CME Group’s announcement to all but end open outcry was, as we all knew, never a matter of IF, but only of WHEN. I have spent a lifetime visiting and working on trading floors and believe I am in a unique position to wax nostalgically.
I first stepped foot on the original CME floor at 110 N. Franklin in the early 1950’s, to visit my father and grandfather. Back then guests of members to could freely walk the floor and enter without an age restriction. I thrilled at being in the Visitors Gallery at the CBOT in the 1960s and thrilled at the growing rumbling of hundreds of traders just seconds before the 9:30 opening bell. I compared the grain floor opening to being on the subway tracks as a train approached a downtown station. I was present on the IMM floor, that day in May, 1972 when the IMM first initiated trading in currencies. Between 1967-1972 I worked in various clerical positions on the CME and CBOT floor for such giants as Barry Lind, Ralph Peters and Les Rosenthal. I was in the pits of all three CME trading floors. Before the MidAmerica was the MidAm, it was the Open Board of Trade and anyone could walk onto the trading floor on Clark Street (or was i Dearborn) in the South Loop. I know I did.
My first membership, a rental winked at by CME Compliance, came in 1973. I moved from independent floor trader and floor broker to be Dean Witter’s assistant floor manager. I would visit the COMEX, New York Coffee & Sugar, Cocoa, Cotton and New York Mercantile Exchanges back when they were all independent marketplaces and each had their trading floors scattered throughout lower Manhattan. Does anyone besides myself recall visits to the New York Futures Exchange, back when it was housed at the New York Stock Exchange, and marveling how tiny it was when the publicity photos made it appear massive? My position with Dean Witter Reynolds meant regular time spent at the Commodity Exchange Center (CEC) at 4 World Trade Center, before the complex was destroyed and close friends murdered in the terrorist attack of September 11.
For many years I’d jokingly tell friends that in my old age, I’d be a docent at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, where a miniature mock-up of a trading floor would occupy space by the old steam engines. I’d stand there in my old trading jacket, with a laser pointer aimed at holograph figures of runners and brokers. I’d be that old-timey guy explaining to a new generation what open outcry was and how it revolutionized American financial markets. I guess I should leave now and fill out that job application form at the Museum.
Larry Schneider, vice-president Exchange Analytics, Inc.
formerly Executive Director for retail futures, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter