PR Scott Shay | Financial Crisis


How do you stay calm and handle a major financial crisis? Adam Markel talks to Scott Shay, a leading businessman, thought leader, and author of two widely read books, including the award-winning In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism. Scott shares some tactics on surviving a major financial crisis. He also cites some of the recent key observations that led him and his team to determine it was time to prepare for another financial fiasco. Perhaps most importantly, he shares a message of resilience for everyone in this Coronavirus-inflicted world.

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Resilience In A Global Financial Crisis With Scott Shay

I’m feeling wonderful. I’m looking forward to the conversation that I’m about to have with a great guest. He’s not just a great guest but somebody who’s a leader in the world, in the business world, and in other ways. I’d say somebody that has a diversity of interests. Even though he’s somebody new to me, somebody I haven’t had much a conversation with before, I’ve already come to see that we are simpatico in many ways, from the place where he lives, where I used to live, some of our business interests, other interests in life and in spirituality and some great things. I’m excited and I would say you’re going to experience something special. Buckle up or you can keep walking on the elliptical or whatever you’re doing. I definitely want you to be able to be present and pay attention because this is going to be wonderful.

The gentleman’s name is Scott Shay. He’s the Cofounder of Signature Bank in New York, which if you’re not from that part of the world, they are up to about 1,400 employees and had about $500 million in net income. He is a leading businessman, a thought leader, author of two widely read books. It’s become one of the best banks in New York for private business owners. Scott’s second book In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism has been recognized as one of the best books of 2018 by Mosaic Authors and also earned a Finalist Award from the National Jewish Books in 2018. Scott gives talks around the country. He’s interviewed on TV and radio podcast many times throughout the year. 

Scott, I’m thrilled to have you on the show. Thanks for being with us.

It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m looking forward to our conversation.

There’s a lot in your bio. It’s impressive. What’s not written in the bio that you would love for people to know about you with the outset?

From the outset to know me, you have to understand that I might be the chairman of a $50 billion bank now but I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment where my parents had the bedroom. I lived in the dining room and my mother’s brother, for many years, lived in the living room. It’s been an amazing journey. The other thing that people don’t know, although they know if they read in good faith, my father was a Holocaust survivor. His experience had a profound impact on me.

We didn’t talk about this before we started the show, but there’s another one of those little simpatico moments. I grew up also in a one-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York. It was special because it was a one-bedroom. It was the L-shape living room. Part of that was the dining room and part of that was the living room and they built a wall. This was a big deal back in the day. They built a wall so that the dining room was no longer a dining room. They put a door on it from the kitchen and my brother and I shared that room that was dining room. You can imagine what the size of that thing was.

I can’t imagine, although I live and grew up in East Rogers Park in Chicago.

Speaking of interesting start dates for things or start times. You cofounded Signature Bank. I know the bank from many transactions that I was involved in when I was a lawyer in New York. You started that bank in 2001. When people are reading this, we are all quite aware of the fact that we are in some interesting times to put it mildly. The water got pretty deep. When I was an ocean lifeguard for many years, when the water gets deep, not only you feel it, but you can sense that people get panicked by it. They’re put into a zone of discomfort that they’re not used to, not even in a world of disruption. We live in one, it’s disrupted all the time and yet this Coronavirus has taken us many people taken me by surprise. Didn’t see not just this thing coming but the reaction to it. My wife and I were discussing, the last time we felt that the world was this off-kilter was right after 9/11.

Human beings like to follow a leader. It's always been that way. Click To Tweet

That’s a long time ago and yet it’s a second go. Bring us back to that point. Part of why I want to do this is I want to set the landscape up. When we’re most as a species, when we’re most in fear, it’s because we have either lost some faith, sense of hope or we anticipate with what-if thinking our amygdala, that part of our brain that’s constantly looking for the threat. We have to defend that threat. We’re on guard so much right now that we believe something catastrophic could happen, in fact, people are catastrophizing all over the place. It’s on the media, news and stock market, which the huge driver of the sentiment consumers everywhere look at that as a guide.

