Trading Up: New Paradigms in Commerce Environments

Disruptors of trading come full circle in an industry that has long valued face-to-face communication and agility in the workplace.

There are few work environments as deeply disrupted by the Information Revolution as trading floors. These high-stress workplaces are often portrayed as hallmarks of chaos; the “open outcry” culture in which brokers shout and gesticulate orders across the floor are often the first example of trading floors that come to one’s mind. But, in fact, these floors are planned and articulated this way to achieve particular results, and remains true in environments that support trading beyond electronic processing.

Though overhead screens became part of the trading floor in the early 1980s, orders were placed by open outcry and recorded on paper. “There was no more live call trading once computers were used to process orders,” says Principal Architect John Miesner, who has worked on countless trading floors over his 25 years with IA. “Trading desks used to have a really deep profile to accommodate CRTs (cathode ray tube monitors), but that, obviously, has changed dramatically.” About 10 years ago, flat screens and hand held devices all but eliminated the need for these massive docking stations. Now, technology is light and support profiles are slim, freeing up lots of programmable square feet.

The opportunity for serendipitous interactions and chance run-ins to foster collaboration and enhance communication are one of the top requests from clients in all industries, but few appreciate the efficacy of proximity like commerce. “Trading floors are intentionally dense to maintain energy for positive outcomes,” Miesner explains. “Now, we have to design that density because so much physical space has been made available.”