Veteran Trader George Hanley Shares Family’s Legacy in Trading at CBOT in Open Outcry Traders History Project Interview

John Lothian

John Lothian

Executive Chairman and CEO

May 16, 2024 — In an interview for the Open Outcry Traders History Project, veteran trader George Hanley recounted the rich history of his family’s involvement with the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). The interview, part one of three parts conducted by John Lothian News for the  MarketsWiki Education video series, explored the Hanley family’s deep-rooted connections to the trading world, dating back to the early 20th century.

A Family Legacy

Hanley began by sharing how his old West Side Irish family first got involved with the CBOT. His grandmother, who enjoyed betting on horse races, met Bill Griffin, a trader at the Board of Trade, in the early 1910s. Griffin, who owned Griffin Grain, would often pass by their apartment on Ferdinand Street on his way to the Lake Street elevated train. Hanley’s grandmother would give her bets to Griffin, who would place them with bookies at the exchange.

The Start of a Trading Dynasty

In 1923, at the age of 18, Hanley’s father Tom began working as a runner at Griffin Grain. This marked the beginning of the Hanley family’s long-standing association with the CBOT. Tom Hanley used to run down LaSalle Street and up the stairs to the third floor to deliver orders to the pit, Hanley recalled.

Overcoming Challenges

Tom Hanley faced numerous challenges throughout his career. He became a member of the CBOT in the 1930s and worked for various firms before buying his own membership in 1945. He traded in several pits, including the rye and wheat pits, and eventually became an independent broker and a top step broker in the soybean pit. “He transferred his seat to my older brother, Tommy Hanley, in 1980,” George Hanley noted.

A Personal Journey

George Hanley himself grew up immersed in the trading environment, frequently visiting the exchange from a young age. By eighth grade, he had decided to become a trader. However, his path was not without obstacles. After graduating from college, he faced several setbacks, going broke three times before finding success. “I proceeded to go broke three times and I was devastated, one of the most humiliating periods in my life,” he admitted. These experiences taught him valuable lessons in humility and perseverance.

After George Hanley failed as a trader, his father helped him get a job as a trade checker in the meats at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Hanley wanted to return to college at Dayton for homecoming, so he called in sick on a Friday. He shared his plans with a coworker, who then informed his boss. The boss called Hanley into the office on Monday and, despite acknowledging his competence, fired him on principle.

Hanley stayed to train his replacement, then asked his dad, “What do I do now?” His dad helped him get a job as a runner. Within months, Hanley’s career had regressed from trader to trade checker to runner.

Hanley recalled going broke three times while speculating in the soybean markets. His mother and grandfather recapitalized him twice before his father decided to sell his MidAmerica Exchange seat. At that point, George Hanley’s brother Tom lent him $1,000 and, more importantly, taught him how to trade soybean spreads.

Within 14 months of his first winning trade, which earned him $5, Hanley was clearing his own trades at the MidAm, taking delivery of grain, and storing the receipts in his safety deposit box at Continental Bank. Hanley also became the largest volume trader at the MidAm, he said.

Hanley fondly remembered those heady days of MidAm trading, the traders who became great, and his admiration for the pure speculators.

 

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