Buying and selling stocks or bonds used to happen on the phone, in person, or in the packed trading pits in Chicago, New York and London. Prestigious investment banks boasted of trading desks the size of football-fields. Now, they’re losing money on trading operations and laying off scores of traders. The number of trading, sales and research jobs at the Top 12 banks in the United States have dropped precipitously in the last nine years.
In 2010, those big banks employed about 21,000 people who worked in equities — or stocks — and 27,800 people who worked with fixed income, or bonds, according to research firm Coalition. By the third quarter of 2019, those banks employed about 16,000 people in each category, a drop of about 5,400 jobs in equities and nearly 11,600 in bonds. The shift to electronic trading and passive investing are big culprits behind the trend. Now more and more big Wall Street names are finding it harder and harder to make money from trading. The rise of passive investing and algorithmic trading are squeezing profits in the trading business to razor thin margins. So what’s happening to Wall Street’s once prestigious trading profession?