skip to Main Content
A Wild Atmosphere In The 80’s

A Wild Atmosphere in the 80’s

December 2, 2016

Chapter 33 in the exclusive series for Dynamic Commodities- becoming a commodities trader

Trading is a high-action business that attracts type-A personalities. It is fast moving and risky. During the high-flying early 1980’s, a profitable trader could earn boatloads of money. The lifestyle of any trader at that time tended to be excessive. Much of what occurred happened in a wild atmosphere.

As a matter of fact, traders conducted business around the clock. Work hours in the office were spent on the phone. Many times, this was with a buyer in one ear and seller in the other. After work, entertaining was where lots of business happened. Traders gathered in the finest restaurants, guzzling the finest wines. Sleep was something left for the weekends.

The popularity of cocaine skyrocketed across Wall Street in the fast-paced 80’s. I remember going to the bathroom in the early morning hours before trading started; the sounds of sniffing came from more than one of the stalls.

Many traders were loud, obnoxious and high energy. The personality was almost a requirement for the job. With this is mind, political correctness and office decorum were not a consideration. In a trader’s world, outlandish and sophomoric behavior was the norm rather than the exception.

Today, many traders have a strong educational background in finance. Almost all have post-graduate degrees. The business has more than a handful of PhDs. However, in the early 80’s, many seat-of-the-pants traders, who learned their business as apprentices, used a combination of gut and killer instinct to make money.

In the world of commodities, there were few regulations in those days. The futures exchanges, which were new, had some regulations in place. In the global physical commodities trading business, there were almost no rules. Traders could even circumvent the Foreign Corrupt Business Practices Act, provided they employed the use of an agent or foreign office.

Back then, there was often shocking behavior on the trading desks. As a result, I have many memories of the anecdotes of that era. They are the same as chronicled in books and movies like Liars Poker, (by fellow Salomon alum, Michael Lewis), The Wolf of Wall Street and others.

As an illustration, the following is something that would not go over too well these days. It was the birthday surprise for one of the senior traders on the Precious Metals desk. Specifically, as a gift, a broker from the exchange personally delivered a very attractive stripper. He brought the stripper to the department at the end of trading hours. With all of the traders, traffic personnel, administrative workers, secretaries and even human resources people watching, this person began to disrobe.  To the great astonishment of the birthday boy and everyone else in the room, the stripper turned out to be a male.

Finally, strip clubs, cocaine, excessive drinking and office hijinks were the norm in those days at companies like Philipp Brothers and Salomon Brothers. It was a wild atmosphere in the 80s.  Of course, for a profitable trader, everything and anything was excusable except for losses.

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

Leave a Reply

Back To Top