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Brutally Honest Day in the Life of a Sell-Side Trader

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Want to know what it’s really like to be a sell-side trader? The days are long and tiring, and the business is as relationship-driven as ever, perhaps more so. We asked a trader at a boutique firm to chronicle his work day, from waking up to shutting down. It doesn’t sound like he has the healthiest diet in the world.

5:30 a.m.: Wake up. Check Bloomberg Anywhere. Check Twitter. No one reads the Journal anymore.

6:30 a.m.: Get to work. Log in. Check Twitter again. TweetDeck will be scrolling all day next to my watch list. Twitter is just as important as a Bloomberg now, and a hell of a lot cheaper.

6:35 a.m.: Have a bowl of frosted Mini Wheats washed now with a quadruple espresso. Thank god for the new Nespresso machine.

7:15 a.m.: Try to stay awake during morning meeting. Pretend I’m interested in ideas being pitched. My clients don’t care. Their analysts are a lot smarter than mine. They will trade with me because they like me and trust me. The institutional equity may be on life support, but until it croaks it will remain relationship-driven.

8:00 a.m.: Call clients. Rush through our stock ideas so we can discuss what we really want to: fantasy football waiver ideas. A good sleeper is worth at least $100k shares.

9:00 a.m.: Empty the bladder for the last time until 4:00 p.m.

9:20 a.m.: Pray the phone rings or the IM dings.

9:30 a.m.: See 9:20 a.m.

9:35 a.m.: IM reads buy $100k XYZ vwap otd. I enter order into my OMS and it does the rest. I guess client has forgiven that dodgy Zach Sudfield is “sleeper of the year” call.

10:00 a.m.: Start thinking about lunch.

10:30 a.m.: See 10:00 a.m.

11:00 a.m.: I’ve used the last 30 minutes to build a consensus. We will send the intern to Shake Shack. Wasn’t easy. There’s a lot of different appetites around the room.

12:00 p.m.: Where the **** is the intern??

12:30 p.m.: See 12:00 p.m.

1 p.m.: Intern finally returns with a dozen burgers and a few pounds of fries. Small order I know. Not as many bodies around here as there used to be.

1:05 p.m.: Ready to dig into a double Shack burger and the phone rings. Dammit. “Add another $100k to the XYZ.” Easy enough. Couple clicks in the OMS and that’s done.

2:00 p.m.: ZZZzzzzz

2:30 p.m.: Hit nespresso machine for 4 more.

3:00 p.m.: Is it 4 p.m. yet?

4:00 p.m.: IM my client: “bot $200k XYZ for 9.9999.” Pray he’ll give me $0.05 per share.

4:05 p.m.: Still waiting for confirmation from client. Doesn’t he know I’m a sell-side trader? I go to the bar at 4:02 p.m. It’s in my contract.

4:07 p.m.: He responds: “$0.03 thx.”

4:10 p.m.: Miller Time.

–Beecher Tuttle

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Just as Michael Lewis described in Liar's Poker.

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