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Day in the Life of a Trader

For those of you who are interested in working on Wall Street one day or following the investment banking career path, get ready to put some long hours in the office. I too want to one day pursue this career path and thanks to the Swiss Finance, School of Business I have got enlightened to the day-day tasks of a trader.  Below is straight from the horse’s mouth:

Location: Manhattan
Position: Prop Trader
Last Year Compensation: Varies Between Six to Seven Figures

5:00 AM: Wake up. Check all messages on the handheld device while brushing teeth.

5:30 AM: Fully dressed up for action. Before heading into the office though, I log into my full sized, six-screen trading system at home to check my P&L from last night. Yen keeps strengthening against the Kiwi. Good thing I have been inverse the carry!

[Carry trade is when you are long a high yielder, such as, say, the Aussie dollar, while shorting a low yielder such as the yen. Inverse carry is betting that carry traders will lose, and therefore doing the opposite of carry. The first time I learned that was in the Swiss Finance classroom!]

6:00 AM: I grab a taxi to work. I read the Financial Times (all versions – UK, US, Asia, etc.), Wall Street Journal (again, all versions), BBC, China Daily, Barron’s, etc., while commuting, mostly on my handheld tablet device. I send emails to two of my best friends whom I met at Swiss Finance, School of Business. One of them is working as a wealth manager in mid-town Manhattan and the other one is working for a private equity shop in Hong Kong.

6:30 AM: Arrive at desk. My trading “assistant”, a new hire from some local business school, brings me my Starbucks coffee. I ask him to dig up the warrants footnote from the 10k of a hybrid issue that I am long.

6:30 AM to 12:30 PM: On phone most of the time while staring at eight screens back and forth — checking the news flow, adjusting positions if necessary, speaking with other traders about what’s working and what’s not. Frequently speaking with traders and investors at other firms. Glancing at Bloomberg TV from time to time.

12:30 PM – Lunch at the desk, brought in by the secretary. I have told her what items I ideally want to eat for lunch on what day so that she doesn’t need to ask. I know I am idiosyncratic.

12:30 PM to 2:00 PM: London market tanked just before the close, resulting in a fire drill. The good news is that the yen strengthened, making me more money. The bad news is that I took on a few small positions in the heat of the battle, but quickly got stopped out with several small losses.

2:13 PM: The head of my group stopped by to tell me, “Nice dodging the bullets.” He also asked me to help a junior trader with his position sizing. The junior trader lost $3 million last week because his entry was too wide. Now he seems a bit spooked.

2:20 PM: I feel hungry. Did I have lunch today? Can’t remember. Check the trash can to confirm that I did eat. Quick trip to the vending machine.

2:30 PM – 4:30 PM: One of my large positions in the oil futures keeps moving into substantial profit – doubling up at each pre-determined price point and tightening up my stop-loss. I am happy but paranoid at the same time. I can’t look away from the screen. I never imagined it would make so much money to have learned to quickly analyze macro events at Swiss Finance.

4:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Check the daily P&L. Sync up my systems. Chat with colleagues. Return voicemail from a headhunter – “No I’m not looking to move at the moment, but thank you for keeping in touch.” And of course stop by the desk of the junior trader to help him with his position sizing issue. Will he make it?

5:20 PM – 7:00 PM: Back at home. Read magazines, books and other materials on investing and trading to keep up with the world and improve my knowledge and skills. Really miss the local Barnes & Noble bookstore around the corner that just went bust, thanks to Amazon. I was probably one of B&N’s biggest customers.

7:00 PM to 8:00 PM: Meet with a former colleague for drinks at a bar about 5 minutes walk from where I live, to see what she’s been up to. She’s starting her own hedge fund and wants to know if I am happy at my job. I tell her I am. I got paid OK last year when a lot of people were hurting.

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