Tea and trading rooms vanish as Chinese brokerages move upmarket

Sun Sep 2, 2012 5:15pm EDT
 
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By Pete Sweeney and Samuel Shen

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The Chinese retail investor trading room, a photogenic anachronism frequented by tea-swilling, day-trading retirees who buy and sell stocks between hands of cards, may soon be gone as brokerages cut costs and move upmarket.

China's security houses are shrinking their retail outlet space to save on rent, and converting rooms once dedicated to sociable mom-and-pop investors into spaces reserved for wealthy individuals and hot-shot hedge fund clients.

In the crosshairs are venues such as the Galaxy Securities trading room on Dongfang Road in Shanghai.

On Friday morning the building's escalators were not running and the outer hall was dark, but the trading room itself was loud and bright as a cafeteria. More than a dozen customers were hammering trades into ancient terminals while hollering gossip; others sat on wide benches and gazed placidly at indices and tickers crawling across screens in Christmas-red and green.

Trading rooms like this were once the only place people could trade stocks between naps, snacks and cigarettes and Beijing actually issued regulations that brokerages keep them comfortable. For China's first generation of equity investors, they still are.

"I've been coming here since 2007, every workday from 9:30 to 3," said one 60-year-old Shanghainese woman who spoke to Reuters while standing at a terminal executing trades. She said she prefers the old terminals to web trading platforms, and likes to chat with other investors while she buys and sells stocks in 100-share batches.

"The brokerage planned to close down this trading room to reduce costs, but most of the retail investors opposed it, so at last they decided to keep it open," she added, declining to give her name because of tensions with the brokerage.

LEFT BEHIND   Continued...

 
Investors play cards in front of an electronic board showing stock information filled with green-coloured figures, which indicate falling prices, at a brokerage house in Nanjing, Jiangsu province in this March 28, 2012 file photo. The Chinese retail investor trading room, a photogenic anachronism frequented by tea-swilling, day-trading retirees who buy and sell stocks between hands of cards, may soon be gone as brokerages cut costs and move upmarket. Picture taken March 28, 2012. REUTERS/Leo Lang/Files