Jason Sen’s 35 year career so far:
12 years on the LIFFE trading floor (from 1987).
3 years options market making when trading went digital.
5 years derivatives broking (investment bank clients).
15 years providing technical analysis & signals to investment banks and retail traders.
10 years trading Forex, gold & index futures (personal account).
20 years of teaching traders.
He has posted his trade ideas on leading financial websites such as Investing.com & FXStreet.com for over 10 years and has been interviewed on many YouTube trading channels.
I began my trading career on the London Traded Options Market (LTOM) in April of 1987 at the age of 19.
This was situated on the London Stock Exchange floor, which in 1986 had been emptied of stock brokers as they were known then, due to the deregulation of financial markets dubbed ‘Big Bang’. Stock trading had gone electronic so the only open outcry market on that floor was for traded options.
I had been offered a job as a ‘Blue Button’ clerk at a big stock broker, Sheppards and Chase as they were known then. I was not allowed to trade but was allowed to answer the phones and take orders.
However the market was growing at such a rapid pace that I was quickly trained as a ‘dealer’ and passed my trading exam. I was given a brightly coloured trading jacket to distinguish my company and then sent in to the ‘pits’ to execute small orders. This was probably the most nerve wracking experience of my life, up until that stage at least.
Entering a pit to be confronted by very loud, confident and intimidating market makers shouting prices at me, frightened me so much that I would visibly shake. I could hardly speak, let alone make a mental note of who made what price. I would often turn around and walk out without trading.
No doubt this amused the market makers no end, whose job it was to intimidate you in to trading with them so that they could turn a quick profit. Eventually I grew in confidence, enough to do my job properly at least. Just at that time the 1987 October crash happened.
The stock market fell about 50% in less than a week.
It was incredibly exciting and we were so busy that we could not fill every order by the close.
We would have a huge back log but I loved the buzz. Then business began to grind down in to the end of the year as the repercussions of the crash hit us. Redundancy hit and I lost my job just before Christmas. I had enjoyed my taste of open out-cry markets and knew I wanted to continue in the City and build a career but how was I supposed to do this when there were massive redundancies and no one was hiring, least of all someone with barely any experience such as I? Somehow I got lucky and the successful boss of a privately owned Dutch market making company hired me.
The company was called Market Makers Group Amsterdam. I was to be trained to make prices in options, trade my own book and take on risk on behalf of the company. Options were still a very new product at this stage so I knew this was a big opportunity for me. I studied hard and was very determined but I did not find it easy to make money.
The market started to boom again though and I was the offered another job after a couple of years. However my company were keen to keep me and the result was that I was sent to the London Financial Futures Exchange to trade options there. I knew this was an even bigger opportunity as this is where the real action happened.
I thought LIFFE traders were the true masters of the universe.
I would see them walking around the City in their jackets and they were even louder and more confident. Walking on to the LIFFE floor for the first time made the LTOM floor look like a library.
The buzz just hit you smack in the face. The colour was blinding and the noise was deafening. It was like I had been plugged in to the wall. It was the most exciting place I could imagine but it was incredibly intimidating.
The LTOM was pretty sedate compared to LIFFE where traders were really aggressive, fighting to be heard and seen as they battled for a share of every trade. As well as screaming as loud as possible, they used lightening quick hand signals in the pit to communicate and trade. My first step was to learn the hand signals and I thought I was never going to get it.
Eventually I did and was sent in to the pits to train, first as a broker and then as a market maker to take on risk on my own account. This was the second most nerve wracking experience of my life.
It was an intense physical and mental battle every day.
You lived on your wits all day and the trader who could do the maths the quickest did the most trades. You could not sit down until you left the pit after the market closed but for me it was the most exciting job I could imagine and if you got it right the rewards were huge. For me I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and the exchange just took off, volumes grew and opportunities to make money were enormous.
I was soon offered a job at another market making firm owned by a very successful American trader, one of the first to establish his business in London. He hired the big shots.
I was not one of the big shots, but I knew this was a chance I could not refuse.
Roger Carlsson would give you enough finance to take on the market if you really needed it and if he thought you were good enough. Once or twice in the years to follow I would put this to the test!
The week the pound sterling left the Exchange Rate Mechanism was one of those times I will never forget. These were the most exciting years of my career.
Eventually the floor closed and derivatives trading went electronic.
After a short break I was moved to Gibraltar to trade options ‘on screen’ in 2000. Markets were still very volatile and I traded through a crash and 9/11.