On working with predators in finance

I work with clients in the banking and investment industry and see both the good and the bad. It isn't a "necessary evil"; it just is. People have dreams of having big money, enough to retire when the time comes, or maybe younger if the right set of circumstances smile upon them. Coming from a museum background into this arena was truly enlightening.

I deal with client issues. When something goes amiss, it is my job to fix it, or at least point them in the right direction. It is equal parts frustration and reward. Nothing makes me feel as good as turning a client around and helping to save a relationship.

This hasn't always been the case. In my previous incarnation, I worked help desk, which frequently meant dealing with traders. This was my first exposure to this environment, and in all of my years of work, I never ran into a nastier lot.

Not all of them are like this, but all too many are.

They are predatory; if you get between them and what they do, they will run you down. For them, the necessary steps to handle the problem aren't enough, and anyone beneath them is unworthy. I was told once that the reason I had the job I had was because I wasn't smart enough to make the big bucks, then called a "condescending fuck" when I tried to answer the question while holding back the anger. This was over a recorded line. That was back when the market began its convulsions, though I confirmed that the same person brought one of our supervisors to tears once long before.

We just tried to stay out of their way, even if we couldn't.

That people like him were successful could be surmised by the arrogance; I guess there is something to this whole sociopath thing.

When I went to client operations, things were much different. I was fortunate enough to find that many of my supervisors were sympathetic to the clients, even the ones who could be frequently impossible. That attitude, though, does not exist throughout the entire company. I think that's where the problem arises; clients are judged by value, their "worth", though of course our advertising says otherwise. Clients are frequently passed along, too often to their surprise, and frequently to mine. I've been a client, and am aware that it sucks to be treated like that. Yet it happens anyway, and I always keep that in mind; I won't transfer a client unless I really have to.

Call it co-dependency in the work place, with people I will never meet.

Once you navigate beyond the group that I work in, things really deteriorate. You start moving up in pay grades, and people devolve into numbers. It's that way in every company. It is worse now in this industry, since its ascendancy over the past few decades. The people I work with closest really do try, but their superiors thwart them. There are some ridiculous measures in place, some that will make you scratch your head, all in the name of keeping overhead low and profits high, clients be damned.

Accounts have been bungled, clients ignored, money misplaced, money moved, money lost, money made. As an employee, I'm not allowed to have an opinion on the matter any longer. It's open season on hourly employees.

But that's the way it is, and I doubt it will change any time soon.

That trader (or traders) in Chicago, who wrote that letter for the OWS crowd, was well aware of one aspect of this industry akin to gambling; it's the House's rules, and the House never loses.

Anonymous works in the finance industry


  1. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. There are nasty people everywhere. Is there anyone delusional enough to think that boingboing is an unbiased source for information on the finance industry. Everyone who takes this post seriously already agrees with you.

    1. There ARE nasty people everywhere. Including here. Including you.  Including me.

      This is something else.

  2. I walk past Chicago’s financial district twice daily. The traffic (foot and car both)  in that neighborhood is completely “me first, screw you”. Pedestrians don’t pay attention to lights, and motorists block intersections rather than wait 30 seconds. Sometimes they reap on each other what they have sown. :-)

  3. They are truly some of the strangest people on earth. Every one of them I have ever known is a hard drug user. They are rolling around the clock. They throw great parties, but freak out either into rage or tears the moment something, anything, does not go exactly as they have envisioned it. No matter how many times the 1000% certainty they have proves misguided, delusional, or completely wrong, they never break from or deviate from their hubris and bravado. Their confidence is so far beyond arrogant that I don’t even know what to call it. If any of you have ever read Brian Bendis crime procedural POWERS, there is a character named Zora, who has super powers because she realized there was no god and therefore she was her own god.

    These people could probably convince themselves of the same thing.

    1. I will always remember the trader-client of mine who felt it was okay to call me at 1130 on a Saturday at home to discuss his property project. He was high as a kite. Talking a mile a minute, and needed his hand held something fierce, though the bravado made it seem otherwise.

