By guest photo-blogger Emmanuel Didier who has now returned to his home base in Paris.

 

It has become difficult to enter the CBOT. They say that because of 9/11 they no longer let the public enter, even though there is a visiting gallery on top of the main trading room. But I finally (after a fairly long search) wound up finding Curt Zuckert, Associate Director, GLC and Product education. He is a former trader and for whatever the reason he now organizes the visits and the education of new members of the company. (I visited along with a newly hired guy).

 

 

 

As you know, the CBOT is undergoing both a digitalization of activities and a merging with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (the Mercantile exchange has actually bought the CBOT). The thing that they keep repeating is that I was lucky to be able to visit simply because digitalization will eventually make the physical trading rooms disappear. Apparently, however, although they’ve been saying this for five years there are still lots of people in there!  It seems to me that there still is something very valuable, something very important to gain in physical trading.

 

Kurt said that maybe it is the introduction of new products are made first on the physical floor and that these are a good way to make money. Yet that does not seem to be a enough reason for the persistence of the floor because these introductions are quite rare.  I could not put my finger on what it is about the trading floor, but I felt that the story of its disappearance is everything but a necessary evolution.  It seems to have crucial advantages that online trading does not.

 

The other thing which struck me is that at opening time, you really have a great frenzy, and then it’s much calmer.  Curt explained that, contrarily to what we might assume, there are lots of moments of inactivity for the traders. Often the market is simply flat, it does not evolve, and therefore (or because) nothing is sold, nothing is bought. It was interesting to me because it explained why this life is livable. It explains, I think, how psychologically it’s doable. It is noteworthy that the entrance of the building is the last place in the US where you still see actual crowds of smokers hanging around.  

 

Unfortunately I only took a few pictures, because I was not allowed to take any while walking through the floor.

  

 

This is a replica of the statue which is on the top of the building.  It is a depiction of Ceres, the Greek goddess of agriculture.  It has been suggested that she is faceless because at the time the bulilding was erected it was considered to be so tall that nobody would ever be able to get close enough to inspect her features.

This is a replica of the statue which is on the top of the building. It is a depiction of Ceres, the Greek goddess of agriculture. It has been suggested that she is faceless because at the time the bulilding was erected it was considered to be so tall that nobody would ever be able to get close enough to inspect her features.

 

 

 

The really great pictures of the CBT are those by the famous artist Adreas Gursky (see here).  Of course, the traders and clerks don’t necessarily wear these colored jackets anymore.

Curt Zuckert can be reached at curt.zuckert@cmegroup.com.

Trading Post No 12

July 22, 2008

 

Photo-reportage by guest blogger Emmanuel Didier (assisted by Martha Poon).

 

Trading Post No 12 at the University of Chicago Graduate School fo Business

 

This is what you see when you enter the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business: Trading post No 12.  It is a horse shoe shaped desk from which was traded, in its day, a specific set of shares including Gould, General Motors and Central Telephone and Electronics.

 

 

 As this brass panel explains, as the NYSE became electronic, the old exchange posts were sent to different schools and museums throughout the US.

 

 

 

The desk is designed for share quotes to appear on an convex panel running around the top. 

 

 

 

Traders presumably stood on the outside of desk where they could see these prices.  The desk provides pull-down seats, perhaps for them to rest while waiting for orders.  Note the impressive number of built-in drawers and cubby holes.

 

 

 

The agents receiving the transactions presumably stood inside of the horse shoe…

 

 

 

 ….where they had their own little drawers and organizational devices.

 

 

 

According to Greg Redenius, the facilities person responsible for taking care of No 12 and the only person able to provide any meager information about it, “the center ‘island’ with the holes in it worked similarly to the vacuum transport system at a typical bank drive through”. 

 

 

 

 

Here I am pressing the buttons.

 

If you have “visual question” please ask – I’d be happy to go and take further photographs. Coming soon, a report on my recent trip to the Chicago Board of Trade…

 

Emmanuel Didier is a researcher at CSDIP in Paris and was a visiting scholar at the Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine, University of Chicago this spring.

   

 

His forthcoming book, En quoi consiste l’Amérique? Les sondages et le New Deal, (What is the Composition of America? Statistical Surveys and the New Deal) is forthcoming from La Découverte.