24 Hours With a Trader
Early starts, P&L swings, and keeping your cool...
6.20am - The alarm goes off and I feel groggy to say the least. Going out for drinks with a client last night seemed like a good idea at the time, but I am now truly suffering for it. Some traders can survive on less than 6 hours sleep but I really struggle. I am glad I am not female: having to wake up even earlier to sort out my appearance (further than just slapping on a bit of hair gel) would probably make me weep.
6.45am- I need to get in before 7am when some of my markets open and when various companies report their earnings. At 6.45am I fly out the door and down the road. I had the foresight to rent a flat right by my office. A lot of my friends thought I was crazy, that I would never be able to free myself from the work mentality, but when my alarm penetrates its way into my very soul with its evil death beat just after 6am rather than just after 5am, in order for me to accommodate a commute too, I think I am the cleverest and most sane person in the world! On the way to the concrete tower that I call home for about 12 hours a day, I grab a coffee from the girl who knows my order by heart. Thankfully it is June and light in the mornings and evenings. The winter months are punishing with most traders facing an existential crisis at least 3 times a week, uttering the phrase, "I just don't know if I can do this anymore". It's the lack of Vitamin D talking!
7am- I get to my desk just in time to hear a big pharmaceutical company report strong earnings. Our analysts and traders in the relevant specialist team expect the stock to open 3% higher from yesterday's close. I immediately get on the phone to a good client who bought this stock a while back and who I think might want to profit-take today by selling some of their position. I was right, he's impressed by my memory and had missed this news himself. It feels like today is going to be a good day.
7.30am- We have a quick desk meeting, led by one of the more senior traders, to recap the events occurring overnight in New York and Asia and speculate how they may influence our markets in Europe. My boss is on good form as the desk is doing well and he's off on holiday tomorrow. I am definitely going to enjoy his joviality - many days, to describe him like a bear with a sore head would be an understatement - he even promises to buy us all a steak lunch from Gaucho today. I write a big note in my diary for 1.30pm reminding me that the Initial Jobless Claims number is out in the US. 8am A few tickets come in just before the open from a big client who is looking to gain exposure to a particular sector. The next few minutes are vital. How I trade these for him and the price I get relative to the average price being dealt at in the market will determine how good a job I have done for him. I buy one of them on the open because a positive news statement and a broker upgrade can only mean that the price will increase over the day. The other ticket is very large and I sniff around as I know another desk has been a seller of this in the past. A colleague comes up trumps. We agree to cross up our tickets (my buy, his sell) so both our clients are happy.
8.30am- I get breakfast from the canteen upstairs. All my earlier lethargy has disappeared. No matter how rough I feel as my alarm goes off, as soon as I get through the trading floor doors, I have to just focus on the screens and my clients on the ends of the phones. Usually, the banter from the guys and girls on the desk makes life enjoyable, but sometimes if the boss is in a bad mood things can get a bit tense.
11.30am- There is talk of lunch already. I'm starving.
12noon- Steak arrives! Well, I had to go and get it, with the boss's card in my pocket. I idly wonder how much cash that little card can access? Come back with 3 big steak boxes and instantly become the most popular person on the desk!
1pm- Regretting the steak as is most of the team. It's going to be a sleepy afternoon.
1.29pm- Poised for the Initial Jobless Claims announcement in 60 seconds. This is a weekly report issued by the US Department of Labor that reveals how many people in the US have filed for unemployment benefits over the last 7 days. As the health of the US economy influences global economic health, it is a closely tracked statistic that can trigger moves in the prices of all asset classes.
1.30pm- The Initial Jobless Claims report is much more bullish than anticipated with fewer jobless claims than expected. European markets spike. I get some sell tickets from clients who have been waiting for the report and are now profit-taking on some long positions. One of my clients who had to buy a stock by the end of today to close out a short in his portfolio phones in a panic saying he should have bought more this morning, he didn't expect such a positive IJCs number and he's gutted to have to be paying a higher price now. I tell him to calm down. Despite the bullish number, there are still concerns over the stability of the banking sector and rumours that an emerging European country is facing fiscal problems. I tell him I think his stock price will fall back down again once the market can digest the number in context with events occurring in the rest of Europe.
1.45pm- After an interminable 15 minutes in which my client and I are both willing the FTSE 100 Index to fall back down, it does, practically back to its opening level. Phew! He buys all the stock he needs over the next 10 minutes at the lower price.
2.30pm- The tiredness hits me. European indices have stabilised and I am being pestered by our back-office over a trade I did last week that has not settled. I sort out the issue; my counterparty had entered the wrong settlement date on the trade. I am a bit bored now, just waiting for the close, after which we have no meetings and I should, fingers crossed, be able to get out just before 5pm.
3pm- I've been for a 10-minute stroll outside to wake up, which is a bit of a luxury, and spoken to my desk assistant about the arrangements for a business trip to Frankfurt I am making next week.
3.30pm- My markets start to close, a bit of a flurry as South Africa closes and I just manage to key a trade in on time to close out a position I had. I thought my position was in Rand cents but it turns out it was in Rands... a silly mistake to make as my exposure (and potential risk) was a lot larger than I anticipated. The golden rule for a trader is that they should always know their trading book inside out. Luckily though I manage to get 'out for nowt', or without incurring a loss.
4.35pm- Bliss. The markets in Europe are closed. A few cheers from across the floor. Many other traders clearly wanted the day to end as much as I did. I've made some nice commission today, exceeding my budget which is great, but I have a small long position in a banking stock after a good client asked me to make him a price just before the close. I am not that happy to have it given the sector's huge volatility recently, but, he's a good client, and the price I made him was much higher than the closing offer so I should have a buffer if banks overseas fall over night.
5pm- I'm out the door, vowing to be in bed before 9pm. It's a lovely sunny evening. Think I'll go for a run. Phone my University buddy who is doing well in M&A at an American bank. He's up for a run with me; he says it will be good preparation for the all-nighter that he's going to have to pull. The lifestyle in M&A certainly isn't for me. Although as a trader waking up is painful, at least I get my evenings and weekends, but my friend seems happy and loves the thrill of the deal.
10pm- Decided the evening was too nice to waste, so bought myself a disposable barbecue and organised an impromptu night around mine. I'll regret it in the morning ;-) but I'm only young once!
6.20am- Gggggroan. Too many Peroni's last night. I curse myself but praise the lord its Friday and thank my good fortune that I'm not an FX trader like my flat mate. He's already been at his desk 20minutes! I'm tempted to snooze a little longer and just be a bit late seeing as it's Friday but then I remember my banking stock position. This is enough to force me out of bed and in no time I'm once again streaming through the trading floor doors, coffee in hand, scouring the news of where my stock is going going to open in order to gain an indication of how much money I might make or lose on it.