      That phone call changed my perspective on who is winning in America. 

    2. Finance is a sector when you are working with symbols (stocks) representing varying and unknown amounts of other symbols (money), with value on both levels being determined primarily by faith (the value of a unit of money depends entirely on how much the people you want to buy things from think it’s worth, and how much a stock is worth depends on how much stock traders think it will be worth and how much stock traders think other stock traders think it will be worth). The whole thing requires a certain amount of self-delusion (if you want Tinkerbell to live, clap harder), and so it should be no surprise that it’s like a bizarre alternate universe. Wall Street is as crazy as Hollywood, for the same reason: both of these groups of people make their livelihood by believing false things so hard that other people nearby start to believe them too.

  4. There was that great line in the movie “Thank You For Smoking” where the main character justifies his career promoting the deadly habit by saying, “Everyone has a mortgage to pay.”  He called it the Yuppie Nuremberg Defense. 

    Fact is, WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE for behavior like this when we let people get away with it and, worse, profit from it.   When we fail to make their existence more difficult, we become enablers.  When we bite our tongue and refuse to put a stop to their despicable actions we become their reluctant accomplices. 

    The Nazis on trial at Nuremberg said that they were simply following Hitler’s orders.  They said that there would have been harsh consequences if they had not done so.   Back then we refused to accept that excuse. 

    Today we should do the same.

  5. What’s the meme about online discussions trending toward Nazi Hitlers after a sufficient number of posts? This might be the quickest I’ve seen.

  6. Having worked for the “1 %” for 3.5 years, let me tell you, they are no threat to take your average bbers job.  Do they put in insane hours?  Absolutely.  Do they ever stop to think about why? Nope.  Do they ever think that maybe there’s a better way than a 100 hour week? Still no. Computers (with the notable exception of Excel, at which they can do some impressive stuff) are magic to them.  While if they were to go away, they might be able to pick up the technical skills, their people skills will always hold them back.  Most people I know in non-finance or legal industries have no tolerance for sociopaths.

    1. You’re bang on the money.

      In the post dot.com crash, an equities analyst interviewed with me for a role in a telecoms firm.  I always enquire deeply into applicants’ actual personal performance, the things they did, how they changed what they didn’t like, etc etc – and this chap, bold as brass, had absolutely nothing he could point to as ‘his’.

      Sadly, he didn’t pass muster, but laughably, reports I later received informed me he’d landed a job for three times the money.

      The point is – the Chicago manifesto saying ‘we’ll take your jobs’ is manifestly inaccurate – they can’t, because they’re intolerable and oftentimes, actually capable of doing nothing useful in a regular business.

      Apparently Cantor Fitzgerald’s post 9/11 turnaround is another story though.

    2. While if they were to go away, they might be able to pick up the technical skills, their people skills will always hold them back.

      There are two other problems that I think are at least as big. Some exceptions notwithstanding, many people in the field lack both curiosity and imagination.

    1. “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

  7. I guess there is something to this whole sociopath thing.

    I have this theory that sociopaths (psychopaths in current jargon) have been influencing human cultural evolution for thousands of years. To paraphrase Frank Herbert: “The problem is not that power corrupts, but that corrupt people seek power.” That explains the personalities of ninety percent of politicians and one hundred percent of investment bankers and traders.

    1. Nice quote. Big fan of Frank Herbert, but didn’t know such an insightful quote was attributable to him.

      1. It was in one of his more obscure (to me) works. I can’t remember the name of it. I’ll see if I can google and jog my memory a bit.

        Update: The exact quote is: “Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely, absolute power attracts the corruptible.”
        I’m still working on finding the book it was in.

        Update 2: I think it was The Ascension Factor, but I can’t swear to it. It’s been twenty years or more.

          1. Really? I could have sworn that I first read it or something similar in an earlier book, but you may well be right. Thanks.

