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The Interview- Going For The Gold

The Interview- Going for the Gold

Chapter 22 in the exclusive series for Dynamic Commodities- becoming a commodities trader

A secretary, yes there were still secretary’s in the early 80s, quickly ushered me into Nessim’s office. He was all business. His traffic manager, Elias Kifafi was also present for the interview. Kifafi was a Chilean who moved to New York from the company’s Santiago office to run operations for the massive precious metals business the year before. Nessim had fired the previous manager. Kifafi had a staff of at least twenty in New York. Ray Nessim explained that precious metals traffic was unlike any other traffic department in the company. He was the sort of manager that commanded respect and provoked fear. He was friendly but stern.

The business was more akin to financial trading and accounting and bookkeeping skills were necessary to succeed. I had been a political science, history and English literature major in college but I told them that I was willing to learn and work hard and long hours. Nessim said that the hours would be very long and the job would not be easy. Kifafi did not say much.

The interview took no more than fifteen minutes. When I returned to my desk down the hall, passing through the frenetic activity of the precious metals trading desk, I was not too hopeful about the interview. The precious metals area was scary. While many other commodity traders sat in their offices and negotiated deals quietly on the phone often traveling around the world in search of the next deal, precious metal trading was an animal of a different color.

Precious metals’ trading was crazy with the traders standing throughout the trading day, screaming into their phones and at each other. There were more than a dozen traders on the desk that Nessim ran. He was rarely out on the desk, he remained in his office quietly negotiating the big deals and taking care of the highest profile customers. He was constantly away on business, in London one day and Hong Kong the next.

A million thoughts swirled around in my head. I figured that if I did not get this job, I’d take my severance pay and either get another job down the street where Marc Rich was hiring some of the ex-Philipp Brothers employees or I’d go back to school and get a law degree. I felt sad, the collapse of the firm was not my fault, and I would not lose my job because of incompetence. I had recently become engaged to be married so I worried that I would not be able to achieve the success I had hoped for in the future. After all, I had bet everything on Philipp Brothers. I worked there throughout my school years; I went through the arduous process of getting myself into the traffic department. I finally got a desk handling a physical commodity and now I had become a victim of a bear market in commodities and a business that had matured because of increasing transparency where the company did not keep up with the times.

As I sat on my desk with a pain in the pit of my stomach preparing for the worst, Eric Salomon emerged from his office with a big smile on his face. He announced to the department that I would be moving to the Precious Metals area. Nessim called Eric and hired me that day. It turned out that my lack of experience in the area worked in my favor; they would train me to do the job.

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Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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