The Always-On Trader

Ray Cahnman left the CBOT floor for the world of globally interlinked electronic markets. Now the work never stops

Blame it on computers. Raymond Cahnman works 12 to 16 hours a day trading U.S. government securities and European bank instruments, along with corn, wheat, gold, and other metals. His main play is in dollars held by European banks, the huge Eurodollar market. He is so into his job he even has a computer array rigged up that swings over him in bed so he can check markets around the world in the middle of the night. It's not unusual for Cahnman to be jolted awake in the wee hours by a computer-generated alert so he can drop a quick e-mail to a colleague in Chicago or Mumbai. "It's like watching a sporting event," says the 62-year-old futures trader. "I love to see the plays develop."

Cahnman's routine seems extreme in today's world. But it may offer a sense of the future for the networked global worker. Cahnman's workweek starts at 5 p.m. on Sunday, when the Eurodollar market opens overseas. On weekdays, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., he joins other traders at the Chicago offices of his company, TransMarket Group. When the U.S. markets are open, he never takes time for lunch and has few bathroom breaks. He gets a little downtime with his wife, Susan, and 17-month-old son, Oliver, over supper, but he's never away from a cell phone.

Cahnman's life changed completely with the rise of globally interlinked electronic markets. Until 2000, when he "went upstairs," as the saying goes, to trade by computer, Cahnman shouted out a livelihood 6 1/2 hours a day in the pits at the Chicago Board of Trade. As computers began to turn the investment world upside down, Cahnman realized old techniques on the floor were doomed. "I would write a card for every trade, so I could trade only as fast as I could write," he says.

Now Cahnman averages 50,000 trades a day, or more than 10 times what he used to handle, and he has been approaching 100,000 on hectic days. Where he once swapped contracts for one product in a single Chicago market, he and his 200 traders do business on both Chicago futures exchanges—which recently merged—as well as the NYSE Euronext (NYX ) and Eurex exchanges, plus bourses as far away as Sydney and Mumbai.

For Cahnman, the time lost traveling between his office screens and his home trading pod is money. To shorten the trip, he uses a specially designed single-gear bike, one built for speed.

By Joseph Weber

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.