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A Precious Opportunity

A Precious Opportunity

November 15, 2016

Chapter 21 in the exclusive series for Dynamic Commodities- becoming a commodities trader

I knew that Bert Fontaine and Eric Salomon were doing their best to find me a place within Philipp Brothers before the next round of layoffs. They arranged the interview in the copper department as well as the one in oil. When I did not get those positions, I felt I had let them down.

With only one week to go before the ax would fall where almost one-third of Philipp Brother’s staff would become ex-employees of the firm, Salomon called me into his office very early one morning. I had always arrived before 7 AM, and Eric was usually the first trader at his desk each morning, occasional he was in the office before me.

The international hub of his tin business was in London so his day began very early and ended early as well. Eric also bought and sold tin concentrates and in the refining process other metals came from the ore. Gold and silver were often present in the concentrates and Eric would sell them through the firm’s precious metals traders. Eric sat me down and told me about the precious metals business run by Raymond Nessim, an Egyptian Jew, who had become one of the stars of the firm. In 1980 when gold and silver reached their all-time highs, Nessim’s Department contributed over $100 million in profits making him one of the most profitable traders in the firm, second only to Thomas O’Malley Philipp Brother’s chief oil trader.

Eric said that an operations job in Precious Metals was an opportunity to get into the business on the ground floor. He explained that the job was not so much a “traffic job”
as it was an accounting position. While there would be some movement of gold, silver or other precious metals around the world, my experience as a budding logistical expert would not be 100% applicable to the opportunity. Salomon told me that if I were interested, he would speak with Nessim and make a recommendation for the department to hire me quickly. He then told me that I should be interested because it was likely the last job available in the firm before the layoffs would start. Eric said he wanted me somewhere safe and the Precious Metals Department was as “secure as it gets”. He also informed me that he had spoken with Bert who agreed with him. My hope was to remain with the firm, so I told him that I would do my best to interview well and I was interested in the precious opportunity. Eric told me to leave it to him, and he went off in the direction of Nessim’s office. The phone call for the interview came within minutes.

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Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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