Right after 9/11, it was the same thing, completely different yet the same, remember. People were looking at each other very suspiciously especially if you look you were from another country. If you wearing something on your head, if your skin was darker, there were real issues in New York at that time with that. People weren’t sure frankly whether we’d be attacked again. There was great speculation that the economy might not be able to survive, that major institutions would go bust. For a few months, markets went down, real estate was on sale big time and people didn’t have their footing. Yet you chose then to cofound a bank. Give us a little insight into the counter-intuitive decision-making there.

Here’s the thing. I had the idea of starting a bank in the late ’90s because I thought that the banking business in New York was way over-consolidated. It used to be JP Morgan, Chase, Manny Hanny, Chemical, Bank of Greater New York, Trust Company in Westchester. I could go on and on about nineteen other banks all became JP Morgan Chase. You had this huge over consolidation. I convinced two other people who originally thought I was crazy, but they joined me and became my partners, Joe DePaolo and John Tamberlane to start a new bank. It’s not so quick to start a new bank. You don’t go like that and start a new bank. It took us fourteen months from the time that we first have a little tiny office with five people in it. We opened our doors May 1st, 2001. Would you told me that in six months the World Trade Centers would be felled? Interest rates would go from, at that time, 6.25% to 1%. Don’t forget banks make money on float.

New York would enter its worst recession since World War II. Worse than what happened in 2008. I might’ve had second thoughts but we didn’t know that in May 1st, 2001 so we opened the bank. I remember telling the investors after September 11th giving them a briefing and they were freaked out. That’s an understatement. Let me give you the punchline. We were losing our first $2.5 million a month. We broke even after 21 months and we were in public after 34 months. Years later, we’re $50 billion in the bank and we’ve never done an acquisition. We had a good idea. You never know what’s going to be your pivot. Here’s something that I will tell you that also is counterintuitive to people. We got up when we started, I gave a talk at the beginning and I said, “In five years, we’re going to be a $5 billion bank. In ten years, we’re going to be a $10 billion bank.”

That just came out of my mouth in some other place. I made it up on the spot. The audience who follow me, “It’s harder to be into $5 billion in five years and $10 million in from 5 to 10 because of the demand.” Having said that, that’s what I said. Fast forward five years, we were $3.8 billion bank. We were doing fine. We were growing. It was nothing to be embarrassed about. I’m talking to 2008. In 2006, we’re a $3.8 billion bank then the financial crisis hits. When we were a ten-year-old bank, we were $14.8 billion. We had grown $11 billion in those five years across the financial crisis. If you count, ’07 is starting. The reason was because we were a safe bank. I was very skeptical of subprime, of all of these CDO squared of the height of the complicated financial instruments. We didn’t do any of it. Sometimes, the important part of banking is recognizing you’re not a genius just avoiding doing the stupid stuff. That’s what we did.

Charlie Munger is world renown investor said, he’s not trying to figure everything out to be so smart. He wants to avoid being idiotic. I’m botching his exact quote, but that’s the premise of it. Avoid being idiotic and you think about that. This is the guy that Warren Buffet tips his hat to. You go, “That’s an interesting perspective.” You said, in essence the same thing there.

It might’ve seemed the worst timing in the world, we did show our resiliency, you’re wearing that shirt and we did charter resiliency. We’d never had a down year during all financial crisis. We’re the only bank in the United States about $4 billion that did not have a down year. We made more money in ’08 and ’07, more money in ’09 and ’08. That got people’s attention precisely because we were resilient. Since our 10th anniversary, we’re a $50 billion bank. We’ve grown from $14.8 billion to over $50 billion. It’s all organic growth.

This is something that I emphasize on your show. You never know when something’s going to take you in an entirely different direction than you thought. I never would have thought that a financial crisis would be a time that we would shine. I never thought that after 9/11, which was a very strange time. I remember watching F-15s flying in over Manhattan and not being able to leave the island and the smell, which I remember to this day in the air. You knew part of that we’re human beings. You couldn’t escape in Manhattan. You couldn’t escape that smell. Talk about the water getting deep, the air got deep.