  8. Unfortunate thing being, these clowns are a huge chunk of the available employers if you want to do linux admin work in the Chicago area. 

    I’ve never had to work for them myself, but my group has taken in a number of “financial sector refugees” over the years and they bring nothing but horror stories. 

  9. Reminds me of a story on This American Life:

    Several years after I quit trading, of course, the United States was attacked by terrorists in 9/11. And the exchanges in the nation were closed. But my brother was still trading on the CBOE at that time, Chicago Board Options Exchange. And I went back with him to help him out on the day that the exchange opened for the first day. And there again, I saw the very same giddiness that existed after the Chernobyl disaster. Here we were with the worst domestic attack in the United States history, and the traders were running around as happy as could be. And they would stop each other in the hall saying, you know, I don’t feel good for what happened, but I’m doing great. You hate to be doing great, but I’m doing great. And they may be doing great, but I was pretty glad that I wasn’t doing great that day.


  10. we’ve all heard the horror stories and studies about bond/currency/forex traders and their sociopathic behaviors.  The question is how do we get these monsters away from the controls of our financial system before its too late?  The sad answer I think is it will take another, bigger, catastrophe for them to be stripped of their power.  Its the traders that are the worst — once the traders took over the power in the investment banks (from the “i-bankers”) it all really went to hell.  Which is not say the i-bankers are great — what we really need is a return to a glass-steagall firewall and investment banks as partnerships, not publicly traded companies.  Either that or throw out the whole lot and start public banks.

  11. What amuses me the most about the original piece written by the unknown Wall Street person is that they actually seem to think they’d be able to survive outside of their insulated world.  If they were to lose their position and attempt to compete with the rest of us for jobs, they would very quickly lose count of the number of times they would hear the phrases, “I’m sorry, you’re overqualified for the position” or “You just don’t have the skill-set or experience we’re looking for.”  Before the job market started to tank in this country, people with business degrees and experience were some of the most chronically unemployed people I knew.

    1. But he has the magical superpower of not peeing very often!
      Unlike anyone who’s worked in, say, retail and just leaves the store empty while they go off to pee every five minutes…

  12. Aggressive people bending the rules of our financial infrastructure suffer from a nature-of-the-beast problem. Snakes bite people, but we don’t eliminate snakes from the planet. At the same time, though, we don’t let snakes run amok in densely populated areas. Spreading goodwill and appreciating the merits of our economy, while denouncing the evil parts, is the key to resolving our current wealth imbalance while staying solvent as a nation.

    Bankers bank, and banking is not something that’s conducive to most Americans’ lifestyle because banking, by the nature of the activity, requires hoarding money. The key, and the pursuit of the sensible segment of the OWS community, is limiting the hoarding to that which does no harm.

    Denouncing too much, which is sadly the perspective of the fringe of the movement, will cost a lot of people their jobs and homes. The financial industry needs reforms and restrictions, but the anarchist sentiment of many of the outsiders looking in is, as Steve Jobs put it to Rupert Murdoch, destructive. There is plenty to criticize in our economic system, plenty plenty plenty plenty plenty, but the “burn it all” perspective is just destructive.

  13. “It isn’t a necessary evil, it just is”

    Wow, you know it’s bad when the person trying to rationalize their existence morally can’t even muster the words to do so anymore.

  14. Perhaps we should look for the silver lining here. Banking, trading and investing are keeping sociopaths from that other activity for which they’re so well known.

