Expert Series: Can trading desk design affect productivity of the trader?

by Bruce Wells, Director of Marketing & Development

imageFor decades, trading desk manufacturers have attempted to leapfrog each other’s product value by building what I have always called “the better mousetrap.” Predominantly, this has involved a never-ending development cycle to improve the performance of IT and cable management as technology changes from year to year and client to client, which ultimately results in faster, more efficient moves, adds and changes. This design evolution, however, has mostly effected the efficiency of the IT and facilities support teams that keep the trading floor functioning.  

One noticeable design evolution, for which I believe trading desk manufacturers deserve significant credit, is the development of multi-screen monitor arm products. These now ubiquitous products directly improve user productivity. However, my experience tells me that monitor arm selection for the trading room continues to lie in the hands of IT as they are the ones tasked with installing, relocating and servicing the product, not the traders.

So, can we say that trading desk design development over the past two decades has had a direct impact on the productivity of the traders themselves? No doubt, some in our field will take offense to this question. Designers and engineers of leading trading desk manufacturers take great pride in their work, seeing their efforts as sophisticated, unique and forward-thinking. These meticulous efforts are all undertaken in the name of delivering ROI and garnering respect amongst IT leaders and facility management in the financial marketplace. 

Over the past 18 years I have been involved in the development of four highly successful trading desk product lines that have been deployed worldwide by many of the most prestigious financial institutions. But when a marketplace design consultant recently asked me, “Can you help me understand how trading desk design directly impacts trader productivity?” I had to acknowledge the reality that this has not been the focus of trading desk manufacturers because our “client” is largely facilities and IT, not the end user. Most trading desks, irrespective of manufacturer and internal design, are essentially the same in: height (including adjustable height), depth, legroom, width, etc. – all predetermined by industry norms or client standards.  Additionally, notwithstanding noticeable variances in workmanship and design quality, all trading desks are fundamentally made of the same materials. With such limitations, what can be done in trading desk design to boost trader productivity without sacrificing the impact on those who service the trading desks and the technology within them?

In the coming weeks I will be posting some personal conclusions from my experiences within the niche world of the trading floor. I will also discuss some of the exciting new furniture designs and workplace strategies being deployed outside of the financial sector by some of the fastest growing companies in the world.  I can tell you from recent experience that these bold moves will inevitably draw attention from Wall Street.