Looking at the landscape that you covered because that’s going to take us to now. It’s an important thing for us to discuss is resilience. It’s not just conceptually but even practically speaking. It sounds like attributing that growth over those periods where you’ve got two milestone events that could have easily stopped you dead in your tracks. This bank could have been done and toast six months in. Right after 9/11, that could have been the end of it. It certainly could have been the end of it when a Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt and we were on the precipice. I don’t know how much you knew at that time but looking back on it now with everything that’s available to see, we were on the precipice of something horrific that was averted. That could have taken you guys out as well. This resilience almost had a compounding effect because, in spite of all of that, you grew and exponentially. 

PR Scott Shay | Financial Crisis

In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism

We did have some sense of what was going on. I wrote an article in ’08 on Bloomberg called Shoot The Wounded, where are we saying which we didn’t do with some of the big banks. For those of your audience who are interested in the finance world, I gave a TED Talk in 2012, where I explained some of what was going on and what some of the mistakes that were made in the financial crisis were. I’ve written a lot about that.

Did they get it right in The Big Short, do you think? I know it’s drama. It’s a movie. It’s all that. Is that in essence the story of that?

It’s dramatized tremendously. As I said, I had the sense. In ’06, I have meetings with investors who would come in and say, “Why aren’t you buying these AAA subprime bonds? You could earn more. What are you doing investing in Ginnie Mae’s, Treasuries and Fannie’s? What are you doing? You could earn more.” People saying when you’re not using our capital well enough because you’re not lending into construction or you’re not levered enough or etc. I don’t want to take the credit that I knew the time during The Big Short because that wasn’t my thing. I knew that the financial world had gone astray and something bad was about to happen. I’m on the record of Signature Bank. I’m saying I can’t believe I was talking about subprime and subprime triple AAA bonds and then six months later they don’t even better. I remember saying, “I don’t know what I’m missing, but we’re still not going to do this.” If you want to get to the core issue, I’ll tell you what happened which are two things. Number one, there was a little bit of idolatry in this.

People were bowing down to the rating agencies that were saying, “This is AAA.” The reason the rating agencies were doing that is because the big banks had so much influence at that time in creating these instruments. People used what I would call word bombs. They’d say, “Look at my shiny XYZ-2006, AAA Security. You stringent into it an in-text data, we’ve stratified this by Bauer or tied by zip code, by tranche, by fabricating and replicating with a Monte Carlo simulation, Z-Bond analyses. People didn’t know what anybody was talking about, but they didn’t want to look stupid. These things all had meanings but they lost track of the fact that the guns, a person in the house couldn’t make the payment and basic premise. They couldn’t understand that.

They couldn’t realize that there was nobody with any incentive to check along the way. How did these liars’ loans happen? Nobody checked if anybody was lying. Everybody was short of bowing down to the money God, if you will. People are all convinced that this story of financial technology works even when there’s no reason to be convinced of it. There’s no incentive on anybody to step up and say that the emperor has no clothes because everybody along the line is making money. Some of these homeowners, by the way, you live in San Diego at Mercy, California. The homes that were started out as being worth $76,000 and three years later they were being refinanced for $350,000 because everybody was making out.

It’s interesting because you were saying something that was not popular at that time which is you’re questioning the rationale. The common sense is not common. I think Nietzsche is credited in saying that. Warren Buffett always spoke about these cycles where when people are greedy, you should be fearful. When people are fearful, you should be greedy. Clearly, you’ve got a sense of the greed that was going on and it caused you to back up and take a more careful look at it. I love Buffett’s analogy about you’re standing at the plate in baseball. One pitch goes by, you let it go by, another pitch goes by. It’s a good pitch, you let it go by. People are screaming at you from the stands, “Swing your bum. What are you doing?”

You could see people were like, “You’ve got to get in this game.” If you were questioning the bull market and weren’t getting in at the Dow when it was 25,000, 26,000, you’re looking an idiot. You’re an idiot for not being in this game and yet these cycles repeat. There are seasons in everything in nature is a part of those seasons. The change is a natural order in the universe. It should be no surprise on some level that we’re experiencing this massive change now. I know you wanted to say something there. I want to get the name of the TED Talk that you gave while it’s still relevant in the conversation.