  15. As a former brokerage operations employee, I’d like to add some friendly amendments to the post. First, it’s really not just the traders. Brokers, assistants, branch managers, executives and other management all get caught up in the same rush. In my experience, the worst people in the industry were the brokers from rightist areas who had a rightist client base. They’re some nasty pieces of work, let me tell you. They have to put on this facade that is 180 degrees opposite from their true personalities, in order to deal with their clients. When does that mask come off? Presumably at home, but definitely when they have to call somebody back at the home office. I’ve had more millionaires scream obscenities at me than I can remember. Traders are usually just really busy & brusque. They don’t have time to sit there screaming at you.
    Second, I think there’s been a very real, qualitative change in how the markets work over the last 20 years. Years before Glass-Steagall was repealed, and before the craziest heights of the dot com bubble, there was already an irrational impulse at play among both financial industry people and their clients. The statistics on trading listed stock options show this — lots of people who had been pretty comfortable with inflation-beating single digit returns now insisted on getting into one of the most risky areas of the market. I saw many small fortunes wiped out by clients who couldn’t say “no” to their broker’s get-rich-quick-and-trade-your-way-out-of-debt schemes.
    Finally, I know it’s boring, and nobody wants to get angry about it, but one of the chief reasons that things have gotten so bad is that the regulatory funding for monitoring Wall St. has been slashed over and over again. FINRA audits are mostly a joke. Internal audits only catch the most obvious malfeasance, and even then, if you’re a big producer, you have lots of Get Out Of Jail Free cards for occasions like that. There’s not even a fox minding the hen house at this point.

  16. For most people career satisfaction comes largely from seeing how the work they do impacts the world around them. Teachers see their students learn and develop. Farmers watch the fruits of their labor grow and go to market. Architects and construction workers see buildings rise. Mechanics feel the pride of a competent repair job. Software engineers see their code running the servers that keep companies alive. In one way or another, we feel our jobs connect in some way to the larger society.

    Some investors feel that too, but it’s generally the ones that take the time and effort to found or grow companies that serve some tangible purpose in society. It takes a special mindset to derive great satisfaction from making money as an end unto itself— and it’s no surprise that many of the people drawn to that career path tend to be a little sociopathic.

  17. I worked CBOT and CME for twelve years .

    Floor rats (traders/clerks) are genetic freaks.  If you are tall and have a BS in anything, you can work the floors – tall people can be seen for arbitrage signals.  If your freakishly tall dad owns a seat, you are first in line to lease a seat for a few seasons.  These positions  require the ability to add and subtract quickly.  You do not have to make excuses for market behavior; you’re simply trading on that behavior.Static markets are bad for floor trading.  Commissions are made off trading.  That requires rapidly moving markets.  The more uncertainty there is, the more trades and dollars you make.

    Fund traders are a level up from floor traders.  They usually graduated from the floor and no longer take slow months off of work.  They’ve also thrown their own money into the market and reaped some money.Let’s remember that this betting.  Even if you are right and everyone else is wrong, your position can be liquidated due to mark to market before anyone establishes the true value.

    Let’s also remember that those who lose $20mm on a bad bet are more apt to keep their jobs than those who lose $700 due to operational error.

    Because it’s based on luck and relationships, people try to justify their good fortune with more tangible attributes.  “I’m a go getter.”  “I always get the upper hand in every deal.”  “I work hard.”  

    It’s a system of your computer screen and a telephone attached to every other asshole with a computer and telephone.  

    Market makers are computer models that execute trades much faster than you.

    1. yes, indeed, the more often you move the raw milk through the machine, the more cream is skimmed off the top.

      And anyone who points that out is a socialist.

  18. I’m late in the comments, as usual, but I do have related experience with what the original poster is talking about. I’ve worked in various roles, from trading floors to backoffice support for various firms.

    Traders, by and large, are complete assholes. This is usually the product of the ‘rush’ that they receive for being ‘right’ on the market action. (Of course, there is never a discussion of survivorship bias or whether their strategy is better than a pair of rolled dice, but that is for another day.) There is nothing in place to regulate this behavior. In fact, before electronic trading ate floor trading’s lunch (and it has to a large degree – about 80% of trading in futures is electronic versus open outcry in a pit.) there were bulletin boards that announced who had punched who on the floor, with attendant fines.

