Global Traders Create Ultimate Work From Home ‘Rona Rigs’By
Instagram posts document Wall Street adapting to new reality
Banks still struggling to implement remote-work arrangements
One finance professional’s makeshift work-from-home station is set up in a beachside hut in Mexico, according to the Instagram post.
Another, cloistered in his home, perched a dog in front. “EBITDAWG,” the post reads. “Ready to WFH.”
And in Texas, one worker decided to add some local flavor, displaying whiskey bottles and assault rifles next to the computer screens.
As the coronavirus infects people and markets around the world, Wall Street bankers and traders are sharing their remote working arrangements on social media -- and sprinkling in some humor along the way as they adapt to a new social-distancing reality. The contraptions, perhaps a coping strategy as they grapple with brutally chaotic markets, even have a name: Rona Rigs.
They include everything from imposing four-screen systems with enormous office chairs to a sad-looking laptop perched on a futon.
People like to show off, but there’s also a sense of community as everyone is in the same predicament, said “Lit,” the man behind the “Litquidity” Instagram account, who asked not to be identified because his employer doesn’t know he runs it. He posted dozens of #ronarig photos so far from some of his 244,000 followers, and said he has seen a big increase in traffic as financial workers shift to working from home.
The rigs on display show employees around the world settling in for what’s likely to be a long stretch of isolated toil in their apartments, patios and chalets.
Most of Wall Street is being told to work from home entirely or in staggered shifts, and that can be a big adjustment for those used to long hours at the office. Traders in particular are accustomed to working on several screens that provide continuous real-time access to market data and multiple systems. Moving from six screens to a laptop can be a turbulent transition, even with good Wi-Fi.
The camaraderie of sharing a physical space with colleagues is also sorely missed.
“There are natural interactions with others on the trading desk, and across the floor, that you use to get market color,” said Shane Swanson, a senior analyst in equity market structure and technology at Greenwich Associates. “Technology can help with replacing that, but that natural organic interaction is lacking.”
Swanson dismissed the idea that the challenges of working remotely are contributing to market volatility. The market has done a remarkable job of handling unprecedented volume, he said.
“All of the disaster recovery testing that has been done over years and years -- this is why we were doing it,” he said. “The system has been maintaining extraordinarily well.”
Whether that can continue is a concern.
“I am not sure if all firms, in particular smaller ones, have ever contemplated remote work access for months on end,” Swanson said.
Some banks have struggled to implement effective work-from-home policies for traders, particularly because of compliance matters. That means some are still reporting to the office while non-trading colleagues stay home. There are even concerns about how information can be kept confidential from roommates.
In some cases, traders have been told to work at alternative locations that banks keep on standby for disaster recovery to reduce crowding and the risk of multiple infections among staff.
Morgan Stanley has offered some investment-banking employees $500 to cover equipment purchases, according to social media posts, which may soon result in more creative Rona Rigs on Instagram.