Trading's Changing Dynamics: Is Macho Moving Out?

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Traditionally, trading floors have been rough and tumble places, fit for a man's man. But with the advent of electronic trading, not to mention the influx of women, the man's world may be giving ground.

The "man's man" trader still exists to some degree, especially on the exchange floors, says Drew Mandler, managing director of capital markets for the Southport, Conn., offices of Smith Hanley Associates, an executive search firm focused on the quantitative end of Wall Street. "These are hard-charging individuals," he notes, if only because of the physical nature of the trading floor. The move toward electronic and quantitative trading - and the move away from the pushing and shoving that sometimes goes along with it - is smoothing out the sometimes-macho nature of trading.

Eli Radke, a market analyst for the Chicago-based training company Secrets of Traders, agrees. He notes the move to electronic trading opens up the opportunities for financially-savvy women to some degree. Radke - who trades from a desk - remembers the more physical environment from his experiences on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. "Certainly, things are changing," he says.

Still, large numbers of women have yet to make it on the "upstairs" or desk end of the game, says Mandler. Even with the right mix of experience and quantitative expertise, he says female traders need to have a thick skin to break in.

However, times are changing: More women are entering the workplace and the major investment banks and trading operations are going out of there way to put in place written policies that deal with their fraternity-like atmospheres. Of course, legislating behavior and getting people to act more professionally can be two different things. "It's definitely much less of a locker room than it use to be, but it's still not perfect," says Mandler.

One senior arbitrage trader in New York, who has more than ten years of experience in derivatives, notes that today's traders are better educated and more disciplined than their brethren of the past, if only because of the quantitative skills now demanded. "But they're individuals who tend to have large personalities, people who can be confident with taking on big risk. Everyone still expects the flash - the big watch, the nice car and boat - but the reality is shifting. Successful traders come in all types, and some of them even live quiet suburban lives. But it really does take an entrepreneurial spirit."

Is the day of the macho trader in the past? Post your comment below.

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