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July 31, 1999

Beyond the Fringe

By Peter Chapman

Also in this article

  • Beyond the Fringe

The Traders Who Double as Technology Pros

The story goes that most market makers and floor specialists wouldn't know the difference between a PC and a Mac. The story is wildly exaggerated of course. But it is told to emphasize the very human, intuitive, sometimes rough-and-tumble character of the traders life compared with the often dry, rational world of technology.

Traders Magazine met four traders who have gone beyond the fringe, taking special responsibility for trading technology at their firms.

Profiles by Peter Chapman....

Aairam Thomas

Sales Trader With T+ Skills

Dain Rauscher Wessels decided to make peace with technology. Critical to the plan was the creation of a new position: vice-president of strategic trading technology. Aairam Thomas, a sales trader with two years experience, jumped at the opening.

"It's an area of expanding opportunity," he said. "A trader becomes specialized. This will allow me to learn more skills and take on more responsibility."

Thomas, 29, manages the integration of new technologies on the trading floor. Among his projects is a merchandising system that markets order flow to both buy-side institutions and also the firm's four regional trading desks. His top priority is finding a new trade management system that will allow straight-through-processing.

He is also the firm's point man for OptiMark, operated by Durango, Co.-based OptiMark Trading Systems.

"I am responsible for marketing our ability to broker OptiMark transactions," he explained. "I am instituting procedures for how we would add value to the OptiMark trading process."

OptiMark has largely marketed itself to the buyside. But due to the complexities of the system Dain Rauscher is betting that some institutions will need help in using it. The challenge for Thomas is to convince his clients they won't lose anonymity if they work through him.

"We've set up procedures to protect our customer's anonymity," Thomas explained. "We put in a direct line to the OptiMark trader. We don't advertise fills until the whole piece is complete. If the order is cancelled we'll forget it was ever here-no wake-up' calls or solicitations unless they make the request."

Thomas had no prior experience with technology and is largely self-taught. Conferences, industry literature, the web and his dealings with vendors have been his education. He reads industry publications to stay tuned.

As for the vendors: "I hear hunger and I hear confidence," he said. "Hunger" from those desperate to sell something that won't work; and "confidence" from "those with technology that takes you where you need to go."

He says his biggest frustration is finding technology that works. "Everything is so new," he lamented. "It's not tried and true. The reality is that you end up getting into a partnership with the vendor in order to make the system do what you want it to do."

Chandler Paris

Former High School Computer Buff

As co-captain of the Computer Squad at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, Chandler Paris oversaw eight to twelve students doing statistical projects. Using COBOL and FORTRAN, team members wrote programs that counted their classmates and calculated grade point averages.