NYSE floor visit

Visiting the iconic NYSE trading floor was something I’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t really pursue it since I’ve never been interested in the individual equities markets. I had gone to the NYSE viewing gallery in 2001, before it was shut post 9/11, although there is a huge difference between observing from the gallery and walking the actual trading floor. However last year, I was the high bid at a charity auction for a NYSE floor tour donated by ICE and made the visit recently in early March. Taking along two of my best buddies that I met through my career on futures trading floors really made the experience all the more special. The staff at ICE who gave us the tour provided a lot of historical and contemporary insight to the NYSE trading floor and were excellent stewards of the organization.

NYSE Wall Street storm

A speculator loves stormy weather on Wall Street

After proceeding through security, a number of historical documents and memorabilia were on display such as shown in the following photos.

NYSE trading 1796

New York Prices Current published in 1796 on display at the NYSE

This issue of The New York Prices Current was published in early 1796 and listed market values for various commodities along with prices of two stocks, the Bank of the United States and the Bank of New York at the top of the sheet (click photo to enlarge). This just shows how different it would have been buying stocks back then. Nowadays, it’s as simple as going online and searching for “buy google shares uk” to find an online stockbroker. Things would have been oh-so different back then.

Buttonwood Agreement NYSE

Buttonwood Agreement on display at the NYSE

On display as well was the Buttonwood Agreement which set the foundation for what would eventually become the NYSE.

Buttonwood Agreement

Mural of the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement underneath the buttonwood tree on Wall Street

We also dropped into what was the Stock Exchange Luncheon Club, now shuttered but still used as an event space. A mural depicting the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement underneath the buttonwood tree is displayed prominently in the space.

Before moving on to the actual floor, a quick introduction to how the NYSE trading posts have changed throughout the years is worth reading at this link: Evolution of the Trading Post on the New York Stock Exchange

NYSE photo by Neal Slavin

NYSE photo by Neal Slavin

In doing a little research before the trip, I came across the above photo which Neal Slavin nealslavin.com took of the NYSE floor in the mid 1980s and it does a great job capturing how populated the floor was at it’s height. I’m unable to find the article Mr. Slavin describes the photo but it was something along the lines of he spent 12+ hours getting the lighting to how he wanted it and only had a few minutes before the opening bell to take the photo.

NYSE trading floor

On the NYSE floor with my good friend Dan

On the day of our visit, the closing bell was being rung by Masonite, ticker symbol DOOR, so we dropped by the post trading it for a photo. We got a chance to speak w/various people on the floor and while it doesn’t appear that they are very active most of the day, there are a few niches, including the close and IPO launches, which they still play a role for. A couple weeks after my visit, the WSJ wrote an article describing how the close now represents 26% of NYSE volume and some brokers now don’t even show up until after lunch.

The closing bell is pretty much a spectacle to add excitement for a listed company, charitable cause or prominent public figures celebrating an achievement or anniversary. In reading the guidelines, they seem pretty strict to keep it to that certain profile and a quick look at the calendar here illustrates the types of organizations who are ringing it in the coming days. The history of the closing bell can be read here and a video of the ceremony on the day we visited can be viewed here. The bell is really loud as you might imagine since it was meant to be heard throughout the floor, once jammed with a population of thousands at it’s peak.

NYSE closing bell

NYSE closing bell ceremony guests

In the minutes before going to the upper podium, the closing bell guests stand beneath it for photos and to sign their name in the book of distinguished NYSE guests.

NYSE guest book

Distinguished Guests of the New York Stock Exchange book, my signature is not in it

Although we didn’t get a chance to get on the podium for the closing bell, we were able to get beneath it afterwards for a photo. There was definitely a lot of nostalgia on the trip for me since I started out in my Kansas hometown working for a couple stockbrokerages doing gruntwork as a teenager before starting to work on the KCBT floor at 18. Almost twenty years since I was last keying orders into a green screen Quotron to the same NYSE floor I was now standing on, it was great to be beside two of the greatest, most trustworthy people I met along the journey (and Christian’s lovely wife).

NYSE closing bell

NYSE closing bell

One other reason for the trip to NYC was that my buddy Dan and I have had an ongoing bet for the past 15+ years of whoever has the highest trading P/L on the year has to pick up the tab at a huge dinner. For me it’s always been incredibly motivational to keep at it throughout the year and push for the honor of paying….and every year we talk about how grateful we are to still be in the game trading for ourselves.

LIFFE raw footage

A few short videos of the LIFFE trading floor were posted earlier this year and are worth a look.  The first video is of the Bund pit during the European morning session in September 1995.

The second video is of the Short Sterling pit in a November 1996 afternoon.

The final video involves some clowning around, after the bell it looks, in early 1996 that involves a couple costumed characters in the center of the pit, bidding a price the entire pit wants to sell.



The Trading Game – 1987 documentary

Someone recently uploaded this excellent 1987 documentary made by a local Chicago tv station about the Chicago trading floors.  It’s certainly a must watch!


Chicago Mercantile Exchange demutualization packet from 1999


Scanned below is an original packet given to members on November 2, 1999 from the CME which outlines the proposed demutualization of the exchange into a publicly traded company. Because I started as a clerk the day prior, there isn’t a whole lot I can add, but it’s interesting to read of how the CME embarked into the process and transformed into a NYSE listing.

