Traders are people too

This is a guest post from Tusk Trader, an experienced Bay Street trader who will be writing here until Tusk’s own blog is set up. Tusk had a front row seat to the twists, turns, and almost collapse of our capital market systems a few years ago and provides a unique perspective you won’t find anywhere else. For most people, financial literacy is the elephant in the room. Let Tusk Trader help change that. If you are on twitter, make sure to follow Tusk at @TuskTrader

Traders have a reputation for being a little brash and sometimes less refined than other employees within the capital markets. Traders show up in a pressed shirt like everyone else, but over the day, the sleeves get rolled up and the collar gets loosened. I do agree that, overall, it is part of the culture of trading to be a little bolder and freer with language and emotion. I think it comes from an honest place. Trading can be an emotional activity. When you spend your day doing something that gets your blood boiling, you tend to let your guard down and express what is happening. Most traders don’t have offices or even cubicles to hide in. It is just one big open room. A giant sea of desks, computer screens and colleagues. These unguarded emotions are a feature of trading floors I actually really like. You know who your colleagues really are very quickly. You rarely hear, “But what’s he really like?” Three losing days in a row, a settlement mix up and some computer problems will show you very quickly what your desk buddy is really like. A trader can be under constant pressure for an extended period of time and there is no place to hide. With a trader, what you see is what you get and I like that.

The biggest proof that traders are people too is demonstrated in the most talked about topic on all trading floors. It doesn’t matter the season, the economic cycle, or market volatility. This one item dominates all trading floor discussions: Lunch. Traders are obsessed with lunch. The stock exchange in Canada used to close for a lunch break. Many exchanges, mainly in Asia, still close for lunch. I was not a trader when the TSE closed for lunch but I believe that is where the lunch obsession came from. The markets here are open all day with no stoppages, but there is usually a slump in trading volumes over the lunch time hours. Most traders eat lunch at their desks, working away and hence, lunch is usually a communal event. The lunch chatter appears first each day as traders eat breakfast at their desk around 7 or 7:30. One or two traders will ask if there is a plan for lunch before deciding on what to have for breakfast. In Toronto, this is an important decision as massive peameal bacon sandwiches for breakfast can alter one’s appetite for a steak sandwich at lunch. After mid morning, the lunch talk really heats up.

“Who is ‘in’ for the group lunch? “

“What will it be?”

“ Do they deliver or do we have to send a junior to pick it up?”

The official lunch decision is made around 11am to avoid any congestion or order mix up at the chosen destination. After consumption of the actual lunch, there is the 1pm lunch commentary.

“How was lunch?”

“ Was it good value?”

This goes on until about 2pm when it morphs into a conversation about the next day’s lunch ideas. This is a time when complex lunch options are hashed out between traders.

“ I think we should try. If we get our order in by 10:55, and put the junior in a cab at 11:15, it will work.”

Friday lunches are generally the most important, most complicated, most caloric and most delicious. So next time you see a 25 year old, looking like the ultimate career minded individual except that they are walking around the PATH with 4 large bags stuffed with Styrofoam takeout containers around 11:30am, know that this person is in charge of the most important thing in the office, lunch.

Thanks Tusk. Make sure to follow Tusk Trader on twitter: @tusktrader

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