Daniel Beunza has spent 13 years living among the increasingly rare New York Stock Exchange floor traders. He has studied their habits, ingratiating himself with them and gaining their trust, venturing out to such exotic and potentially dangerous areas as Long Island, to dine with them in their natural habitat, suburban surfing-themed restaurants. He has learned—to the best of an outsiders’ ability—their strange physical and verbal languages—set down for posterity in a glossary—and the structure of their fragile, tribal communities. And he warns that their extinction will not only extinguish a culture and seriously cut into the margins of goombah dive bars in Lower Manhattan, but will also put us all at risk.
Using the tools of ethnography—going among the group being studied, trying to understand the way they view the world and their customs and beliefs—the 42-year-old Spaniard says he approached his task "as if they are the last members of a tribe or a small village in isolation…."
Mr. Beunza… learned that many of his subjects were sons of traders, who were themselves the sons of traders. Typically from modest backgrounds, they often clustered by religious and cultural backgrounds—Irish Catholic and Italians dominate—and retreated to close-knit enclaves in Staten Island, New Jersey and Long Island….
Mr. Beunza concluded that the informal code of conduct and almost familial bonds make floor trading more effective….
The episode that crystallized his thinking was the 2010 "Flash Crash," when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged nearly 1,000 points in a few minutes before quickly recovering….
While other exchanges canceled more than 20,000 trades that day, NYSE's main market didn't cancel any. Mr. Beunza attributes that to floor traders slowing down trading and restoring rationality to prices.