It was called Banking By The People For The People. If someone goes on to or to YouTube, they can find that there’s a fair number of hits. It shows right up.

We were huge fans of TED and the TEDx Talks. In fact, our company trains TEDx speakers. We do a lot of training of people that want to do keynotes and that kind of thing. 

I was there for fourteen minutes talk. I spent more time on those fourteen minutes than I have ever spent on preparing a talk before. That might’ve been much harder. The TED people are pushing you to do better and better before the talk. It’s quite an experience.

It is. In fact, I’ve said this before, I was speaking publicly when I was a lawyer, it was a different kind of public speaking for almost ten years professionally. When I gave my TED Talk, it was excruciating. The editing of the script down to every single word, having the meaning and having the impact. I looked at my wife and I’d go, “I’d studied for the bar exam and the L stats, all these things.” I says, “Randi, I don’t know if my brain can hold all these words anymore like 2,000 words to be committed.” I thought I’m not going to be able to do this. It was tough.

This was TEDx Wall Street. They come and they listen to you do this and it keeps getting better and better. They told me to do some very strange things. One of which is to deliver my whole talk with the radio turned up all the way up to make sure that it was seared into my brain.

One of the central messages of the Bible is seeking out what the actual truth is. Click To Tweet

Walk it, talk it, do it in front of the mirror. I used to do it at the beach with little seagulls. I tortured my family. They had to listen to it again and again.

The funny thing is I haven’t looked at it since then. I looked at the first when they posted it but I’ve not sat through the whole thing.

I haven’t seen it myself. I’m going to be watching it and everybody else you’d get out there and check it out as well.

The one thing you’ll notice is you’re going to be watching a hip guy in a suit.

Let’s go to what’s going on in the world right now. The part of the reason why I wanted to start the show the way we did was because I follow patterns. I like to see where there’s a trend, let’s say. Historically, we’re going back to 2001. We could back up much further to find these moments in time when the sky was falling. People felt like everything’s changing, everything’s coming to an end. We’ve got to build a bomb shelter. You’re not old enough to remember that period of time in our history. We did have that. People were building and making a lot of money in building bomb shelters for other people who thought communists are going to drop an atomic bomb on us. Your business history starts in 2001 at a very odd time in our world and a lot of healing that’s come from there.

We go into this financial crisis that people didn’t see coming. It’s based on greed and a lot of other forces. It’s a perfect storm of things, if you will. Now, there’s been several things since then and lots of other disruption in our world with technology, politics, etc. Here we are. It’s Coronavirus in 2020. We’re a couple of months in. The world is again in a state of chaos. I don’t expect you to have any solutions to this, but what’s the wisdom that you feel that can be imparted now? You’re involved in a company that has more than 1,400 employees. You’re have ton of money under management, huge fiduciary responsibilities. I’m sure you’re not telling people, “I don’t even want to go there.” What are you telling people or what’s the line at the bank now about all this?

I can give you the line at the bank and not the line because it’s all authentic. I’ll tell you where I’m coming from though. When we think about the human condition, it goes way further back. Think about the Joseph in the Bible. There were years of feast and then all of a sudden there’s famine. Don’t forget, the famine was so bad and Egypt had the Nile. The world changes on a dime. The Israelites, they were living in Goshen, raising all their sheep and cattle and then they become slaves. Things turn on a dime again when they leave Egypt. When you look at the whole Bible, it’s about things that you recognize that your tests come at this very time when the temple in Judea was about to be destroyed. Jeremiah knows that the Israel and the Jews are going to be exiled for a long time. What does he do? He goes out and buys land.

He takes the deed and he puts it in an earthen jar so that it can be buried and last a long time. They’re these very moments when the world looks like it’s falling apart. A lot depends on our personal courage on recognizing here’s where you have to not depend. In times like these, you have to think for yourself because, this may sound subversive, but a lot of times the people with the power, the people that get us to the point weren’t being straight. How did we get through the financial crisis of 2008? People weren’t being straight about what was in these instruments. People weren’t being straight about what was on their balance sheet, etc. On all candor, the Chinese initially weren’t being straight. The doctor who found the virus was forced to recant it in a ritual way. It’s times like these, what you have to look for is the truth. It’s not necessarily so easy to find that. I’m not talking about conspiracy theories.