I tried to embed it from Scribd but it’s not working and I’m not gonna keep trying to figure it out so here is the link to the Scribd upload:

Chicago Mercantile Exchange demutualization packet from 1999


Summer trading

LIFFE trading floor

LIFFE trading floor at the Royal Exchange, photo credit: http://www.theroyalexchange.co.uk/heritage/

It’s been a long while since my last post and apologies for the lack of posts for almost a year at this point. Trading the volatility of the Trump victory, combined with my daughter being such an energetic toddler, a few other serious hobbies, lots of travel and the never ending tinkering with trading software just didn’t leave me enough mental bandwidth to do a whole lot of the trading pit history stuff. But I’m starting to warm back up to getting some posts going again over time cause there’s still a lot of trading pit related history which needs to be shared! Getting into trading doesn’t have to be hard, you can start by contacting TradeZero to get you on the trading ladder.

I’ve been meaning to post the above photo of the LIFFE trading floor at the Royal Exchange in 1991 because it really captures the mood of summer trading with nothing going on in the markets. This is a poignant reminder of a time many years ago, with online trading platforms such as Duplitrade (https://www.duplitrade.com/) all but completely replacing trading floors – although this is completely understandable when you consider how easy these online platforms make it to trade. Enlarge the photo and you can see that not one trade is happening in the middle of the day (Tuesday, August 20th, 1991 at 1:44PM) and even though the trading pits are often over-sensationalized with chaos, a lot of the sessions consisted of mostly standing around joking or silently contemplating one’s trading position. What I assume to be an unintended juxtaposition, the photographer captured the normally raucous trading floor at one of the slowest times of the year as it was after the Asian session closed, also after the London lunch break, before the US bond market open and most importantly at the height of summer holidays which leads to a seasonal nadir of volumes. The way that trading takes place these days is a whole world away from this photo. You only need a vps and a laptop, and you’re on your way.

Trading in recent times is not just about the stock market. With the emergence of digital currency exchange or cryptocurrency exchange, the domain of trading has spread far and wide. But like stock investments, understanding the market of digital currencies like Bitcoin and its apparent advantages and risks should be studied in advance. Bitcoin trading websites such as Independent Reserve and other similar sites could assist people who are interested in Bitcoin trading, along with cryptocurrencies.

Coming back to this picture, while I can attest to never really understanding most art, this photo is one of my personal favorites because it gives a very candid perspective on what the trading floor was often really like and it’s possible to isolate the individuals throughout the broad trading floor population. In particular, because there wasn’t anything really trading at the moment, I appreciate that the photo allowed the perspective of how the individuals interact or stay within their own thoughts while awaiting the next bit of activity. As a comparison, Gursky really minimized the individual in all his (vastly overrated, imho) exchange photos to emphasize the scale of the trading floor instead.

BBC news clip on LIFFE move from Royal Exchange to Cannon Bridge

Above is a couple minute clip from the BBC which was recently uploaded about LIFFE’s shift from the Royal Exchange to it’s larger trading floor at Cannon Bridge in late 1991.  Every time I visit London, I always walk through the Royal Exchange and it’s hard to believe that it was once home to trading pits but like the rest of the industry, adapted by transformation into optimal use, in it’s case a retail development.  Towards the end of the clip, there is mention of “Essex Man” which, as an American I had to have explained to me in the past, and the closest American equivalent I’d compare it to would be someone from New Jersey.

Must Watch: For Cryin’ Out Loud

Occasionally I come across a treasure trove of media from the golden era of open outcry trading and this collection of raw footage from Media Burn’s independent video archive is not to be missed!!! It appears that all the raw footage was shot for a local Chicago show hosted by Studs Terkel, Chicago Slices, although a polished edit for some of the footage of the old CBOT bond room in 1993 focusing on hand signals is entitled For Cryin’ Out Loud:

The old bond room at the CBOT was before my era so the raw video atleast gave me a sense of how incredibly crowded it was and the raw footage was like walking onto the trading floor again.  Anyone who did work in the old CBOT bond room will certainly love these videos because it’ll place them right back in there 23 years ago.

CBOT Treasury bond trading

CBOT old bond room 1993

I can’t embed the primary clip which the above screengrab came from but the link to the hour long raw footage is linked here.  This particular clip starts off on the streets of Chicago and then transitions from the trading floor turnstiles to walking on the floor and observing w/a little narration by an exchange member.

Treasury bond futures

CBOT bond room 1993

A second batch of raw footage starts in the morning of a desk broker for his commute to the CBOT where he describes the floor and then shows footage of the trading floor.  This clip also can’t be embedded so the link for it is here and the footage for the CBOT section starts around the 25:00 minute mark.

CBOT Treasury bond floor 1993

CBOT bonds 1993

In this batch of raw footage was also an hour long clip of the CME upper trading floor with tour and commentary from a member who I’d suspect to be Steve Urkel‘s dad.  Once again, it’s not possible to embed the clip but you can click the link for it here.

CME currency futures 1993

CME currency clerks 1993