Trading experts' advice: Embrace change

July 29, 2014 10:42 PM

Change was the most frequently used word Tuesday at the first day of the MarketsWiki World of Opportunity Summer Intern Education Series, hosted by John J. Lothian & Co.

Five trading veterans spoke for 15 minutes each to a crowd of summer interns at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Stuart School of Business in downtown Chicago, all emphasizing the importance of embracing change in the financial industry.

BOX CEO Tony McCormick spoke first, sharing three vignettes from his life as an intern: one as a mailman at the Chicago Tribune, another as a salesman for Keebler Company and a third as a waiter for his father's restaurant. Each had a different punchline and lesson, but the pith of McCormick's words had a common point, one that's carried over to his successful career in the financial industry.

"Your personal happiness, and to a great degree your personal success in business, will be very highly correlated to how you deal with change," McCormick said. "You sit there today and you say, 'No big deal. I love change—change is great!' That's because you're at an age in life where you don't fear change, you understand that it's opportunity ... The problem is that as you get older, change starts to look more and more like risk, and you start to fear risk because you're comfortable. So the more you can see it as opportunity, not risk, the better."

CEOs Ed Tilly and Tim McDermott, of CBOE and Nadex respectively, spoke next about their personal career archs and how they used times of change as an opportunity. Tilly climbed the ropes at CBOE as technology evolved, while McDermott took a more unconventional route through the legal world. You can't Google Map your career, he said.

IIT professor Ben Van Vliet then shared his views on the changing topography of the industry due to high frequency trading. As trading becomes less about the acumen of individual traders and more of an organizational effort by traders, mathematicians, programmers and others, he said, competitive advantages are popping up left and right. Van Vliet stressed thinking about more than just ways to come up with new trading strategies, arguing that less popular parts of a trading firm, such as the cost structure, are becoming more and more vital to efficiency and success.

Matthew Rees, chief relationship officer at R.J. O'Brien, closed the day by discussing how one buoys the negative aspects of technology. Face-to-face service and integrity are becoming increasingly important as technology changes the plane of communication. It might be easier to break bad news to a client via email, he pointed out, but hopping in a cab and discussing it with them in person can make all the difference.

The lecture series continues Thursday, as well as on Aug. 5 and Aug. 7.

About the Author

Thom is an editorial intern at Futures. He studies magazine editing, economics and sociology at the University of Missouri and will graduate in May 2016. You can reach him at