You have to look at the environment and say, “What is going on? Am I making the right reaction? Am I making the wrong reaction?” That takes a certain seriousness that congenitally human beings aren’t built to do. Human beings like to follow a leader. It’s been that way. How did the humanity get Stalin and Mao, Pol Pot, the Assad family, the Kim family and Hitler? People will follow all of these people willingly. It’s because people are so desperate for following a leader and to a lesser degree even in the United States where we become so tribalized. They’re part of the MSNBC nation and what they say is true or we’re part of the Fox nation. What they say is true. The truth of the matter is it’s something different and that requires a lot of work. It requires putting aside your assumptions and easily following people.

PR Scott Shay | Financial Crisis

Financial Crisis: A lot depends on our personal courage on recognizing where you have to not depend.


That’s what I encourage people to do now. You could go into hiding in a time like this. That may not be appropriate frankly for a healthy 25-year-old. On the other hand, for a 65-year-old smoker with a lung condition, the appropriate thing to do is to go into self-isolation. You can’t say there’s one thing and it’s good for everybody. No, you got to figure it out for yourself and you got to do it in a clear-eyed way without being obsessive-compulsive about it. When all of the leaders in the Bible, the thing that’s amazing about them is they tried to figure out what was truth, who was lying. It’s easy to be an idolater. Who’s telling the truth? What should I believe? I don’t care if you’re a believer or you’re not a believer. That’s one of the central messages of the Bible is seeking out what the actual truth is.

It often points to one place where you find that truth. I read a lot of the Bible and find it incredibly useful in my life. I didn’t read any of it when I was younger. I’m still not a religious person, but very spiritual. There’s great wisdom in the scriptures. All kinds of scriptures. In every major religion, it points to the same place, origin for answers and that is within ourselves as the man, as the woman thinketh in their heart, so are they, so shall they be. You’ve got to find truth and common sense in what’s right, and what’s real inside of yourself. The difficulty in that is we’re wired to know that we’re safer in the herd. This is genetically baked into our DNA. When we’re outside the herd, we’re more at risk. It’s not any wonder but being an independent thinker, my wife and we have four kids and we’ve said this forever. The kids didn’t come with a manual. We were surprised they let us take them home from the hospital. Seriously, we didn’t have a clue. What we did know and said from the very beginning was we wanted our kids to be independent thinking in this world.

What I love about not only the conversation, but what you’ve laid out for us is that you and your leader, the other leaders in your bank and your institution, your organization had modeled counter-intuitive thinking meaning contrary. It’s not for the sake of being contrary. Being contrary to the herd, the school of fish swimming in one direction because we’re able to ask those questions and sit with them long enough to realize something is not right here. This doesn’t make sense. How do we go along with that in good conscience and ethically when it doesn’t feel it’s right? The difficulty for a lot of people is that we’re so inundated with information. It’s so noisy.

Literally and figuratively, it’s so noisy in the space of our heads and in the environment we live in. How can anybody be clear-eyed as you said? This is where I guess we look at what we can be doing now, each of us individually to take personal responsibility for being clear-eyed. You’ve got to have quiet time. You got to have time to reflect, time to think, sit with things, and run it through the filter of common sense. There is the fact that religious teaching and the parts of religious texts are not just comforting, but there are places where you can sit with things long enough to gain a perspective. You’re a writer. On top of everything else, at some point you’re like, “I’m a writer.” Talk about a pivot. 

This book took me five years to write and all of my discretionary free time. I want to come back to something that you’re saying because this is an important point for your audience. It’s an important point for me and over the five years of writing this book, I got to understand is that you can do this with meditation. For me, it’s prayer. For your audience who want to do, substitute the word meditation for prayer. That’s okay. I believe that there is an Almighty God. If I believe that, I believe that God knows everything about me so that when I’m in prayer, there’s no place for me to self-deceive. I’ll take it on myself and I assume this applies to a few other people. We’re the easiest ones to deceive, when it’s ourselves. We want to tell ourselves all these comforting stories, make all these excuses for ourselves about why we’re doing what we’re doing as opposed to why we’re not doing what we shouldn’t be doing.

