Veteran Exchange Employee Shares His Firsthand Experience of Open Outcry and Electronic Trading at CME and CBOT
John Van Der Bleek got his start in the markets after working for a hospital part time with someone later hired at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as an employment manager. He began as a price reporter at the CME, and the minute he saw the trading floor he knew it was where he wanted to be, and he gave up his aspirations for law school. After working for the CME, he tried his hand at trading there in the S&P pit with his own money. That did not work out as well as he had hoped.
After a stint at a firm at the CBOT, he joined the exchange in 1992. He left the CBOT in 2007 after it was acquired by the CME Group and he decided his future was not there. He worked for two investment banks and the National Futures Association before joining ErisX.
At the CME he was a price reporter in the hog pit and was recruited for the larger, more active cattle pit. Later, he was asked to come into the S&P pit after a break after the cattle closed. He was in the S&P pit as a price reporter amid the chaos of the 1987 stock market crash and when the Challenger exploded.
He met all kinds of traders. Some had big educations and some had little. He was hired at the CBOT in the Office of Investigations. He was later tapped to help with the reboot of Project A.
He was asked to run the overnight operation of Project A, which included building all the systems to support this new electronic trading. He had to bust the very first trade on Project A because of a badly designed spread function.
He was later involved with order routing on the trading floors, including the development of TOPS, which stands for Trade Order Processing System. He worked with the Electronic Clerk terminals and helped implement the COMET (Common Order Management Entry Terminal) terminals.
He helped make the entire open outcry experience more electronic, efficient and manageable.
The challenge of all this new technology meant the exchange had to create a wireless network to support all this so traders and clerks could be mobile. This also allowed traders to be able to trade side by side when markets moved to that style.
He helped support Project A, the a/c/e alliance, Liffe Connect and ultimately Globex. He helped move the exchange from one platform to the next, including from one country to the next as system providers.
After the merger with the CBOT and CME, he helped move the traders from the CME floor to the CBOT floor. He was hired by Deutsche Bank and left the CME Group, to help with hundreds of projects. He helped consolidate the bank’s trading operation at the CME to the CBOT floor. Then he helped close out the futures trading from the CME floor for DB. He helped the bank do this again when the CME acquired NYMEX.
Van Der Bleek sat for an interview with John Lothian News for the video series The Path to Electronic Trading, conducted over Zoom.