    Interestingly enough, physical violence never garnered a full ban, it was usually the money-shennanigans that got you in real trouble. Pre-arranging trades with a buddy, forging time stamps on submitted orders or trading cards, that kind of thing. This never modified anyone’s behavior on the floor. In fact, it was a bit of machismo bragging rights to be the guy who punched some dude who wouldn’t trade with him. “Yeah, I can afford the fine – it was SO WORTH IT.” (I actually overheard this in the trading pit, mind you.).

    So, these people don’t give a flying crap what you, your dog, or your deaf grandma cares about. It shows in their swagger, the loud liquid lunches at restaurants and bars surrounding the financial district. Its in their casual bravado of plunking down a thousand for some quality cigars and accessories, to leaving a big tip for the harried waitress that had to put up with some casual butt grabbing and racy remarks about her ‘rack’. Hey, money solves everything, right?

    This is the attitude most of them have. Sure, I’ve known a few that were introverted ‘quants’ that just wanted to go home to their wives and live a life of reasonable means, but those were few and far between, believe me. For every decent human being there was the loud, obnoxious, “hey baby gimme a bit of sugar” swaggering trader that thought their wardrobe and wallet defined who they were. In fact, perhaps those are the shield they use to deflect more probing analysis of their underlying flaws.

    If any of these creatures lost their positions sloshing money all over the world, they would be hard-pressed to attain anything that contributed in a positive way to society in general. Real jobs require that you aren’t a middleman. You have to be a real producer. That is the lesson these overconfident captains-of-industry are about to learn, in very real terms.

    1. The problem is these banks (and similar financial entities) should still be partnerships. Everyone benefits from having skin in their game. Trader personalities just need it more than most. The corporation is a very useful legal entity, but it has gained power and “rights” over the past few decades at the expense of other organizations (mutual companies, partnerships of various kinds, etc.) that were once the mainstays of capitalism.

      Regarding the bad behavior — the post writer actually knows how to fight it. She just didn’t want to do what was necessary. Possibly she couldn’t afford to risk her job; more likely she didn’t have enough inner asshole to punish these guys. If one can’t rely on management to curb them,  one can still document their behavior and file a lawsuit. Anyone who is that aggressively out of line can be made to pay for it, somehow, if you put in the effort. Save a major chunk of your pay for half a year and speak with a PI or a lawyer.  Maybe hire one.

      Then beat their fucking asses into submission.

      You can’t generally win big — but you sure can make the other guy lose.

      And yes — these louts are about as useful as tits on a boarhog.

  19. The best is when these Wall Street types physically threaten one, as with these two yahoos, the more ape-like of whom threatened to beat me with my camera. Silly troglodyte trader, the true violent potential of cameras is epistemological-imagistic-cultural, not as blunt weapons! Dumb dinosaurs are dumb.

    1. Yes, but never underestimate the satisfaction of punching a seriously deserving asshole squarely in the nose.

  20. I don’t think these guys would be unemployable if they were tossed off the trading floor.

    They’d go into Florida real estate sales, or talking old ladies into buying useless annuities, or hawing Entertainment coupon books. (Or, more likely, selling derivatives based on Entertainment coupon book franchise network membership futures.) (And then shorting the futures.)

  21. F*** “artificial intelligence.”

    IBM should be working on artificial sociopathy, so the live sociopaths can be removed from behind the levers of the economy.

      1. Yeah I gotta say I every time I read a thread that shows another step towards markets, law or code becoming autonomic I want to tell people to read Accelerando.

        I pause before automatically recommending it because Stross is a pulp writer just as PKD was in his time and lots of people with predjudices (as we all have) will recoil from his writing without realizing that the discomfort they are feeling could be futureshock.

        After reading it I had a bitter aftertaste of the future and it did make me look at the present in a new ‘uneasy’ way.  

        1. Attn: b w Campbell — motion thirded on the Accelerando prescience. I still prefer Rucker’s simplicity, yet Stross did ‘singular’ well with Accelerando.