Knowing that certain things need to be done but we’ve got an excuse for not doing it. If you’re in that moment of prayer and you realize that you are having a dialogue with someone who knows you 360. The appropriates excuses but knows where you’re fibbing to yourself then you’ve got to this light on yourself. It’s a bright light that leaves you nowhere to hide. Sometimes I can speak for myself, I cringe and most people will cringe at what they’ve done and not done. In that moment, you can have a clear eye self-assessment, “I got it. What do I need to do? What am I missing? What excuses in a simple path and quick shortcuts am I taking that I can’t take because of my responsibilities to my family, myself, and whoever. That’s why prayer is so powerful for me. I’ll tell you over the five-year journey because writing this book was a journey.

The part I’m praying is the last part because one thing that’s true about me is that I prayed totally differently than I did when I started this. I’m not taking the text of what the liturgy says, the Siddur in Hebrew or whatever your Him in the list. I’m saying, “I’m taking this seriously.” If you take it seriously, it has an impact on your business life, partnerships, relationships and also on how you conduct business. I believe that the rubber meets the road in our personal relationships in business. To a certain degree, we are economic animals. For most people who aren’t in government or wielding violent power, the way you can tell someone as a good person or a bad person is how they do their business transactions, how they act as an employee, or how they act with others. Prayer forces you to reconcile up with what you’re doing during the day because you can’t pray in the morning and then spend the rest of your day praying on people.

That’s an interesting statement. Have you said that before? 

Yes, I did say that. It’s from the book.

We are the only ones who can deceive ourselves by making excuses and not doing what we are supposed to do. Click To Tweet

Good on you because that’s a statement I’m going to remember. This thing where a lot of people do spend time in meditation or in prayer. You let me know if this has been your experience as well. In ten minutes later, they might be in that place in their meditation or their prayer where they realize everything is okay. Let the winds blow. We’re all good meaning they’ve quieted themselves, they’re grounded, they’re alert but not alert with a racing heart with cortisol pumping in their bodies. They’re in fight or flight, but they’re alert and there their blood pressure goes down. That’s the way I get in crisis. It’s been that way for a long time. It came from growing up in a city where there was a lot of threat. I grew up in a much less kind and gentle Manhattan in New York. I worried where I walked, got beat up, got mugged, and all this stuff that New York used to be about. It’s a bit more of a Disney scene there, which is good.

That’s a good thing but it’s also different. In any event, the feeling that we’ve got to defend ourselves closes us off to some of that real guidance that comes from within. Yet we get to a place that and ten minutes later or an hour later, despite that, we’re doing something in contrast to that understanding that everything is okay or that we’re all connected, that I should never look at someone else and think somehow they’re different than I am. It’s not really but ten minutes later, you’re on the highway or you’re at a stoplight and somebody beeps their horn at you and you flip them the bird, He goes to, “Where did my prayer go? Where did my meditation and my peace go?” There’s this building and wrecking thing that happens for a lot of people. I don’t know if that’s been your experience at all, but it also takes constant vigilance. I guess that’s where we’re going to end up anyway with this. 

It’s constant vigilance. I would say this. I try to live by one rule. The entire Bible can be summed up with one phrase. Hillel said, “Don’t do what is hateful, what would be hateful to yourself, to someone else.” The rest is commentary. In other words, flipping the bird to somebody, you wouldn’t want someone to do that to you so don’t do it to someone else. Anytime you say it’s okay to do someone to something, to someone else that you wouldn’t be happy being done to you, you’re self-deify. That’s the major message of the Bible is don’t self-deify. There’s only one deity.

