Cantor Fitzgerald: A Lesson in Risk Taking

Ten years after the terror attack that killed two-thirds of its New York staff and nearly destroyed the firm, Cantor Fitzgerald is thriving, the New York Times reported in a Sunday feature.  The firm’s success is due in large measure to CEO Howard Lutnick and a handful of executives who survived the day. Their determination, hard work and willingness to take risks brought the firm through an unimaginably difficult ordeal.  (Disclosure: I was the principal spokesman for Cantor Fitzgerald at that time.)

One of the biggest risks they took was the unpopular decision to end the pay of employees who were still “missing” four days after the tragedy.  The decision added to the financial uncertainty facing many of the families, but I think it also signaled that their loved ones were gone – a fact that few then were willing to acknowledge.  It appeared insensitive but the move was crucial to keeping the firm afloat, and Lutnick’s unprecedented commitment to share the firm’s earnings with victims’ families provided a powerful motivation to restore the firm.

To his credit, Lutnick communicated actively with the families on this issue and many others, and he was transparent about the firm’s performance over the months and years that followed.

It takes courage to take a risk, to stand by it amid criticism and to keep the promises you’ve made.


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