        2. SlashDot keeps reporting on autonomous weapons systems, humanoid robots, and other lovely helpmeets for controlling those tricky counter-insurgency situations. Texas just took delivery of some “non-lethal” configured UAVs.

          The problem with people who don’t read science fiction is that they have no idea that many of the tools they use every day were envisioned by a writer, decades before they were ever a glimmer in an industrial designer’s or engineer’s eye. David Brin writes convincingly of the problems inherent in ignoring history, and by ignoring, I mean being completely unaware of the social implications of history. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2011/09/class-war-and-lessons-of-history.html

  22. All the way to the top of Wall Street, there are “deal makers” who try to bluff their way through life like cokeheads at a poker game, completely unaware that there’s any other way to live.  They think everyone else is bluffing, too.

    The actual brokers and financial managers and George Baileys of all stripes who care about their clients are being ground under the heels of those douchebags as the honest, legitimate firms got eaten by successively bigger fish until they are all part of Goldman, Wells, JP Morgan, or a handful of other leviathans who are run by morons calling each other geniuses.

    1. I read someone’s opinion — possibly here — that the real problems in the financial world began when “smart people*”, i.e., those who knew how to construct complicated formulas that could (or could appear to) generate money, entered the field of finance. Prior to that, the argument went, how much damage could the [not-so-smart] high-school jock do when he followed Dad into the family banking business? 

      My paraphrase is snarkier than the original, but there might still be some truth there. The bigger truth would be in the days when banks’ businesses were confined to their home counties, the relationships were local. The banker knew his customer, and he was aware his was a service business rather than a printing press. His profits — Dust Bowl days aside — came from his customer’s success.

      The banker did pretty well… often had the biggest house in town, etc. Got a big paunch, perhaps, and died fat and happy… which might be another self-limiting factor to economic damage caused by too much wealth held in too few hands.

      Still, there were bank failures, but — Dust Bowl days aside — the damage was more isolated. Today, we’re still facing the spectre of “too big to fail,” and it IS damn scary. I’d argue there would a benefit to parting out some of these monsters and scaling them back to their roots. (My “local” bank ain’t — the truly local bank I started with 20 years ago has been devoured by successively larger fish six times.)

      Yes, I know business is global and has tremendous capital requirements. But need companies be so large? Need profits be so huge? Need “executive compensation” be so stratospheric?

      Hell, need everyone be so fucking greedy?

      A little greed  might be a motivator to get a little farther in the world, but “too much is never enough” should only apply to silly novels.

      *MBA, anyone? I got one, but my program had an ethics class early on, damnit!

      1. The banker did pretty well… often had the biggest house in town, etc. Got a big paunch, perhaps, and died fat and happy…

        My grandfather was the local banker. They had a line out the kitchen door because they kept all the poor people in town fed through the Depression. Morals have changed.

  23. Schadenfreude is taking pleasure in other people’s pain.  But to go so far as to profit from other people’s misfortune – that’s called banking.

  24. The problem is not the traders, that’s just a job title. They work within a system that was given to them thanks to Wall Street’s influence on policy and politicians. Money has allowed them to rig the system in their favor. The result has been the ongoing deregulation of the financial markets which ultimately lead to the mess we’re currently in.

  25. As a onetime executive assistant, I can tell you this: many people who are very wealthy are such because they have forsaken a great deal of what normal, emotionally mature people consider “priorities” in order to make as much money as they possibly can. My employers gave up relationships, family, enjoyment of time spent *not* at work, all for the sake of getting as rich as they could.

    This creates a pretty screwed-up world view. These men had to believe that everything could be bought, because if that were untrue, their efforts to attain a life where they could buy happiness would be wasted. Fortunately for them, wealthy men have little trouble finding friends and girlfriends who think the exact same way.

    Unfortunately for those of us who work for and with them, it often means daily objectification, sleazy harrassment, constant condescension and bullying. They simply could not understand why some people would not be attracted or charmed by their wealth and power.