If you get that, then the day will continue because you’ll always have in mind, I’m not the deity, nobody’s a deity. We all share the first a couple of lines in the Bible where we all share a spark of divinity. Everybody’s got it. That’s not so easy to figure that out all the time. It’s not so easy to figure out what the other person’s a divinity is but you’re supposed to know that it’s there, someplace. Maybe not at that second. I try to live by that. I’m sure I failed too. No one here is perfect. You can ask my family members, they could give you chapter and verse, but I have it in mind. That’s the thing to always have in mind.

It’s consciousness. Scott, what is the leadership at Signature Bank saying to its people right now? Is there a message that you have curated specifically in response to a lot of panic over the Coronavirus?

There’s a lot of panic and there’s a lot of financial panic too. We’re counseling our people to be safe, to take appropriate steps for doing everything that the CDC are doing. I have to tell you, I’m concerned and we’re talking to clients because when caterers have all of their events canceled. When the NBA cancels games, that doesn’t impact the players who are all millionaires, that impacts the people selling beer. The people taking the tickets. There are tremendous knock-on impacts and ripple effects. Those are the impacts that I’m most concerned about. If you’ve ever shifted gears, it’s like you’re driving on the highway and you suddenly try to take your car out of gear on a stick shift while pumping the crank shift.

You’re going 70 and you drop it into third gear and you hear the engine make a sound. You don’t want to hear it.

It doesn’t sound good and it isn’t good. The Dow was down another 2,000 points after being down 2,000 points. You’re also seeing people who have made retirement and other plans who were suddenly saying, “I lost 30% of my nest egg.” I don’t want to call it biblical proportions because it’s not that, but it is one of those times that personal courage is going to be very important. Pulling together is going to be very important. Non-partisanship is going to be very important. Helping people who are in need is going to be very important. Most people who are going to be hurting are not from the virus. They’re going to be hurting because of collapse or their income has gone away. That’s mission one.

I got a sense of what you do to maintain resilience for yourself. We talked about how we’ve been a resilient race, where humanity is resilient over thousands of years. We’ve seen it through every imaginable and unimaginable thing. This is no different than that. It can’t be. I don’t believe. What will define the experience for many of us is how we handle it. It doesn’t draw the best out of us or does it somehow draw the worst out of us, which you get to see both many times.

PR Scott Shay | Financial Crisis

Financial Crisis: Helping people who are in need is going to be very important because the most affected will be those who are not suffering the virus.


I go back to the Bible on this too since we’re talking a lot of spirituality. I was talking about the Egyptian midwives when Pharaoh was saying throw all of the Israelite boys into the Nile river. These two Egyptian midwives said, “We can’t tell the Pharaoh, no, so we’ve got to come up with some way not to do it.” They figured out a play into by the way, Pharaoh’s lies. They said, “These Israeli women give birth like animals. We don’t get there in time.” Meanwhile, they’re delivering the babies. It’s a time when you don’t know the way that your courage is going to be asked of you.

It may be to help someone. It’s most likely not to be directly on the virus, but on the ripple effects of the virus. This is a time when people need to step up and do the right thing. That’ll be a different right thing for every single person. There will be that right thing. We can either walk by that moment or we can show leadership. Human beings do know that if we can strip away all of the self-deception that we like to tell ourselves. There is that moment. That can change everything for someone you helped and for yourself because you realize it’s in there in you.

Everybody is a natural leader. I know that some people get that a moniker. There’s a natural leader there. “Look at that charismatic leader, that person attracts,” or “She attracts people too.” The fact is, and I truly believe that everyone has that. We’re all got the DNA and we wouldn’t be here otherwise. It could easily be in any mathematical model that we didn’t make it this far as so. The fact that we are here is not a miracle, but it is truly a testament to what we are made of as human beings. If each of us own that, take responsibility and step up to it, as you say, “Not walk past it,” this will be one of those little footnotes as well in history. It’s not one that’s a small thing but the thing that we go, “Look at how we dealt with that.” We came out the other end of it.

One thing that I talk about toward the end of the book is, the Bible sets this up, life is a series of tests. Do we pass them or not? The two most important days for any human being are the day you’re born because now you’re in the game and then the day you figure out why you’re here. That’s the day you can control. That’s in a way the most important day. If you figure out what your purpose is, how you can help? How you can make this planet a better place? How you can make humanity a little better? It changes everything.

