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Lessons From the Kardashians for All Kinds of Businesses

Indiana Pacers v Philadelphia 76ersIndiana Pacers v Philadelphia 76ers
Kendall Jenner is seen at the game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers on March 10, 2019. Jesse D. Garrabrant—NBAE/Getty Images

In a tangentially-related follow up to Adam’s essay yesterday about the scammy Fyre music festival, let’s take a closer look at one of those influencers who got paid to promote the scheme. Kendall Jenner reportedly received $250,000 to hype the fest on her Instagram feed. She doesn’t sound super-apologetic in a comment to New York Times reporter Amy Chozick:

“You get reached out to by people to, whether it be to promote or help or whatever, and you never know how these things are going to turn out, sometimes it’s a risk,” Jenner says. “I definitely do as much research as I can, but sometimes there isn’t much research you can do because it’s a starting brand and you kind of have to have faith in it and hope it will work out the way people say it will.”

It’s easy to dismiss the Kardashians, but as Chozick’s piece also makes clear, Kris Jenner and her five daughters have turned reality show fame into a billion dollar business empire through savvy exploitation of their popularity on social media connected up with the e-commerce infrastructure that links digital world intentions with physical world goods. Don’t expect the family to fade from the headlines anytime soon, as episode one of season 16 of Keeping Up With the Kardashians airs on Sunday.

This tangent runs even deeper, as a report on one of the most obscure and obdurately tech-resistant corners of Wall Street had me thinking back to the lessons of the Kardashians. The $9 trillion corporate bond market may be the last holdout against automated and rapid electronic trading, where fancy pants salespeople and their stereotypically gruff traders still hawk bonds over the phone, as they did in the days of Michael Lewis’s brilliant book Liar’s Poker (okay, they mostly do it via instant messages now, but still!). Bloomberg’s Matthew Leising says electronic trading that bypasses the street is rising rapidly but still comprises only about one-quarter of all trading.

It’s cheaper, faster, and more reliable, so what’s the hold up? In a market where a single company may have hundreds of slightly different bonds outstanding, some of which rarely trade, and prices are difficult to track, even big institutional investors need some hand-holding, it seems. “People want to talk to people, and know they are doing the right thing,” Kevin McPartland, an analyst at Greenwich Associates, tells Leising. Getting the signal to buy something based on a nod from a respected guru in the field, probably over IM? We just need a Kardashian family for the bond market.