Bradley Rotter – Open Outcry Traders History Project, Part One

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John Lothian

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Financial Futures Pioneer Continues as Early Adopter on the Right Side of Major Trends


Bradley Rotter has been a pioneer in financial futures, hedge fund investing and cryptocurrencies. He was on the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade when financial futures were just getting started. He convinced Merrill Lynch they needed a financial futures expert and was hired, then later moved to New York to work for EF Hutton before returning to Chicago to become the floor manager for AG Becker & Co. when bonds were first traded in the old South Room of the CBOT.

Rotter was interviewed by John Lothian for the Open Outcry Traders History Project. This is the first part of a two-part presentation of that interview. 

Raised on a small farm in Iowa, Rotter was first exposed to the markets when at age 16  his father put him in charge of hedging the farm’s one contract worth of corn.

He later  attended West Point and while a cadet continued trading the markets between classes. After serving in the Army, he moved to Chicago to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago, while also trading his personal account. His first exposure to floor trading was at the MidAmerica Commodity Exchange, then later at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and finally at the Chicago Board of Trade. 

After working for Merrill, he moved to EF Hutton, where he encountered Bernie Cantor, the founder and chairman of the securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald, and Cantor Fitzgerald’s new electronic bond trading platform. Rotter  beta tested the platform with a screen large enough to kill him if there was an earthquake, he said. His success on the Cantor bond platform led to his boss  acquiring a Cantor terminal. 

An interview for a job at AG Becker went so well that Rotter was asked to continue it while the interviewer traveled to Laguardia Airport for a trip to Chicago. Rotter flew along to continue the interview and was hired during the flight. He then stayed to be AG Becker’s floor manager on the CBOT financial room trading floor. 

Rotter said he had an early advantage on the CBOT financial floor because he had a view of the news feed displayed in the main trading room at the CBOT from his spot in the South Room where the financial futures contracts were traded. He had about a 10-second lead before the rest of the market would react to the news, he said.

His mentors included Ralph Peters and Rick Barnes, two prominent traders at the CBOT. One story shared by his mentors was about a trader who was caught short in the grain markets during a drought with the markets locked limit up. The trader turned on a fire hose and sprayed the windows of the trading floor to suggest it was raining outside, which helped bring the markets off limit up.

Rotter  famously made a bold move in the bond market when  he called all his customers and told them he was  bullish. He then told them that AG Becker would no longer accept sell orders in bonds. He actually did refuse customers’ sell orders and told them to call his competitors if they really wanted to sell. Bonds then started a 40-year bull run, proving Rotter right.

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The video has been reported by John Lothian and edited and produced by Patrick Lothian.

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