The end of Hong Kong's historic trading floor

The end of Hong Kong's historic trading floor
In its heyday in the 1980s, more than a thousand brokers dressed in signature red blazers made deals on the trading floor of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, in what was a raucous, competitive bear pit. But as electronic and internet services burgeoned, brokers drifted away to corporate offices.

With just a handful of traders remaining, the historic hall will close at the end of the month. The cavernous red-carpeted space with its circular rows of cubicles and giant digital screens showing stock movements stands largely empty as its last occupants pack up their belongings.

“Advances in electronic trading and technology have made our work much more convenient, but now it lacks the communal atmosphere that has given me many memories,” said Christopher Cheung, a lawmaker representing the financial services sector who used to trade on the exchange floor.

Under British rule, Hong Kong transformed into a commercial and financial hub, becoming a gateway between China and the rest of the world as the mainland opened up its economy from the late 1970s.

1986, the city’s four separate stock exchanges merged into one and the trading floor opened.

Part of the Hong Kong Exchange (HKEX) building in the bustling Central district, it hummed with energy as brokers exchanged gossip, gesticulated wildly and yelled into telephones.

Market information spread quickly and clients would call in for the latest news, Cheung remembers. But despite apparent chaos, Cheung says there was a “culture of trust”. On slower days, traders played cards and snacked on peanuts.

Cheung’s company Christfund Securities still has one employee working on the floor in case his office’s computers crash, he said.

The Shu sisters, who run Wader Securities, share Cheung’s nostalgia.

“When there was a rally on, it was a sheer joy to work,” Shu Yee-har, one of the three siblings, said. “It was much better than staying in the office.”

An early form of electronic trading was introduced in 1993, triggering a major shift away from face-to-face deals.

Three years later brokers were able to trade away from the hall as terminals were installed in their own offices.
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