Aggressive banter has no place in the markets

Bowler Hat

Maybe I’m being naïve.

Something really stuck in my craw reading the judge’s summing up in one of the recent market-rigging cases. Referring to some of the traders’ chat-room conversations, the judge said they were 'coarse and laddish with locker-room type discussions of work, home, sport and women'. Others had 'unpleasant racist overtones'. 

Although behaviour of this kind is never justified, you can see how this sort of culture developed over the years. The quick pints at lunch and cosy get together with market mates, a bit of lurid banter, and then maybe a few corner-cutting suggestions once everyone was warmed up. And this culture - if culture it be - developed into a full blown written frenzy in the supposed anonymity of chat-rooms and boxes. We all see it on our kids’ laptops and mobiles for heaven’s sake, so why would a bunch of well paid, (mainly) male traders be any different - especially with the sense of power and entitlement that must have come from knowing that they could do risk-free trades together?

All this, however, is light years away from the world of bonds that I have inhabited for almost 30 years. I’ve never heard of any malfeasance, brown paper bags and so on, and the relationship with investors always has to be respectful and professional. At my last firm, you’d sometimes hear 'bookies' talking over a hoot and holler to a trader, and sometimes there’d be a bit of friendly banter about the footy or something, but nothing really inappropriate. In modern day Britain, it almost beggars belief that people can behave like this? Or maybe I’m being naïve, and it’s all under the surface. Who knows what goes down in private conversations?

The point is that this kind of aggressive banter has no place in the markets. Markets have huge reach into everyone’s lives, and if testosterone so-called professionals get to scheme and connive together in criminal activity from under the guise of investment banking, what hope is there for society ultimately? In the ongong compliance training at my current shop, respect for colleagues and clients - and above all integrity - are emphasized at every turn, and quite rightly too.

Market players have to be accountable, and have a strong moral compass. They have to be held to the highest standards of conduct. No exceptions!

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