MacArthur Fellow (sometimes called, “the genius grant”), Nick began working at the shop at age 15 with his father, John Everett Benson. In turn, John Everett Benson learned stone carving from his father, John Howard Benson, at the age of 15. 

How to keep a business running for 309 years

The work of Nick Benson and his staff will be around for centuries. It seems only appropriate that the company creating that work has been around for centuries as well. After John Stevens founded the shop, it was maintained by six generations of Stevenses, until Nick’s grandfather, a printer, artist and stone carver, bought it in the 1920s. It is one of the oldest continuously-operated business in the U.S..

According to Nick, he wasn’t all that interested in the family business during his childhood. “I began carving lettering in 1979, but I didn’t give it much thought until

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Zut alors! SocGen may face bigger equity derivatives challenges than peers

Selling volatility is a dangerous game. Having a little of it around is a good thing, to encourage clients to buy the stuff that your structured equity division churns out. Too much of it, however, and the hedges that sit behind that business can blow up in your face.

That’s what happened in the first quarter of 2020 at those French banks that make a business of selling structured products. But not all bad experiences were equal.

On paper, they looked similar enough. Revenues in the equities division at BNP Paribas fell to minus €87 million, a swing of nearly 120% in the wrong direction when compared with the first quarter of 2019. At Natixis, equities was minus-€32 million, a swing of 125%.

Frederic Oudea_2018_160x186

Frédéric Oudéa, Societe Generale

At Societe Generale, the business at least stayed in the black, with revenues of €9 million, for a fall of 99%. So, SocGen was the best of a bad bunch, right?

Not necessarily. Some equity derivatives folk reckon it might be more prone to stress in these conditions than its competitors.

The bank’s chief executive, Frédéric Oudéa, certainly says there is reason to rethink what it is doing. He told the Financial Times on April 30 that it would have to “accelerate the transition to simpler products to limit the impact in such

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