Trading places: From peak to FLOORED (a documentary)

Here's a film documenting the move from the trading floor to upstairs and some of those who were left behind.

The tale is woven showing these traders largely railing against the new world of computers, deriding it as an unfair system that was killing the floor, as well as their way of life. One telling segment has floor trader Kenny Ford arguing with Mike Fishbain, a software engineer, about electronic trading and the “evil thing” that is a computer. Ford is adamant about how terrible electronic trading is, not giving Fishbain room for reply. Ford personifies the staunchest of those who even today trade in pits that still remain open

When the movie was premiered in late 2009, Smith says “it put the Merc back on its heels a little bit…I think [Steve sold it as] this kid wants to do this film and all of a sudden it’s on the front page of the business section of the [Chicago] Tribune. I don’t think they were expecting that it would turn into what it had turned into.” Also, between the genesis of the film, around 2006 and its premiere in late 2009, the CME had finalized a merger with the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), and weathered, like the rest of the industry, the 2008 financial crisis. Although the futures exchanges proved themselves during the crisis, volumes still dropped dramatically, only now stabilizing. In addition, all pits were consolidated to the CBOT floor. During that time even the membership voted to move a contract like Eurodollars, the largest of all the pits, to electronic trading. Smith said the change from when he started the film to when it premiered was dramatic. “[The CME] was the big corporation going ‘whoa, whoa,’ we control our image, not some punk guy,” which was the response from some floor traders, he said. “I respect that and my only response is ‘you have great stories, you’ve seen a lot of things…I hope other people continue to tell other stories from here. This is just my view, this is what I saw.”

He says premiere night with many of the cast in the audience was nerve racking, but adds that almost all those portrayed thought he did a good job. CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, who is interviewed in the film, stood up after the movie and said “you did a fantastic job might not be pretty but it’s all true,” Smith recalls. “At the end of the day, a poll of 10 traders who have seen the film, two or three hated it while seven or eight loved it. No one walks out of the movie shrugging their shoulders. It evokes a lot of emotion for those guys.”

This perhaps is an analogy for those who accepted change and moved on and those who didn’t want to see the change coming. When asked what part or story was his favorite, Smith says “Rob Prosniewski’s part is the one that sticks with me because when I first started talking to Rob, he was gung ho,” he recalls. “At the beginning we filmed him on the floor, all those opening scenes, and he said, ‘next time you see me I’ll be on a computer.’ Then six months pass and he’s still on the floor, and nine months pass, and a year later I catch up with him on camera and I ask, ‘what’s going on, why aren’t you [trading upstairs]? and there’s a scene I call “wind-blown Rob” because he has a fan blowing on him because he’s so hot…that’s when he, well, he broke down…That stuck with me because he tried so damned hard [to move upstairs]. As much as Kenny, the guy who hates computers, embodies the mechanical processes the floor traders are going through in terms of being scared of computers, I think Rob embodied the emotional struggle and emotional hardship of it….”

No doubt, the pathos of seeing a glorious old world dying and viewing the effects on those who couldn’t adapt is captured in ”Floored.” It’s a history lesson of the futures industry worth viewing.

Click here for information to watch the 9/6 web premiere of FLOORED


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