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Overwhelming Hours

November 17, 2106

Chapter 23 in the exclusive series for Dynamic Commodities- becoming a commodities trader

The job in Precious Metals began the day after Eric Salomon told me they wanted me. I arrived just before 7 AM and to my surprise, I was probably the last to arrive. All of the traders were at their desks and almost every traffic clerk was busily working away.

When I started handling antimony, I was familiar with the commodity because of the time spent in the training section with Mildred. Precious metals were a different story. While I knew the commodities handled by the department, I knew virtually nothing about the trading, traffic, operations, or any other aspects of the business. The department did business in gold, silver, platinum, palladium and other platinum group metals. The traders also handled options, a foreign term to me, and certain financial futures and currencies used to hedge market exposures. Elias Kifafi, my new boss, trained me. I sat next to him and my job was to watch everything he did and ask questions. Elias was in the office by 6:30 AM every morning and he was there until 9 or 10 PM every night. He often worked on Saturdays just to catch up. The first day on the job I was with him until 10:30 PM as it was a very busy day.

Traffic or operations in the precious metals department included entering trades that the dealers scribbled on blotters, into an antiquated computer system. The trades were usually for two business day settlement. There were futures trades and over-the-counter traders. There were forward trades, swap trades, some physical trades and refining contracts. There were consignment accounts, and there were often trades for settlement on the same day. Since futures contracts were a huge part of the business, there were daily and sometimes hourly margin calls. Precious metals were like few other commodities traded at Philipp Brothers, the volume of transactions was enormous. On a busy day, they could number in the thousands. Time was of the essence when it came to the operations function and no one left their desk each day until all of the work was complete. They couldn’t, because the next day there would be another slew of trades with which to deal.

The Precious Metals Department had branch offices in New York, London and Hong Kong and operated around the clock. New York was head office and Ray Nessim ran the global show. Each of the branches had an operations team and there was also a slew of agents around the world who did business for the department. My head was spinning that first day, week and month. Elias eased me into the business, giving me assignments to balance accounts and help with certain calculations. In all cases the work had to be meticulous, correct and done very quickly. When I arrived on the scene the department was at the very beginning of a project to computerize a lot of the work in a system. The goal was to decrease the workload and cut costs, but at the time the project did just the opposite. A dual system, one by hand and one by computer, needed to be checked and rechecked throughout the day.

My commute to work from Brooklyn took a little over an hour, each way. I trained myself to get to the office at 6:30 AM and did not leave until 10 PM during the first month. In fact, those turned out to be my working hours for many years. I would leave the house at 5:20 AM and get home after 11 PM; it didn’t leave a lot of time for sleep. I was learning a lot; the business was fast moving and exciting. I kept my head down and completed the assignments, and always asked for another when done. The one bonus was that the company provided lunch and dinner for us every day. The days went by fast, when you are busy, time flies.

Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities

Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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