What is a Trading Floor?

There was a time when the Indian stock market didn’t have any technologically backed electronic systems to sell and purchase securities. Without any technological means, the only way to trade was to be physically present in the stock market and use verbal communication to place orders. However, today, when the stock market has shifted to electronic platforms, the process of physical trading is less known. Traders and brokers previously used the physical trading system known as the Open Outcry System. When followed, they have to be present at a place called the Trading Floor.

What is an Open Outcry System?

An open outcry system is a method of stock market trading where the traders and brokers are present physically at the stock market exchange to execute the buying and selling of securities. The open outcry system does not utilise the now-famous electronic trading systems to identify and execute trading transactions.

The system requires traders to communicate verbally by shouting or using hand signals to ensure they place an order in real-time for the security they want to purchase or sell. The open outcry system was the main method of trading before the Indian stock exchanges shifted to electronic mediums and online trading platforms were introduced. Although the open outcry system is not widely used today, the Trading Floor is still used by some traders.

What is Trading Floor?

A trading floor is the area of the stock exchange where the actual buying and selling of securities takes place under the open outcry system. The securities that are on the trading floor can be equities, commodities, bonds, derivatives etc. The trading floor is a literal physical area where traders and brokers are accommodated to execute trading orders on behalf of their clients or a financial firm.

The trading floor of a stock exchange is often referred to as the ‘Pit’ as the area is designed in a circular shape that the traders step into to execute trading orders. In India, the use of trading floors became obsolete after the Securities and Exchange Board of India shifted to electronic mediums. However, trading floors are still present in the facilities of two of the biggest stock exchanges; the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

Structure of Trading Floor

The trading floor is a circular area designed to accommodate a large number of traders and brokers physically who are there to execute trading orders as fast as possible. The circular area of the trading floor is known as the Pit. It is mandatory on a trading floor to conduct all the trading orders inside the pit. Either the traders can step in the centre of the pit to face outwards or stand on the steps to face inwards.

All the trading floors have numerous booths that are assigned to various brokers or brokerage firms they represent. These booths are equipped with electronic devices such as telephones or computers, allowing traders to receive orders from the firm or clients. The orders are communicated to the brokers in the pit by a messenger, which the brokers then execute. The trading floor has multiple devices that display trading information such as share price, volume, executed orders etc., for effective decision making.

How is trading done on a trading floor?

All the traders follow the open outcry system to execute trading on a trading floor. The steps followed by traders and brokers to trade on a trading floor are as follows:

  • Bidding and Offering: The open outcry system is fairly volatile. It follows verbal communication where the traders and brokers verbally shout offers and bids. They also use hand signals to specify their intentions about the execution of the orders. The trading activity on the trading floor is the highest at the opening or the closing of the market, and the bids are affected by the key release of information, whether positive or negative. The messenger, also called a runner, takes the clients' or firms' orders to the traders inside the pit, who then shouts or waves the order to the broker for execution.
  • Creation of Informal Contract: An Informal contract is made when there is a verbal acceptance of a bid between the trader and the broker. If the trader shouts a particular price for a security and the broker accepts the price, an informal contract is made between the two. Once an informal contract is made, the two parties must honour the contract and turn it into a legal contract.
  • Recording the Deal: Once there is an informal contract between the trader and the broker, the deal is recorded. Since the trader and the broker stand 20 to 30 feet apart and the orders are continuous, they record the transaction separately from each other.
  • Confirmation: After the trader and the broker execute the trade, both parties must acknowledge the deal and make it legal before the start of trading the next day. If the deal is successful and there are no misunderstandings, the deal is acknowledged. However, if there is a conflict, outtrade is declared. Once an out trade is declared, the parties must sit, discuss, and try to resolve the issue before opening the market the next day.

Types of Traders on a trading floor

Numerous types of traders execute trades on a trading floor:

  • Floor Broker: A floor broker is responsible for carrying out trades and executing orders on behalf of firms or clients. The orders are given to the floor broker by the firm or the client. They do not have the authority to make decisions on their own or give advice to the firm or the client. But. they can be a salaried employee of a brokerage firm or an independent professional who works on a commission.
  • Scalper: A scalper works as an independent trader who tries to make a profit from the temporary imbalances in the normal order flow. They utilise the imbalances by purchasing and selling securities using their own trading accounts. Scalpers are known to provide depth and liquidity to the market as they allow other traders to complete their orders in the required time and at a price similar to the last traded price.
  • Position Trader: Unlike scalpers who take a small position, position takers execute orders that are larger in volume and hold the positions for a longer time. It results in lower turnover and comes with higher risk. Thus, position traders ensure that they have a higher profit margin to match the higher risk profile. Position traders prefer the trading floor as it results in cost-saving without the need to pay a brokerage fee to other floor traders.
  • Spreader: They make a profit by taking offsetting and opposing positions in two or more commodities simultaneously. Spreaders create interlinkages across different but related markets, resulting in reading pressures that drive the price of security in the related market. Furthermore, spreading also ensures increased liquidity between active and inactive markets.
  • Hedger: Hedgers represent commercial firms on the trading floor. These traders make a profit by taking a position in a specific market that contradicts the position in a related or different market. The main aim of hedgers is to reduce the risk as much as possible.
  • Specialists: A specialist is not a trader but a floor broker or a dealer’s broker. Specialists help floor brokers and dealers who operate from a specific trading location and allow them to execute orders for securities traded from a remote location.

Final Word

Today, trading floors are rarely used by traders and brokers, but once were the best way to trade and execute orders. In the quest to gain financial knowledge, it is important to know how trading can occur. The same is the case with the open outcry system and trading floors.

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Frequently Asked Questions Expand All

Traders on the trading floor use verbal communication to attract the attention of the brokers standing inside the pit to place an order at a specific price. These orders are communicated to the traders by their clients or the firms they represent.

An individual can not start a trading floor but can become a trader or a broker to represent the firm or the clients to execute their orders on the trading floor.

Although a majority of trading has shifted to electronic systems, there are still a few traders and brokers who trade using a trading floor.za