When you're a child who's swapped schools, the biggest challenge is settling in and becoming part of the class. - It takes time to remember names, to get to know people and to become part of the class. But eventually you become integrated. If you're an electronic trader, you are the new child forever.
Electronic sales traders - who sell banks' electronic trading systems are still comparative newcomers. Cash sales trading and program trading have been around for years, but electronic trading is the comparative newcomer, especially in fixed income. It's also the child who spoiled the party - everyone knows that electronic trading systems destroyed margins. Everyone knows that a lot of traders lost their jobs as a result. Because of this, no one wants to play.
When you're the person selling electronic systems on a trading floor, no one wants to be your friend. You're a threat. Who's going to talk to you (let alone introduce you to their clients) when they know that you have the potential to erode their livelihood? No one.
Working in electronic trading can therefore be an uphill struggle with your cash colleagues. You always have to be extremely pleasant. You continuously need to gently remind them that if they don't introduce you to their clients, then those clients are simply like to trade electronically with another broker instead.
None of this is easy. Cash sales people know their clients very, very well and are very protective. If you approach a client without checking with them first, they will find out. It's like trying to pinch someone else's friend at school.
As a result, in electronic sales trading, you will spend a lot of time waiting around in your party outfit and hoping for an invitation to go to the ball. It rarely comes. After 12 years in the industry, I'm still a pariah. Clients themselves are partly to blame - they often segregate electronic trading so that only the e-business team can see what's happening. This has effectively made it even harder for cash traders to accept us: not only are they giving their business away, but they are losing visibility on their flow.
Unless the teams are merged (which clients will seemingly never accept either), electronic traders are always going to feel like the newer kid on the bench - waiting for the rest of the playground to come and talk to them.
Greg Jones is the pseudonym of a VP in electronic trading