Friday, August 3, 2007

Notes from the floor

It’s smaller than it appears to be on television. And older! And the room itself is so packed with computer monitors, screens, video equipment, systems and other electronics that it is almost overwhelming.

Thursday morning, I had the chance to spend time on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as The Daily Record’s parent company, Dolan Media, presented our initial public offering on the exchange. If not exactly “front row” and certainly not a “seat,” my colleagues and I certainly had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the action at the exchange from a perspective most people don’t get….right there on the floor with the traders, the technology, the ringing of the bell.

The room itself is interesting. Although the room seems smaller than on the TV screen, a beautiful ceiling high above is nearly obscured by all the cabling needed to power the hundreds of computer screens, lights, tickers and other paraphernalia on the trading floor. The trading floor is packed with these items and also teeming with people – a few visitors like us, allowed by special pass onto the floor under special circumstances – and hundreds of others who work there, crowding, asking, looking, sometimes yelling, and always, ALWAYS moving once trading begins.

But they were relatively calm for a few moments when we got there, perhaps 20 minutes before the famous “bell” that starts the trading day. Like the rest of us coming to work in the morning, they were getting themselves set for the day, greeting one another, checking the equipment and just plain getting ready. But even this moment is noisy and tense. Nobody knows what the market will do each day, how busy things will be on the floor and there’s an atmosphere of almost manic anticipation waiting for the bell.

And it rings.

And the movement starts as almost a crush of people move through extremely crowded aisles while others stay glued to their computer screens responding to inquiries, questions, orders. And everybody…..EVERYBODY….keeps looking up at those tickers surrounding the room as the trading day starts. Except, that is, the traders themselves who only have a moment to peek every once in awhile. They’re just too darn busy.


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