In this podcast version of the Open Outcry Traders History Project video interview, Tom Gould reflects on his trading career and the life-changing experience of a heart attack that led him to give back to the community. Gould’s journey began unexpectedly when he took a summer job at the Chicago Board Options Exchange and then after a second summer received a call from his boss with an offer to forego law school and join the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). His time on the trading floor had been eye-opening, filled with excitement and learning opportunities, so he took the job.
Gould’s early trading days were marked by dealing with volatility and trading both calls and puts. He embraced the brashness and inquisitiveness required to succeed as a floor trader, often making split-second decisions. Gould recalls the competitive yet camaraderie-filled atmosphere on the floor, where mentors like Peter Michaelson helped him hone his trading skills.
The economic opportunities on the trading floor during the late ’80s and early ’90s were vast, with fewer regulations allowing traders to have a competitive edge, he said. Gould said his insights into reading order books gave him an advantage over institutional traders.
He vividly recalled the crash of ’87 when his gutsy trading decisions paid off, but he was also humbled by the ’89 crash when a trade on IBM options went awry. Despite these challenging moments, Gould treasures his floor experience, even the humorous pranks and antics that added levity to their daily routines.
In the podcast Gould candidly discusses some illicit activities on the floor, mainly after hour trading, and shares an amusing tale of a showdown that ended with karate moves.
His best day as a floor trader was during the crash of ’87, where he made a substantial profit in IBM puts. However, Gould admits he was more of a steady trader than a high-risk swinger.
Conversely, his worst day was during the ’89 crash when he underestimated the market’s reaction to United Airlines’ failed buyout. He recalls fellow traders profiting from buying cheap puts while he endured significant losses.
Gould’s most vivid memory of the floor is the ’87 crash, where even seasoned traders were overwhelmed by the panic and uncertainty. This experience shaped his perspective on life and risk-taking, he said.
Reflecting on his trading career, Gould wished he had sought more advice and brought his later technical analysis knowledge to the floor. He values the lessons in trust, relationships, discipline, and adaptability that he learned from trading.
Eventually, Gould decided to leave the trading floor in 1994, seeking a change in his life. He recalls the night of his heart attack vividly, how he collapsed while talking to his son, and how his family’s quick actions, along with state legislation changes, saved his life.
His heart attack became a catalyst for change, and Gould, along with his son, now speak to high school students about the importance of CPR training and awareness. In the talks, he and his son emphasize the critical role timely intervention and education plays in saving lives.
Gould’s experience led him to become an advocate for heart health and CPR training, joining the Illinois Advocacy Committee for the American Heart Association, where he continues to give back and share his story to inspire others to take their health and safety seriously.