Anxiety, adrenaline and automation

I am delighted to introduce a guest blog by Kevin Rodgers, formerly global head of foreign exchange at Deutsche Bank, with an impressive career in trading. Kevin is also the author of a great new book which charts the major changes in investment banking ‘Why aren’t they shouting?’, not to mention a pretty good opera singer.

Mark Fenton-O’Creevy

kevinRodgersMy first anxiety dreams came to me within a couple of weeks of starting my career on a trading floor and were about an almost laughably trivial worry – whether I could operate the bank’s pricing software. It was 1990, I was at Merrill Lynch and, fresh out of business school, my job as a junior options trader in the bank’s Foreign Exchange (FX) trading team meant making prices using a tool called FENICS. Replete with knowledge gleaned from business school finance classes, I understood what I was doing but the physical task of typing in the pricing parameters was rather tricky: I was often doing so one-handed (while cradling a phone with the other), and always under time pressure in a ringing cacophony of noise. My dreams took an increasingly familiar pattern: I had an important price to make; the market was moving but I simply couldn’t type the numbers into the right places on the screen; the client’s sales contact was shouting at me to hurry up with increasing urgency and volume. Then I’d wake up with a sudden start in the darkness. Continue reading “Anxiety, adrenaline and automation”

‘The heart has its reasons’: emotions and cognition in the world of finance

Let’s call him James, a trader in a City investment bank; young, smartly dressed, confident, and a little impatient. He sat across from me in the interview:

It’s really important to stay cool. For myself, I can say that I really don’t have much emotion while I trade”.

Half an hour later, as he relaxed a little, the façade had started to crack:

Actually the pressure can be horrendous, a trade goes badly wrong, you are staring into black hole, frozen, knowing you should get out but just hoping the market will turn . . I rushed off the desk and threw up in the toilet – I was terrified”.

Continue reading “‘The heart has its reasons’: emotions and cognition in the world of finance”

On fund-managers, rats and hermit crabs: reversion to familiar habits under stress

Hermit crabs rely on acquiring discarded shells for their protection and are constantly on the look-out for better shells. However, faced with environmental stress they prefer to stick with their old shell, however unsuitable, than risk moving to a new … Continue reading On fund-managers, rats and hermit crabs: reversion to familiar habits under stress