This is the first in a series of articles in which I will try to provide some insight into how the FX market has changed since I started as a trader twenty-eight years ago.I do not propose to use chronology as a basis preferring to pass on anecdotes and observations about what is good and not so good about progress.
These articles have been culled from my notes for a Book entitled “The Days the Earth stood Still” that will be launched for FX Cuffs in March 2018
My first days as an interbank trader.
On April 14th, 1991, I played my last ever game of football. That is hardly significant except that there was a player in the opposition team who I seemed to become involved in a battle for supremacy with who, unbeknown to me would be a part of the next few years of my career.
A year or so later, the merger between two of the world’s largest banks and certainly two heavyweights of the FX market was completed. The Bank with the largest “corporate book” of FX clients was merging with the was the pre-eminent bank for FX trading.
From a treasury perspective it was a “marriage made in heaven”.
Up until that point since joining about a two years earlier, I had been on the sales team acting as the conduit between the bank’s traders and a section of its customers. I enjoyed the role which allowed me to mix client interaction with some position taking in minor currencies that the desk I worked on managed.
Around a month before the merger took place each of my colleagues was summoned to the other dealing room to be given their role in the new team. It had been agreed that every trader would be given a role guaranteed for three months after which their performance as well as the makeup of the team would be reviewed.
As I sat in the meeting room waiting to be told how my career would evolve, I couldn’t have imagined the upheaval I was about to experience.
The Head of Trading for the new merged bank entered the room. While barely looking at me he consulted a list having confirmed my name.
“OK Alan, you will be trading Scandinavian currencies interbank”
He looked up to see the expression of shock on my face and asked if I had any questions.
I first asked him to confirm that he had my name correct since this was something I had never done before. He relied in the affirmative, got up from his chair, offered me his hand to shake and said he would see me in a month or so.
The atmosphere in the dealing room in the leading up to the merger was one of incredibly mixed emotions. Personally, I ran a full gamut of feelings; sometimes terrified that I had no idea what to expect, to other times when I told myself that there was nothing to it and I had been trusted by the biggest bank in the world, so I must be alright.
As ever, the reality turned out to be very different!
The merged bank had plans to basically flex its muscles from day one and show the market that a new gargantuan had entered the game. No currency in no amount was too much for the new bank/team.
I was to quote the Danish, Norwegian, Swedish Kroner and Finnish Mark to all and sundry. In those days there were some very large players in Scandinavia, backed by some serious corporate entities so even an experienced trader would have his work cut out.
I was like a lamb to the slaughter, unable to ask many of my colleagues for help but I did see one familiar face sitting opposite me. Remember my last football match? The guy I had the titanic struggle with was to be a colleague and provider of genuine help. He couldn’t however hold back the waves of pricing requests from the likes of Den Danske Bank, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken and Norges Bank who smelled blood in the water.
How I survived and even possibly flourished will be a tale for tomorrow.