That generally revolves around the test. That’s why we have to strip away self-deception. That’s the most important thing we can do as an individual. I felt these are important questions. That’s why I spent five years getting rid of everything else. I used to be on chair, a whole bunch of charitable boards. I used to be a cyclist, believe it or not. I wasn’t a competitive but I was doing all sorts of events these longer events. I gave it all up because I felt I need to write this book. That was the thing that I felt. For everyone, it’s going to be different.

Whatever your labor of love like, you go back to that example you gave with the midwives. We all finding our labor of love. My dad is a writer as well and both very fortunate. Both my mom and dad are still doing great in their 80’s and all of that. Independently, I’m trying to keep my mom from doing what she wants to do. She was in the city. She was in Manhattan for an event. Were like, Come on, seriously?” She’s knows her own mind. The book is In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism by Scott Shay. Scott, it has been such a pleasure to have you on the show. I could talk to you for a long time.

This is about all the time we’ve got for now, but we’ll do a part two when we’ve gotten beyond the “catastrophizing” of things. We’ll circle back and see what we’ve learned in the process. I’m happy that you are the person that’s involved at high level of leadership of a major institution Signature Bank. For all the people that have their money with you and to put their faith and trust in that organization, they’re in good hands. I don’t say that lightly. I was a lawyer for eighteen years. I wouldn’t say that about too many banks, frankly. People wouldn’t say that about too many lawyers. There are good people and good organizations everywhere. You are doing a wonderful job so thank you for making the time. 

Thank you. This has been a pleasure. It’s been quite a conversation. I look forward to continuing it.

Can you mention the name of the TED Talk you gave?

You can tell whether someone is a good person or bad in how they do their business transactions, act as an employee, or act with others. Click To Tweet

Banking by the People For The People. I can say it’s easy to find. If you go to my website,, you’ll find the TED Talk, my Google book talk, a debate I had with Michael Shermer. You’ll find some of the best podcasts that I’ve done of which this will be on it. There’s information on the book and study guides. The book is also available since I’m on a podcast for people like to listen. It’s available on Audible as well. Andrew Totolos read the book and he’s got a much better voice than me. No question about it.

It took me four days to read this thing and then get this. I got laryngitis. It’s a funny thing. I’m a professional speaker and yet four days of speaking into a microphone, I’m getting no energy back from a live audience and it depleted me. Four days later, I had laryngitis for a week. I will say this, the one thing that we do to create resilience is important to me these days as a small measure of what we can each do to start our day. Do you have a start of day ritual? I’m going to share mine in a second. Scott, do you have one thing that you do at the very beginning of the day of what’s you called resilience? What’s that?

I do ten minutes of exercise and then I pray. For me, starting the day, it sets my gyroscope for the rest of the day.

For me, it’s a ten-second practice. I try to find something and almost anybody can do, which was the subject of my TED Talk as well, which are these four simple words to start the day. Those words are, I love my life. It is a prayer of sorts. It’s an intention is how I want to feel. All of us regardless of what we may be experiencing and how this virus has affected us or, or even will affect us. We’ve got to maintain that true center and whatever it is that you say, whatever you do to create that center is going to help us all. Please leave a review as well. You can go to leave a review there, or email us at with questions or comments. Everybody, have a wonderful rest of your day or evening, wherever you are in this moment around the world. We send a lot of love. Bye.

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About Scott A. Shay

PR Scott Shay | Financial CrisisScott A. Shay is a lead­ing busi­ness­man, thought leader and author of two wide­ly read books. Scott co-found­ed Sig­na­ture Bank in 2001; the bank has become one of the best banks in New York for pri­vate busi­ness owners, growing to 1415 employees with a net income of $500m+ last year.

Scot­t’s sec­ond book, In Good Faith: Ques­tion­ing Reli­gion and Athe­ism, has been rec­og­nized as one of the best books of 2018 by Mosa­ic Authors and also earned a final­ist award from Nation­al Jew­ish Books in 2018.

Scott gives talks around the coun­try and is inter­viewed on TV, radio, and pod­casts many times through­out the year.