When we spoke to Andy Whitelock, he was busily orchestrating a set of kayaks for today’s activities. “Get a four man and a two man out,” he said to someone in Hut 13 at Tilgate Recreation Centre in Crawley. “And leave them in the changing rooms.”
These days, Whitelock runs the South East Operation of Dynamic Adventures, and is busy with everything from kayaking to raft building. 17 years ago, he was a managing director at Deutsche Bank Morgan Grenfell Futures & Options in London. Whitelock left the City just after a 14 year career spent mostly as a LIFFE floor trader. LIFFE closed the last of its open outcry pits in 2000, but floor trading jobs started to disappear from the late 1990s onwards – taking the careers of people like Whitelock with them.
“It didn’t really come as that much of a shock to me,” says Whitelock. “I could see it coming. I’d effectively come to the end of my time in the City. The people change and the bosses change and the new bosses want new people and that was it – at the end of the day you have to expect it in that kind of job.”
Whitelock spent a summer exploring his options: he looked at teaching, but didn’t have a degree. He opted for outdoor pursuits and sailing because it was something he was interested in already: “I used to sail as a way of relieving stress when I was in the City.”
Beach volleyball organizer
Thirty miles away in central London, Neil Crammond, another former LIFFE trader, is organizing a game of charity beach volleyball in Covent Garden for his current employer, the Futex Investment and Trading Academy.
Plenty of former LIFFE traders did the same as Whitelock and made their hobbies into careers, says Crammond, naming people who’ve become dairy farmers, koi carp salesmen and wine dealers. Others reinvented themselves by adapting to the new electronic trading technology and carrying as on screen traders, using their own money. He says this was less difficult than it sounds: “LIFFE had introduced screen trading back in 1988, so we were already familiar with the technology. When the LIFFE floor closed, 60-70 of us went off to an office on Cannon Street and continued trading independently from there.” Hardened independent traders were fine, says Whitelock. Traders who’d been working for big brokerages weren’t – they struggled without the security of a salary.
At Futex, Crammond helps train young people to become traders. He still trades his own money, both at home and in the office.
What happened to the CMBS specialists?
While the closure of the LIFFE floor is one of the most iconic moments in banking job extinctions, there have been plenty of other, quieter, deaths over the years.
Simon Maughan, head of the sector strategy group at Olivetree Securities, points to prop traders’ more recent demise. “They’ve really disappeared from banks and very few have been absorbed into the buyside and hedge funds. Those roles just don’t exist any more.”
Commercial mortgage backed securitization (CMBS) specialists and collateralized debt obligation (CDO) structurers have also taken their places beneath the sod. Ted Tracey, a former CMBS recruiter who is now head of the structured debt and capital markets business at recruitment firm Cobalt, said many former CMBS bankers found jobs restructuring the distressed securities they’d created years before. CDO structurers mostly disappeared from view, but occasionally reappeared in ratings agencies, Tracey says.
Back with his kayaks, Whitelock has one piece of advice for coping with the demise of a career in the City, or in banking internationally. “How well you cope with it coming to an end depends upon whether you thought it was going to last forever,” he says, “I never did.”