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December 1, 1998

How Traders Are Taught The ABC's of Technology: Special Education, Refresher Courses and Serious

By John Edwards

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  • How Traders Are Taught The ABC's of Technology: Special Education, Refresher Courses and Serious
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With new hardware and software tools sweeping across trading floors at a dizzying pace, how do traders avoid bewilderment? The simple answer is training.

Today, technology training is increasingly a top priority for traders and their bosses.

"We're technology driven. If we lose electricity, we forget how to do things," said Mark Viani, director of equities training at New York-based money manager Vantage Investment Advisors. "Training and technology are inseparable."

The Teachers

While most trading firms recognize the importance of training, many go outside the firms for instructors. For the most part, vendors send instructors to firms to teach traders how, for instance, to properly view vendors' analytics and to execute trades accordingly.

"Yes, we're quite happy with the training relationships we've established [with vendors]," Viani said.

At Vantage, that means its two traders get to master a variety of technologies, such as Bloomberg Tradebook and Investment Technology Group's POSIT and QuantEx.

Given the specialized needs of their customer base, most vendors offer clients intensive, individualized training. "Books, videos, lectures and other training approaches all have their strong points, but nothing beats one-on-one instruction," Viani said.

"This is such a critical area," he added. "You want to have someone there who can answer the trader's questions. We're not talking about a word processor or spreadsheet, but a technology that affects a firm's entire business."

At AutEx, which offers trading and analytics for its electronic pre-trade data services, each new client is visited by both a customer-service representative and an account manager, explains Keith Sharpe, manager of customer service at the Boston-based company.

Each user receives in-depth, hands-on training on the system, and is provided with user manuals, quick reference cards and a toll-free number for ongoing use.

When a trader starts working for a firm serviced by AutEx, an AutEx service representative revisits the site to provide one-on-one training. "Given the amount of moving around traders do, that happens quite a bit," Sharpe said.

Nasdaq Training

Nasdaq is no stranger to training traders, especially when rolling out new systems.

Bill Broka, senior vice president of trading market services at Nasdaq, recalls how in 1994 and 1995 it faced one of its biggest training challenges. Nasdaq was then introducing its new Level 11 workstation software.

Said Broka: "We had people go to the firms and sit for several days with each trader to teach them the ins and outs of the new software."

Nasdaq held regional training sessions during the conversion process, and continues to offer refresher courses out of its New York office for new firms, as well as firms that have hired traders. "We do a combination of on-site and telephone training for those firms," Broka said.

Broka says it's important to give managers and traders as much advance notice as possible about upcoming products and planned updates. "With every new product that we launch," he said, "we go out and talk to as many traders as possible to tell them what it means, how it works. We try to show them the look and feel of the technology they'll be using."