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A traffic desk of my very own

November 7, 2016

Chapter 15 in the exclusive series for Dynamic Commodities- becoming a commodities trader

Al Ciapinna’s department handled the traffic and logistics for antimony and tin. The traders, Eric Salomon and Ken Krystle, sat in offices as did Al and the traffic clerks occupied cubicles just outside.

Salomon was the senior trader in the department and Suzanne Anstey, a woman from South Africa handled the traffic for the tin metal. Krystle was the antimony trader and Chaim Erlich; an Israeli was in charge of logistics for tin concentrates and antimony trioxide, a highly toxic commodity used as a flame retardant in plastics, rubber, textiles, and adhesives with other applications in glass and paint. It was my job to handle the antimony ores and concentrates. The top producers of antimony in the world are China, Canada, Russia, Bolivia, South Africa, and Australia. Most of the antimony that Ken Krystle bought was from Bolivia where Philipp Brothers had strong relationships.

Both Salomon and Krystle were cool dudes. Eric was a stylish and wealthy guy; he drove a fast sports car while Ken wore little round John Lennon glasses and was both a trader and a music producer. Both had plenty of time for questions and always joked around, but there was intensity in each. As the senior tin trader in the New York office, Eric had a private telex machine in his office. The London Metals Exchange (LME) is the international hub for the tin market and he needed to be in constant contact with Philipp Brother’s traders in London and his boss, Manfred Koppelman. Eric and Ken were always on the road, gallivanting around the globe to buy and sell the commodities in the purview.

Business was busy when I arrived on the scene, and I worked late most nights. No matter how early I arrived at my desk in the morning, I was never the first to arrive and regardless of the time I left for the day, someone was always working away. A twelve hour day was the norm rather than the exception. I was accustomed to the work as Mildred had prepared me for the rigors of the job. Al reviewed my work and was always busy negotiating freight rates and insurance for the many deals that crossed our desks each day. I felt that I had arrived and was confident in my ability to perform. The one thing that became apparent was that time is always of the essence. This statement was in every contract, and I had seen it before, but on the front lines, you live it. The pressure on a traffic clerk was to be perfect, on a trader, it was only to make money. I soon learned that the mood of the department was always a function of profits or losses.

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Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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