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South America

January 5, 2017

Chapter 55 in the exclusive series for Dynamic Commodities- becoming a commodities trader

The first trip south of the U.S. border took Sid and me to a conference in Mexico City.  We had traveled all over Western Europe, Asia and Australia. All of the cities in those areas of the world were clean, organized and comfortable. Mexico City was another story.

We arrived late at night and took a taxi to our five-star hotel. I think it was the Camino Real in the heart of the business district. On the long drive from the airport, there were many traffic lights. At each one, children would swarm to the windows of the cab trying to sell us single cigarettes or begging for dinero. There were fire-breathers on the side of the road. These men stood at corners with a jug of gasoline by their sides. They would pick up the jug, take a swig of the toxic fuel and blow it out of their mouth using a bic lighter to create the massive flame. I told Sid he should ditch his gold Dunhill lighter and take one of those guys home to light his cigarettes.

Mexico City was a world apart. There were two distinct classes, the haves and the have-nots. Our agent, Jaime, lived in the center of town in a gated beautiful home with armed guards. He had servants, drivers and chefs on the premises. Jaime explained to us that kidnapping was becoming a huge problem. Because of this, his children and wife had become virtual prisoners within the compound. In the years to come, my travels would take me to parts of the world that gave me a special appreciation for my homeland. I first felt that in Mexico City.

I was able to get by in Mexico; four years of Spanish in school paid off. Sid, on the other hand, had taken French. It was hard for him to pull off his cultural metamorphosis in Mexico or any other Spanish or Portuguese speaking country. Our trip to Mexico to market commodity options was successful. We brought home bits and pieces of business. Nothing too big and profitable but enough to justify the expense. It was always significant given the first class flights, the best hotels and restaurants and all the other spending money necessary to “entertain” potential customers of the firm. One of our traders in London taught me early on to call those doing business with the firm customers rather than clients. He said, “Andy, attorneys and prostitutes have clients, we have customers.”

Sid and I would go south of the border several more times visiting Chile, the world’s leading copper producing country, Brazil, a massive raw material producer and Argentina. By that point, I was getting comfortable with the whole marketing process. I knew that I would be flying solo soon. Sid and I made lots of introductions to the options business. Sometimes the journey did not result in immediate or any transactional business. I thought to myself, when I take this over, each trip needs to pay for itself, at the very minimum.

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Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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