Column: Shoot the Messenger

Monday mornings are always tough, but coming in this past Monday after a tough weekend was even more oppressive than usual. I slithered in 5 minutes late (which is pretty good for me), sat down at my desk, logged onto my system and took a sip of coffee. My machine wasn’t on for more than 3 seconds before the first obnoxious IM popped up in my face. “SEND ME YOUR REPORT ON XYZ”… How about a freaking good morning?  The market’s not open for another two and half hours, you mind if I read the damned thing myself first? I’m not Google. You don’t just blurt out demands and expect results. I’m not your servant. I tell you what… go get me a bacon, egg and cheese then grab me a coffee, and when you’re done with that, I’ll send you the freaking PDF.

Let’s face it, most people in this business are socially impaired to begin with… then when you allow sentence fragmented instant messaging to evolve as our primary method of communication, you’re asking for trouble. Instant Messaging allows clients to cherry pick markets, give even more cryptic instructions than they used to, and it’s the number one cause for sellside panic attacks.

Let’s identify some of today’s Instant Messaging offenders:

The Cliffhanger: My desk is jamming and we’re about to cross 500k shares of an illiquid biotech stock between 5 different players and one of my high maintenance clients shoot me an IM, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING XYZ?”…. I respond by typing “I’m about to cross stock. What side are you?”… Meanwhile I make my trader hold up the print because it sounds like I’m going to need some protection. Everybody’s looking at me and wants to know which side I’m on. So do I. The market’s moving and people are waiting to see the print hit the tape, and I’m on the phone ringing the dipstick who’s not responding to my IM. Of course he doesn’t answer the phone but finally responds to my IM….

“WHAT IS BETTER SIDE? IS THE SELLER SMART?” Oh give me a freaking break already!..  The entire room was in my face saying things like “well?”, “what are you doing”…” do you care or not?” …… And all I can mutter is “one more second”. I ignore all the aggravated looks coming my way and frantically type “Crossing 500k…2 buyers (both vanilla)…. 3 sellers (1 hedgy, 2 vanilla)… I need to know!!!!”….. You want to know what this tool responded with? If you’ve been doing this more than a week, you already know. He responded with “K” ….. What the ….? What the …. does that mean? How about “I’d buy 50k”…. or “I’d sell 100k if you can squeeze me in”…  Jerk.

The Too Cool For School Abbreviator:  We are grown men. Not teenage girls in Junior High. BRB, TY and K are the only acceptable forms of Instant message abbreviations. As if LOL isn’t bad enough, some pocket-protector doofus came up with LMAO (laughing my ass off) and the ridiculous ROTF (rolling on the floor). If you have ever used one of those terms then you’re an idiot. And it’s never OK to use smiley faces. In addition, while we’re talking proper IM etiquette… Don’t be afraid to let the IM session end. There is never a need to type “You’re welcome” (or YW) after somebody says “TY”… If you are the type of person who insists on typing “YW”, then you’re a complete tool in IMHO.

IM Hider: The Constantly Away guy….There are two types: There’s the unintentionally always away guy. That’s me. I’m very good about marking myself away when I step off the desk but there’s some underdeveloped portion of my brain that doesn’t allow me to remember to take that damn away message off. The other type of IM hider prefers to be hidden from the general IMing world or has you blocked.  Either way it’s no loss.

Facetime Offender: If you have one of those IM management systems that I have to reintroduce myself to every time I contact you by typing “FACETIME” then do us all a favor and stick to the phone. It’s offensive.

The Rip Van Winkle: These guys miss the entire point. There is no instant to their instant messaging. These guys are dangerous. You offer them stock and 2 hours later they come back with “pass” or even worse “I bought those”. …. [BROKER1: Hey the stock just dropped 15%. Should I pull some out of the machine and scoop some here?]….. 40 minutes later and up 3% on the day… [CUSTY: HOW MANY U GET IN ON THAT DIP??]…You’re kidding, right?

Babbler:  Every now and then you get some Chatty Cathy who won’t shut up. Instant messaging is based on the quid pro quo system. If you’re going to ramble on for hours then send an email. It’s no fun being the guy sitting next to the guy whose IM won’t stop going ,,, , , all day along. Usually it’s some client complaining in painstaking detail about how some other broker mutilated one of their orders (even though they never seem to send me one).  That’s cool, some guy messes up royally and I get to hear about it.

Amnesic IM: These are guaranteed to spice up your day. These IMs are sent randomly by customers you rarely deal with… [AS120: Hey Bud – buy me 250k MSFT]… “Uh Oh… hmmmm…. Who the heck is that?!!”… A responsible sales trader would do the smart thing and immediately find out who that client is before taking another step, but not me. Where’s the sport in that? After all, the IM does sound kinda familiar.  I’m sure I can figure it out later. Anyway, what else can I do?… I’d feel like a total jerk saying “I’m sorry, thanks for the order and the vote of confidence… but… uh …who is this?” That’s not an option.  Just keep the small talk flowing and if that doesn’t jolt your memory, settlements will come to you in a day or two.

Cheap Skate IM: This one is a favorite with the penny pinchers. What seems like from outer space they like to drop the random but ever popular “u there?” on you…. Does it really matter? IM’s don’t cost anything. Just ask the question and if I’m here I’ll answer it.

The Joey Buttafuoco: The Joey Buttafuoco is the most unsophisticated of the bunch. As much as I hate to admit it, the Joey Buttafuoco is more commonly found on the sellside. He’s the guy who when things get quiet, funnels all of his salesman charm, creative thoughts and his intellectual strengths into the following customer IM…. “Yo!”….or “When are we getting out?”

Ninja IM: Those are the kind of IMs just sneak in from the shadows when you’re not looking.   Not for nothing, if some dude is going to send you an order over IM and doesn’t get a response within a minute, he should realize it’s not being seen and pick up the telephone.  What really blows is when you’re busy with one client, another customer shoots you an IM and out of sheer habit and just to make the little box stop blinking you respond with “K”.  Now it’s at least 10 minutes later and the little box is blinking again.  Only this time is says “HOW DID WE DO?”…  And you’re thinking ‘how did we do with what?’  Then you scroll up and flashback to the order you did nothing with. Ouch!  Sometimes the client sees volume on the tape, just assumes they’re done and types something like “BUY ANOTHER 25K TO MAKE 50K TOTAL”…  That’s a home run.  Silly customer.

Turn your [AWAY] message off,

Dopey was the founder of the Web site, For two-and-a-half years, Dopey offered his wit and wisdom about the “untold stories” of Wall Street to a faithful following on trading desks and curious onlookers across the country. It should be noted that the firms, people and practices depicted in this column are fictitious. Any similarities to actual firms, people and practices are purely coincidental.

The views represented in this commentary are those of its author and do not reflect the opinion of Traders Magazine or its staff. Traders Magazine welcomes reader feedback on this column and on all issues relevant to the institutional trading community. Please send your comments to