Veteran Trader George Hanley Reflects on Trading Career and Family Legacy in Part Three of Open Outcry Traders History Project Interview

John Lothian

John Lothian

Executive Chairman and CEO

In the third installment of the Open Outcry Traders History Project interview series, veteran trader George Hanley dives deeper into his trading career, family legacy, and the evolution of his business ventures. Conducted by John Lothian News for the MarketsWiki Education series, this segment offers a comprehensive look at Hanley’s experiences and insights from his time on the trading floors.

Hanley was thrifty about keeping costs low, operating his offices with folding tables and nothing fancy. He said he learned from his father to keep a low profile. He wanted his traders to walk out of the building at the end of the year with the most money they could, which he thought would be popular, though sometimes it was not. 

He spent a lot of time and money on training, he said. Hanley learned about something called “delta vega” the hard way during the Chernobyl crisis that saw soybeans suddenly close limit up late in a day’s session. 

After a disagreement with his proteges at Infinium Capital Management forced him from that firm, Hanley started a new firm focusing on trading exotic OTC trades. The largest customer of his new group was FC Stone, and in 2010, the publicly traded INTL FC Stone bought Hanley’s OTC trading operations. Hanley would build an OTC  trading platform for the company, now called StoneX, and serve as their global head of trading for three years. 

Hanley pursued some real estate interests with some colleagues, and then was officially bought out of Infinium Capital Management in 2012, ending his trading career. 

As far back as 1992, Hanley had established the Hanley Foundation. He funded some scholarships for St. Sabina Catholic School, which had a nearly 100% high school graduation rate. He was also involved with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. He said his Irish Catholic guilt made him ask why things turned out the way they did for him and he found great pleasure in giving back. 

“I figured it out one day and it’s because my purpose in this life is that I’ve received all these blessings, financial blessings, and that it’s now my job to nurture and grow those blessings and then to give them back to the community,” he said. “And to me, it’s like a circle of life. I think it fits with my upbringing. I think it fits with what feels right to me.”

Hanley has made substantial gifts to the University of Dayton for the Hanley Center for ESG Investing and for the Hanley Sustainability Institute. He also recently made a donation to the University of Miami to create the Hanley Democracy Center. This was an effort that began before the events of January 6, 2021, he said. 

Hanley said he could see electronic trading coming after he was appointed to the CBOT technology committee in 1994 or 1995. In 1993 he was living in Lausanne, Switzerland and trying to start a trading operation on the SOFFEX. He expressed his admiration for Don Wilson, whom he called the number one trader to come from his era.

He talked about the 1988 bean market, which was the first time traders were expecting to see “beans in the teens.” Hanley said he was called into Tex Griffin’s office at Griffin Grain, the firm that cleared his trades. Griffin was concerned about the number of puts Hanley was short, which as a market maker the market had put him into. Hanley was also short futures against the puts as a hedge. Hanley agreed to adjust the position, and they bought in the puts and even went long puts, and long futures.

When the 1988 soybean market finally broke in July, the back months were limit down (30 cents), and the front month was $1.20 lower, Hanely said. Though the loss would not show up for a day or so, Hanley knew Hanley Group was going to lose millions of dollars. The loss ended up being $5 to $6 million. Had Hanley stayed with the original short put, short futures position, he would have made $5 to $6 million, he said. 

Hanley talked about trading short options and the difficulties involved. He explained how having 14 traders in the soybean options allowed him to take what would have been an “unimaginable'” position and make it manageable by putting it into the hands of the 14 traders. He also talked about how he liked the challenge of being short options despite the stress that comes from it, though he would like to donate some of the theta back. 

The best year any Hanley Group trader had was 2008, when Brendan Cashman, son of FIA Hall of Fame member Thomas J. Cashman, benefited from a long put position that saw a late season break in the market as rain pressured soybean prices. 

Hanley said what ultimately made the Hanley Group successful was the humility he had once he found success, having gone broke three times. He also praised the lessons he was taught by his father and the value of his family’s history at the exchange for helping him. 

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