As I write I am flying from Paris, the most beautiful city I have ever seen, to the French countryside for a chateau wedding. Since there is no gogo internet access on the flight and I am sans iPad I thought I would share a story about a future trader I lunched with in Paris. Perhaps some will see this as a positive anecdote for our markets and NYC.
Yesterday I asked the concierge for a “casual business restaurant” for a talk with a French broker interested in transitioning to US Equities trader. My definition of “casual” was different from the concierge’s as his suggestion was a 5 star steak house. The French take their lunch seriously. Three courses and wine are common. Four burgers and three steaks into my five day visit, another steak did not excite me. Worse yet my guest was Kosher so could not eat anything on the menu. I suggested we leave. He declined.
This young man of 23 has just graduated with a business degree and took a job selling brokerage product for a family friend. The brokerage firm where he worked was not excelling nor was he. And selling was not his passion said this Parisian. Handsome and determined this young Frenchman had first tried to land a job as a trader with no luck. The banks according to my guest hired mostly those with connections or those who went to the best universities. This broker had working class lineage and did not possess a degree from a top tier university. I felt like I was sitting on Stone Street in NYC talking to an American transitioning professional, as apparently the French have the same hiring habits in the banker trading universe.
I do not get this insistence on hiring future traders based on the quality of university and GPA. None of that has much to do with whether someone has a passion for trading and the ability to become a great trader. Trading is a performance sport. Trading is about skill. Imagine if the NBA drafted players based on merely height and foot speed? That would make no sense as there would be a ton of tall, quick people with no ability to play the game. In my next book The PlayBook I assail this hiring practice.
So I sat and listened to the dream of this young French broker:
“I want to move to NYC and become a prop trader. I have family I can stay with in Brooklyn or Staten Island. The French are not open. In NYC you can talk to anyone. There is much more to do. I am not concerned with the competition. I know I will be the best.”
I asked about the trading he has done in the past. He had traded some FX and done intensive back testing on some strategies with his professor, who formerly traded at a big bank. He promised to send me examples of his trading and research. I explained that he was competing against other college students with more extensive trading experience and that anything he could do to gain more trading experience would help move him closer to realizing his dream.
There is a recurring theme from my lunch in Paris and my recent travel. NYC is still seen as the most amazing city in which to live and work. When I was in Singapore I sat on stage with Jim Rogers, answering audience questions for a conference with SharesInvest. Jim had shared his world thesis about how Asia will be the best place to live in the next Century. Famously, he sold his Upper West Side mansion and moved his young family to Singapore for a better life. This brought a challenge from one attendee, “You say that Singapore is the best place to live. Most of us view NYC as the best place to live.” This Parisian, handsome, young, with some money in his pocket wanted little more to do with Paris. He wanted to live in NYC.
NYC remains a dream for many abroad. Trading US equities and our markets does as well. Our markets offer liquidity and opportunity unmatched. These are positive anecdotes for our markets. The future is bright for my French guest. His determination will lead to success. For all the talk that our markets are broken (and they do need fixing), this lunch reminds me that the US markets are still the world’s best.
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