We are less than 100 days into the Obama administration and his press secretary has picked a fight with Rick Santelli over his remarks on CNBC. That debate is well on its way, but it would behoove everyone in America to understand the environment in which Santelli works.
The trading floor is a slice of Americana. Santelli descried it as a cross section of America, and it is. No matter which floor you walk on — the NYSE, CME, CBOT, or CBOE — you will see people of all skin colors, all economic classes, and from all walks of life. Democrats and Republicans. It’s a place where you can see a Harvard MBA rub elbows and fight for a trade with a person that barely graduated high school.
Traders are a very unique breed. They are an independent bunch, because most speculate with their own money. There are many misconceptions about traders. We are all very wealthy. We are all conservative Republicans. We are short-tempered aggressive people. We live wild lifestyles. Surely, some of these stereotypes have a grain of truth to them. You can find many stories about various antics that have happened with traders. Some actually are pretty funny. However, most traders are just like everyone else. They go to work, then go home and coach soccer and participate in their family life. They go to religious services, and they lead normal lives like most Americans.
Here is what is very different about traders and most Americans. Traders live in a very risky environment. They make decisions very quickly that will make or lose a lot of money. They have extremely high stressful jobs, and there is no guarantee that they will have their jobs tomorrow. Traders are pretty confident and humble all at the same time. Things happen on a trading floor in seconds, and those seconds mean the difference between success and failure. It’s really living life on the edge of a razor in the most competitive environment organized by mankind.