They Are Day Traders. Hear them Roar.

Wall Street has never lacked the energy, time or inclination for chest-beating and strutting. Until now, however, much of that behavior has been the garden-variety kind you might find among the lavishly compensated traders at Wall Street firms like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and others.

A guy in a Hanes t-shirt lolling in a wheelie chair usually doesn't cut it.

But a new commercial asks us to consider the amateur brethren of the professional traders. They may, it seems, have equal claim to grandstand and swagger importantly, and talk about the trade that got away.

They are independent traders; you may know them as "day traders." They are the people who trade at home, work outside the system, and actually intend to make a living out of reading the markets as well as the pros. They comb the financial news, struggling to get information that would just fall on their desks at an investment bank. These independent traders don't live the same lifestyle as the Wall Streeters. They are in a state of constant combat with the markets, peering in to get a shadowed glimpse of the information that swirls freely around Wall Street. They don't have research analysts downstairs to give them information, and they don't get to see the other trades running through the market. But increasingly, these independent traders do trade sophisticated securities - not just stocks or bonds, but commodities, currencies, and options. Charles Schwab and other online stock brokers openly want them to lure them - and the fees they pay to trade frequently. These traders - because they trade a lot, and because they are largely addicted to communication - are highly sought-after customers.

These day traders don't have a lot of opportunity to brag publicly. They just want to look good compared to their peers. If you're on Twitter, you can follow battalions of them talking smack, crowing about wins and sounding stoic about losses on networks like StockTwits.

But these traders, it seems, have been thinking small. They have apparently been sacrificing the chance for world domination and a smug sense of superiority that may well be their birthright as people interested in finance. What if independent traders, the determined individualists of finance, actually got organized?

This vision of utopian - and Darwinian - capitalism - is the one that fuels a commercial for opentrader.com, which is currently under wraps but looks like a social network for traders. Its aim seems to be to turn the homebound into the heroic. The effect is something like a Nike commercial for men who move money - except instead of "Just Do It," or sinewy athletes making Spandex look glam, the commercial features a regular guy squinting meaningfully at a multi-monitor computer setup that looks like it was borrowed from the NASA space shuttle program. He could be trading stocks - or communicating with FARC guerillas or planning a nuclear strike.

No matter!

Because this monitor-jockey is not the mild-mannered, barely groomed man, biddable he seems at first. He is, the commercial makes clear, superior to you, the proletariat. You just don't know it yet - and neither does he, judging from the heavy-handed pep talk the company thinks this fellow requires. A few of the bon mots from the commercial:

We are the masters of risk, the essence of entrepreneurial spirit ....We trade the currency you circulate when you shop...we trade the companies you work for each day... we trade the gold in the watch on your wrist....while you wilt at the sight of failure and loss, we relish adversity....adapting to the ever-changing jungle landscape that is the markets.

The truest part of the commercial is buried in the middle, and it describes the true fate of the independent trader much of the time:

We are not afraid to take losses....to talk about our losses...to rebound from our losses....those are our defining moments.

Losses are indeed the defining moment for a lot of people who work outside the Wall Street system. Even the professionals think the game is rigged, which makes it brave for these fellows - and ladies - to take it on. Given the risks they take, who can begrudge them a little chutzpah? Their business requires it.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...