University of Portsmouth lecturer explains how 'humanity lost' on the trading floors after 9/11

A LECTURER at the University of Portsmouth has opened up about his ‘frenzied’ memories of the 9/11 terror attack.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 4:55 am
Dr Alexis Stenfors

Dr Alexis Stenfors is a reader in economics and finance at the university, having worked there since January 2014.

He was a trader in foreign exchange and interest rate derivatives – and on September 11, 2001, he was working on the trading floor at Leadenhall Street, London, as the towers fell.

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As the 20-year anniversary of the attack is marked, he has written about his experiences and the panic of traders trying to stay ahead of the curve.

Writing for The Conversation, he said: ‘The US market had just opened when, one by one, my colleagues began to stand and stare at the TV screens above the foreign-exchange trading desk. Something had hit the World Trade Center. It looked like a small private plane making a terrible flight error.

‘Soon after, it became clear that a commercial airliner had hit the first tower, and another aircraft had just hit the other one. I called home, and around me I could hear my colleagues talking to their family members, telling them to switch on the TV.

‘At the time, nobody had any idea who or what was under attack, let alone who or what the attacker was.

‘But I remember feeling an acute sense of threat, wondering about essential things that would be required if the financial system collapsed. Cash and water, I remember thinking.’

The New York Stock Exchange did not open on 9/11, but trading continued regardless.

Dr Stenfors said: ‘Trading became like a game of musical chairs where traders were either afraid and desperate to eliminate risk, blood-hungry to take advantage of an extraordinary situation or a combination thereof.

‘The frenzied trading went on unabated until a senior manager stood up and announced that it had to stop.

‘I was relieved as our job had become uncomfortably inappropriate considering the events that were unfolding.’

The trader, who has also worked for different banks on trading floors in Stockholm, Frankfurt and Tokyo, added that others cast their emotions aside to keep on working.

‘It was a day when it became possible to bet on or against human lives, and financial markets instinctively embraced terror,’ he said.

‘It offered a glimpse into the kind of society we could have if traders were encouraged to ignore their moral compass in the search for profits.

‘On the trading floor, it was a day when rationality was at war with humanity, and humanity lost.’

See his piece on theconversation.com

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