    1. I have it on pretty good authority that the typical weekend “entertainment” for a crowd of private equity types is about $100K. That of course includes the hookers and the blow.

      I haven’t checked recently, but the yet to be finalized DSM-V, the diagnostic manual for mental health professionals, may not include Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Aspergers Syndrome. Much speculation has been done regarding the reasons, but it seems to me that the wealthiest and most powerful people on the planet suffer from one or both of these conditions. So, clearly they can’t be disorders, can they?

      1. You’re too kind to this lot – NPD is a lovely tag for them.  They’re mostly plain psychotic.

  26. So #occupychicago was showered with McDonald’s job applications from somebody up in the CBOT today………

  27. I develop internet applications and do contract work occasionally. Like most people who’ve done a job for a while, there’s an early-warning system for problematic customers (probably applicable no matter where you work).

    I try my best not to apply too many “red flags” that automatically disqualify a customer from the get-go, but for a while, “spiritual advisors”, clairvoyants and other obvious quacks topped the “do not service if you want to keep your sanity” list.

    After three experiences with traders, the quacks have lost the top position and the distance between the first and second spot is earth shattering.

    From my limited experience, traders are so used to micro-managing many things all the time that their entire world-view is reduced to a billion strings – and it’s their sole responsibility to pull them. Pull often. Pull constantly. Pull with force, without reason, as if there is no tomorrow.

    Every single experience left me without a doubt that these clients were absolutely terrible people. The point at which they moved over into “do not service” territory was when I wrote a quote to the third client – a trader with a trader advisor website. (Sidenote: A business model that is, transparently, a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

    I had worked on two contracts for him before and both ended badly. Unrealistic pricing and scope estimations, ludicrous delivery expectation, late addition of features (obviously for free!), niggling down on every single thing that I programmed, late, “fine, here – TAKE the money already” payments… Nevertheless, I gave him a third chance. I made a modest estimation and stated my regular cost for a working hour.

    It would be a terrible understatement to say that this guy wanted to haggle. What was unleashed on me in the email that I got was nothing short of denying, debasing and replacing my entire reality with his own. I had severely overestimated the hours and my working hours were obviously too expensive. I should be lucky that I get his offer to begin with – he could probably do my job in a hitch, but was just too busy doing actually important and complicated work. He had no idea how I could have the guts to even send him such a proposal – what an insult! Etc. etc… All peppered liberally with borderline abusive language.

    The concept that another human being is subject to their own reality seemed to be so ludicrous to this trader, that he’d rather do away with it right from the start and move over to his own as quickly as possible. It’s very hard to describe without actually quoting him, but it was less “let’s negotiate” and more “do you really expect me to negotiate here?” – while there wasn’t room for a negotiation to begin with. It gave me the impression that this trader had absolutely zero understanding of what he was talking about while maintaining a conviction that would have been admirable had it not been so grotesque.

    When I stood by my proposal (obviously without arguing – I knew better, even then), he quickly moved over to verbal abuse, which is where I ended the conversation.

    I understand that some people need to debate prices, some even to an unhealthy degree. I’ve had clients disappear on me and clients that I wish had disappeared on me. I’ve been threatened with physical violence by clients and had clients hit on me in very creepy ways.

    So far, nothing has been worse than my experience with traders.

  28. The existence of people like this is the precise reason that we need government, that we need regulations, that we need laws and enforcement. Every time I see someone on TV decrying government “interference” in the free market, I think of these people and their obvious intent: to evade, not exercise, free-market forces and game the system the instant they think no one is looking. I went to school with people like this- as long as they profit from it, as long as they get away with it, they’re proud of it.

  29. An open letter to the “We Are Wall Street Trader” (I understand that the text shown in the photo is several years old)- come take my job. Come take all of them. I don’t really make all that much money,  so you can have them.

