Our subscription to Bloomberg Financial Services entitles us to unlimited training seminars at no additional cost. The sessions are held at Bloomberg’s capacious offices on the 35th floor at 345 California Avenue in the heart of the Financial District. Yesterday, after registering at the receptionist’s desk and affixing a photo ID to my jacket, I lingered over the large assortment of cookies, snacks and drinks outside the training room. Too bad I just had lunch.
Only ten of us had signed up for the foreign exchange class, so the room felt empty with no one sitting at most of the 50 dual-monitor state-of-the-art workstations. The instructor raced through the introduction, the help screens, and the basics on how to pull up historical and current information on any currency. He then moved to intermediate foreign exchange topics, such as forwards, futures, and options. The last 20 minutes were oriented toward currency traders—how to get real-time bid-ask (“are you a market maker or market taker?”) quotes from different firms and place an order—which (a) was not useful to me in my line of work and (b) was too esoteric for me to follow, anyway.
Currency trading is a young person’s game. One has to be able to recognize patterns on a rapidly scrolling screen and know what to do, in a matter of seconds, when the yen yield curve flattens while corporate debt spreads are rising in the U.S. The largest demographic was young, Asian, and female; their soul-sisters can be found in Bay Area multimedia and videogame companies, as well as the accounting firms, except these gals probably make (a lot) more money-an MBA from Chicago or Wharton is the price of entry to their world. There were some old guys like me, corporate treasurers and financial officers, who were just trying to learn enough lingo not to embarrass ourselves in conversation with the new generation of finance geeks.
The Bloomberg system is an admixture of 21st century information married with an interface from the dawn of the computer age. I don’t envy Bloomberg its task---receiving, sorting, and analyzing millions of pieces of financial information every hour---but Bloomberg could use some help in the area of user-friendliness. For example, to get the current price of interest-rate swaps I have to type in commands like IRSB or SWYC, not readily retrievable from long-term memory if I don’t work with the system every day.
I grabbed a bottle of cranberry juice and headed back to the office. Think I'll sign up for the fixed-income securities class next---at least it will have some relevance to my retirement. © 2005 Stephen Yuen