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John Thomas Financial: The Other Side of Wall Street

Broker John Thomas projects a polished image. Life in the trenches is not pretty
Belesis, founder of John Thomas Financial
Belesis, founder of John Thomas FinancialIllustration by Alex Williamson; Photographs by Gerardo Tabone (Belesis); Getty Images (3)

Nicholas Gwiazda thought he’d found a door into the glamorous world of Wall Street in September when he answered a Craigslist ad from John Thomas Financial, which was looking for junior brokers. A couple of days later he was invited to tour the firm’s marble-floored offices, across the street from the New York Stock Exchange. The 24-year-old University of Connecticut graduate says he was told he could make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year after passing licensing exams. On his first day on the job, Gwiazda was handed a phone and told to call strangers across the country, advising them that a senior broker would follow up in a week with a good investing idea. He and other trainees worked 14-hour days, mostly on their feet, reciting memorized sales pitches. The pay was $300 a week. Gwiazda says he was fired after three months. “It was a glorified call center, honestly,” he says.

John Thomas has generated more than $100 million in revenue in the five years since it was started by Anastasios “Tommy” Belesis. During that time, Belesis has made television appearances; received endorsements from celebrities, including former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; and played a banker in the 2010 movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. (Actor Shia LaBeouf told the Today Show’s Matt Lauer that he trained for his role in the film by spending time with John Thomas traders.)