    Come figure out why my customer’s Volvo cranks, but won’t start. It can only be due to one of fifteen or so different sensors, relays, fuses, or modules  having failed. Just replace them all, the parts should only cost two or three times the value of the car. The customer will be thrilled. Congratulations, you’re a foreign car mechanic- most foreign car mechanics have lovely homes on the Vineyard.

    Come fix some chainsaws and trimmers- they’re all exactly alike, and so easy to fix. Just throw in a new carb, ignition module, piston and cylinder; that should do it. Most people want to spend $400 to fix a tool that they paid $150 for.  Now you’re a small engine mechanic- the path to riches!

    When I don’t smell like an engine, I smell like sawdust. Come be a carpenter! Measuring and layout is easy, most infants can do it. Operating power tools is a cinch, almost nobody gets hurt with power tools. Maybe one of your finance buddies will have taken a doctor’s job, and he can stitch your thumb back on at the hospital. When you feel better, you can explain to your customer why their house fell down- you don’t know a fcking thing about columns, or beams, or load path, or bearing walls, or shear, but this stuff is easy, right?


    Please come take my job running a laser engraver. Come print photographs on granite at 600 dpi. Any moron could do the job, there’s nothing to it. It’s just like running any CNC router or milling machine, the only drawback is that each mistake costs between 6 and 12 hundred dollars. That’s only a few week’s pay, no biggie. Learn as you go.

    Lastly, please come take my part-time job at the funeral home. It makes me incredibly sad watching people cry because they’ve lost their husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.  I have a hard time keeping it together when I hear people relating their memories of this important, loving, wonderful person that I have to go put in the ground.  Seeing people utterly lose their shit in their grief makes for a really depressing job, and can be very very tiring.  Driving a hearse is nowhere near as cool as it sounds.

    Actually, the funeral home job probably wouldn’t bother you, what with you being a sociopath and everything.  The only drawback is that you have to be nice to people.

  30. Exactly. But not for much longer.

    With ubiquitous tech comes exposure of all the world’s sociopaths for what they are – a destructive and over-represented minority. Guess who inherits the Earth then?

  31. That letter was written almost two years ago, so it was probably not for the OWS crowd. Were you not suspicious it omits both the words “per cent” and “occupy”?

  32. I have spent time arguing with these types (over Abacus in particular) and hung out at some of the same websites. Of course not every trader is like this. Some are great guys.

    The root cause is the implicit social agreement that money = worth. You can’t get out of this mindset without years of deliberate effort IMO. Even if you are voluntarily a smelly hippie, you most likely have some kind of a complex about it (e.g. being defensive about your choice or overly angry about other choices).

    This equation has been around forever because it makes sense (usually) from a game-theory perspective. It motivates people to create wealth. It provides a proxy for leadership competence. There’s an ev-psych aspect to it in terms of being able to pass on your genes. Etc.

    The jerk traders are guys who take this “axiom” that society has collectively agreed on, and turn it into a kind of pathology for psychological reasons. They have a self-reinforcing culture among themselves which amplifies this idea. Let’s face it, being a trader is a good way to get rich, so naturally there’s intense competition among the pack.

    They have a kind of cod philosophy of morality which justifies this  attitude, but it’s tacked on. The root cause is deep anxiety about status and relative worth. It is a kind of mental illness, but a very profitable one to have.

  33. I have very little faith that people like those traders have absolutely no technical skills whatsoever. Have they ever fixed their cars, or even done the menial task of changing their oil? I’m a biologist grad student making 12k/year, and very happy doing what I do. I can fix things, make things with my hands, and do things for others. That’s much more satisfying than looking at my bank statement and masturbating to how many zeros it has on the end, and waxing sanctimoniously to others.

  34. All of which is part of the reason the Basel II accords were drafted and signed. So why aren’t we *also* blaming the failed governmental regulatory agencies? You’ll notice that in Canada, the economy isn’t half so messed up, primarily because the regulators did what they should have: regulated the sociopaths.

  35. By not retaliating, you’re perpetuating the problem. Gandhi be damned, at this point we’re talking survival of the species.

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