If you’re spending years studying at college to compete with 60 other people for a graduate job in banking or professional services, maybe you’re doing something wrong. In Essex, a county just outside of London, is a collection of nine traders – some in their 20s and 30s, who never went to university, and who made $660m windfall on a single day early in the pandemic.
Their story was told yesterday by Bloomberg. The group of nine included veteran traders like Paul Commins, a former pit trader at London’s International Petroleum Exchange, and his son George in his early 20s. There was also: Chris Roase, another trading veteran; Elliot Pickering, a “skinny, awkward-looking” 25 year-old who lives with his mum and drives a Rolls-Royce convertible; Aristos (‘Ari) Demetriou, a 31 year-old who – according to a possible urban myth – started trading after he encountered another member of the group while he was employed pushing shopping carts in a supermarket car park and inquired how he could afford such a nice car; and Connor Younger, the 22 year-old son of a building contractor mate.
On April 20, Bloomberg says Demetriou, Younger and Pickering pocked “in excess of $100m” each. Commins the elder made around $30m. George Commins made around $8m despite seemingly having very little trading experience. Roase made $90m.
The defining factor of April 20 was the oil price: at 2.08pm it went negative and closed at a ‘final print’ or settlement price of –$37.63 per barrel. The traders in the group of nine were by far the biggest sellers of both WTI futures and spreads in the last half hour of the market. And they ended up being paid twice: both for futures they sold during the day when the price was positive and again for those they bought via Trading at Settlement (TAS) contracts when the price was negative. They also made money on the spread. The resulting profits were huge.
They haven’t gone unnoticed. Bloomberg says the CFTC and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York are looking into the trades. None of the traders in the group of nine have been accused of anything illegal and Bloomberg notes that their strategy is standard practice in the oil market. However, traders in the past have got into trouble for deliberately pushing closing prices down rather than simply benefiting from where the price ends the day.
Many of the group of nine live in Theydon Bois, an affluent Essex Village, where they appear to be neighbors on Piercing Hill – a prestigious road filled with houses worth £2m+. They might not want to spend their windfalls yet, but plenty of people are rooting for them to keep the money. “It’s funny how if it was BP or Goldman Sachs that made the money, no one would bat an eyelid, but when it’s a bunch of working-class lads, people say they’re cheating,” says one trader who knows them.
Sarah Butcher – Read more on efinancialcareers.com