Typically the people who didnt get nicknames were

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Merc was a bad sign. Typically, the people who didn’t get nicknames were junior analysts who Hannigan and Johnson could tell early on were not going to make it. People who made million-dollar errors right and left. Walking disasters. As I would quickly see, derivatives were highly leveraged products: you were borrowing money for your bet, so returns or losses were greatly multiplied. If you mistakenly said “Buy” instead of “Sell,” or got the quantity wrong, you could rack up huge errors. First- and second-year analysts did this all the time, out of sheer carelessness. So before the Merc guys started joking around with you or bestowed a nickname on you, you had to prove you could be accurate. And accuracy meant survival. ——— My new education commenced. (I was also, at this time, studying for the Series 3 Derivatives exam— another regulatory requirement now that I would be trading derivatives.) Corey began our first lesson about three steps ahead of me, assuming that I understood trading terminology. “Please assume I know nothing,” I told him. “Start from the very beginning.” So, at 7:00 A.M. , before the trading day began, or at 6:00 P.M. , after it ended, Corey and I would spend hours going over everything. The first priority, he told me, was to use the right terminology. Don’t fudge. Don’t say something that’s 80 percent correct. Say it 100 percent correctly at all times. “No ambiguity, no errors” was his mantra. Over and over again he said, “This stuff needs to come to you cold.”
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One way I learned at first was to listen in on Corey’s client phone calls. This was common practice for apprentices. Everybody on the desk had what was called a trading turret, a big rectangular phone bank with several rows of buttons and a small screen on which you could make, receive, and prioritize calls to and from clients and to the exchanges. Some of the buttons gave you direct connections to major clients such as T. Rowe Price or Fidelity or Wellington; some were the salespeople’s private lines; some connected to brokers such as Hannigan and Johnson at the Mercantile Exchange. (Theirs was a particularly popular line to listen in on. Not only could you hear the big trades that were going through, but you could also catch up on the latest gossip: who had gotten the most banged up at the holiday party, which management changes were coming, how bonuses were looking. A lot of this information seemed to flow through the guys in Chicago.) Each salesperson had two phones: one was a handset and one was an earpiece or a headset. Anytime Corey was on with a client, he would point it out to me, and I would push the Mute button on my phone and pick up the line. I would listen in on his client conversations, and then, at the end of the day, I would ask about everything I hadn’t understood. Wall Street lingo, I saw right away, was not intuitive. “Hit your bid”? “Lift your offer”? I asked Corey for a refresher course. A bid, he reminded me, is how much someone is willing to pay for something. An offer is how much someone is willing to sell something at. The way the markets work, he said, is that every
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