My Daily Grind – the Abnormal Reality

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”  – George Carlin

Some may wonder, and some may not, what is the lot of the institutional broker? In short, what is my day like everyday? This may give you an idea of a “normal” day in an abnormal job.

Up with Farmer John

First, I get up early, real early. Stockbroking is a lot like fishing or farming, the pay is just better. If you are not a morning person you will find this part of the job the most challenging. You have to be 100% alert and up to date when you hit the phones by 8:30 or 9:00 AM. Sleeping is for wimps.

What to Read and What to Avoid

I like to go through all my emails and all the overnight news before I get to the office. Usually, I am at my computer around 5:00 – 5:30 AM doing that. There are the professional news and investing websites that I read and there is the crap. I can say the same for media publications – I don’t watch TV. (I gave up on television after they yanked the Hogan’s Heroes reruns).

Newspapers I recommend are the Financial Times and maybe the Wall Street Journal – it isn’t as good as the FT and probably not as good as it used to be. Barron’s is good but I find it tends to be a little skewed to the individual investor, and it is hard to get out here in Hong Kong. Magazines worth reading are the Economist, and Fortune or Forbes are interesting from time to time. I find the Economist, which I have been reading for over 20 years, is more international in its approach and they seem to have finally grasped the fact that the UK really isn’t that important anymore. Time Magazine is good for wrapping fish or training puppies.

Worthy news websites include Bloomberg. Read it and get to know it. The Bloomberg terminal will sit on your desk at work and will dominate your life. I can’t do my job without Bloomberg. I also read CNN just to see what the man in the street is being told. CNN Money is worth a few seconds. Reuters is good for headline news that Bloomberg may not choose to run. There are also plenty of interesting financial blogs out there catering to different sub-niches. My hands down favorite is for professionals only and that is Barry Ritholz’s “The Big Picture. He is a very experienced industry veteran and I learn a lot from reading what he writes and what he hears.

No Limbuger

I have a quick breakfast while I am reading the news. Don’t go to work without eating something first. I know everyone is built differently but no matter who you are you need to start the day at the office being fully alert or you will miss things. You can eat more while at work. It is perfectly acceptable, indeed encouraged, to eat at your desk. Just don’t bring in the limburger cheese and durian and you’ll be fine.

Sacred Ritual

Once I get to the office at 7:00 AM, I turn on my computer, Bloomberg terminal and open my Brokers Notebook. The notebook is a big hardcover paper job that I use all day everyday. All serious brokers have one. I open it to a new page, and have two blank pages, left and right, that I use each day. At the top of the left page I write the date and below it all the market movements overnight. Indices I keep track of daily, of course, are the S&P, the Dow, Topix, and the major Asian markets. I also watch the dollar, the US 10-year bond yield, the VIX, oil and gold, among others. After recording that info and a few headlines, it is 7:30 AM and time to march off to the morning meeting. As I said in another post, the morning meeting is sacred.

Life On the Phone

During the morning meeting, I am busy highlighting things I think are important in the daily pack and writing them down in my brokers notebook. I also ask the analysts questions to better understand the story. It is perfectly fine to bring a coffee to the morning meeting – but do not eat there or read a newspaper there.

Back at the desk I go through the newspapers before the market opens (for me, that includes the FT and the South China Morning Post). Then I start calling clients with ideas and promoting that day’s research. I use the daily pack and my notes in my broker’s notebook to do this. Calling clients is an art, a low form of art I’ll admit, but there are good ways and bad ways to do it. I go into the details here.

I am on the phones talking to clients, or across the trading floor talking to the traders or in research asking the analysts more questions until lunch. Lunch is usually either with a client or at my desk. In the afternoon, we may have a client meeting or go to a corporate presentation. I also spend time calling more clients on the phone. Once evening rolls around, if I am lucky, I go home and see my family around 6:00 PM. Otherwise, it is drinks with clients or drinks and dinner with clients.

At 5:00 AM the next day it all begins again.

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