Floored

Caught Floored tonight at the Gene Sieskel. This was quite an entertaining “commentary” of the transition of trading in the pit to trading on computers. “Commentary” because the director, James Allen Smith, did not provide a running narrative, but his biases still come across quite clearly.

Bloomberg’s Business Week reviews:

Trading-Pit Envy Strikes Chicago’s New Electronic Generation
January 19, 2010, 10:43 AM EST
By Whitney McFerron

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) — A case of trading-pit envy is rumbling in Chicago.

“Floored,” a documentary that shows the fading of the city’s rough and rowdy open-outcry culture, is driving some of Chicago’s top electronic traders to defend the drama of their mouse-click world.

“You’re still playing with the same amount of dollars,” whether shouting in the pit or staring at the computer, said John Stotts, 32, the director of agricultural trading at Infinium Capital Management in Chicago, who worked on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade for six years. “At the end of the day, the scoreboard is still going to tell you the same result.”

CME Group Inc., the world’s largest futures exchange, allowed the filmmakers to shoot inside the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 2007 and the CBOT in 2008.

The film contrasts programmers sitting at desktop computers with the pugilists who gave the trading pits their raw character, flailing their arms with buy and sell signals in a daily scrum of sweating and shouting.

Jake Runge, who has been a trader since 2007 and worked both from the screen and in the pits at the CBOT, said “Floored” shows the emotional tension that trading often involves.

‘Zero-Sum Game’

“It wasn’t good to see the failures, but it’s a zero-sum game, and there are winners and losers,” Runge, 25, said at the film’s premiere in Chicago on Jan. 15. Trading “is an addicting thing to be a part of.”

The numbers in Chicago’s pits peaked in 1997 at about 10,000 traders, said Steve Prosniewski, a trader who’s one of the film’s producers. Fewer than 10 percent of those remain, he said.

The roar of those pits has been replaced by the quiet flicker of computer screens.

“You can hear pins drop,” said Adam Rollo, 29, an electronic trader for Evanston, Illinois-based A.M. Rosenthal & Co. since 2006, who previously worked as a trade checker at the CBOT. “If someone talks a little bit, I’m like, ‘Shut up!’ It’s ridiculous. I can’t concentrate even if there’s a little noise.”

Rollo also appears in the film, as part of the new generation of screen traders.

Rich and Poor

“I loved it,” he said at the movie’s premiere. “I thought it explained the personalities well, and it showed the rich-and-poor aspect of trading, how you could become a millionaire in five minutes.”

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