The Trader’s Desk

The seat of power
The seat of power

Classic shot of the Trader’s Desk. Familiar to any Investment Banker.

Let’s deconstruct.

First, pride of place on the desktop is the Bloomberg Professional keyboard. The Bloomberg service, at $2000 per month per user, provides realtime news, stock, currency and commodity prices, with first class analytical tools. You’ll make the fee back in your first trade, as Bloomberg Sales are often heard to say.

Actually, Traders use Bloomberg for email. As no one else in the bank can justify the cost, it’s both an exclusive club ( if you don’t have a email address, you are clearly not worth much to your employer, therefore not important, therefore your emails aren’t either ) and a very convenient way of filtering out all the boring emails from the back office, Compliance, and god help us, IT, which all pile up in Outlook on the other screen. Outlook acts as a kind of proof-of-life that the other people you see in the lifts who get out at the non-trading room floors have something going on, albeit of no interest, in their dull lives.

Bloomberg is the trading floor Facebook.

Next we see various screens benefiting from proprietary high-bandwidth, low latency connectivity to literally billions of dollars worth of technology, dedicated to complex algorithmic analysis of trading patterns. Or, as it is known in the academic community, “nonsense”.

Many of these academics have swapped writing Christmas jokes about absurd pattern-recognition theories that only work backwards for writing absurd pattern-recognition computer programs for which people with email addresses pay them millions of dollars. These programs only see patterns backwards too, and are no use at all for predicting the future movement of stocks or bonds. They are very complex though and they make terrific-looking graphs.

Also, these programmers host and keep updated the realtime-spreadsheet with the office pool on sporting events. This spreadsheet benefits from proprietary high-bandwidth, low latency connectivity to literally billions of dollars worth of technology.

The graphs on the screens are to give semblance-of-credibility and the impression of greater knowledge when talking to clients who don’t know a candlestick from a Dunhill lighter. Below the VWAP ? Seeking a reversal ? Support level broken ? “According to my information….sure, soon, will work the order. Ciao. Line 2. Nick ! Yeah it certainly was. Wasn’t she just. Now what have you got for me mate…”

Speaking of sporting events we also note the television hanging from the ceiling. Many moons ago, actual price tickers were on the walls, as remembered from Wall Street and Trading Places. But while these showed realtime pricing information, they were less good at displaying halftime at the Superbowl. This meant no cheerleaders.

Now, with the advent of flat screens light enough to be suspended from the ceiling, we reach the ultimate goal of being able to keep our financial wizards fully up to date with the cheerleading World Series, while also providing a small pricing ticker along the base of the screen to maintain appearances.

The academic programmer, who once wore a bad suit and had terrible hair, but is now known as Executive Director of Algorithmic Trading and drives a Lamborghini says thank you, Samsung and CNBC, for services to international finance. He has less hair now, fewer emails from academic friends, and a liver that could be served from a Branston’s jar. His girlfriend, at least the one who claims the distinction this month, is more stunning than a Pagani Zonda, and equally mad. He sometimes wonders about getting back into research.

An iPod is half hidden, best to keep it away from the lady in IT Risk whose ad-hoc “Tiger Tests” of trading floor data security are equally feared and admired. Feared, because if singled out by the Head of Desk for the terrible transgression of plugging in an iPod to corporate technology without an Approved Exception and Risk Analysis, actual bonus-affecting pain may be inflicted. Admired, because damn she’s hot. Which reminds me, better get rid of that Post-It with my Bloomberg password on it.

In front of this gilded citadel to information and power, this exclusive throne, before the portal into the world’s radiant financial hell-hole, we see the real tool of the trade. Diminutive, but closest at hand.

A calculator.


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