LONDON – For 142 years, traders at the London Metal Exchange have relied on copper and aluminum – with the freedom to drop pints at the clock. Until now.
For most people, drinking at work is something you only see in the "Mad Men" TV show, which takes place in the 1960s. For the LME, this period ended this week when the exchange banned the consumption of alcohol before doing business.
"An environment in which trade is not under any influence from alcohol is likely to become an environment where as many people as possible are comfortable," said LME CEO Matt Chamberlain.
The liquor ban by the LME comes as the stock market and several of its members, including banks and trading companies, have tried to challenge the image of the metal industry in the midst of growing criticism. on a work environment fueled by alcohol and dominated by men.
Last October, during the industry 's annual LME Week, when traders from around the world traveled to London for a series of week – long social and professional events, several British legislators condemned Gerald Metals, one of the oldest trading houses in London, for having organized a Playboy Club event. Gerald Metals did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
At LME's official black tie dinner that same week, Blythe Masters, former director of JPMorgan Chase & Co., used her speech to inspire the metal industry to reform.
"By inspecting only this room, gender diversity in our industries is unacceptable," Ms. Masters said. "I imagine that a number of you have growing girls entering or going into the job market. I hope you will understand the importance of creating better opportunities for them. Ms. Masters could not be contacted to comment on the ban on drinking.
The LME Trader's Handbook has long banned "careless behavior, overzealous behavior and drunken behavior". Merchants could be fined up to $ 5,000 for such offenses.
But nowhere in the rules and regulations of the hall – where traders set world metal prices by shouting orders on a circle of red canapes – was drinking alcohol at work specifically prohibited.
In the vicinity of the LME, some Friday night drinkers expressed their surprise that it had not been until 2019 to ban alcohol at work.
FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA / epa / shutterstock
"You do not want people to fix metal prices when they're upset," said 36-year-old Alex Williamson, pint in hand, in a pop-up bar located in Finsbury Square, right across from the exchange . "These things are dynamic and the numbers are moving, you want them to be on the ball," said Williamson, who works for the National Basketball Association in the UK.
Some traders lamented the change, but said that they understood. "It's the 21st century, what are you waiting for?" Said a trader leaving the LME building on Friday.
Simon Dawson / Reuters
The LME is home to the latest auction trading space in Europe, in a world where trading for most financial assets has become electronic. Shopkeepers – almost all men – scour a padded leather seating enclosure and exchange incomprehensible signals for the casual observer.
Traditional course through the institution. Traders should have the button of their shirt at the top and at least a part of their leg in contact with the red couch of the ring during the exchanges. The reasonable missteps include chewing gum and reading newspapers in the sales area.
Other parts of the culture surrounding the exchange are less fanciful.
During last year's LME week, two London strip clubs released Twitter offers for LME traders. A club published a picture of a woman in lingerie and the slogan: "Mention LME Week at the door for free admission and a drink!"
The new rules on alcohol consumption are part of an effort to promote "a respectful environment in which everyone feels welcome and where no one feels excluded or intimidated," said M Chamberlain, the boss of LME.
"I've had a glass of wine with my lunch in the past, but our staff are watching things at LME," he said, referring to drinking by the ring. "It's such an important part of what we do and a public demonstration of what we do that we ask people to wait until they have left work."
Bobby Yip / Reuters
The new rule was reported earlier by Bloomberg.
Other financial institutions in London have been striving to erase alcoholism and alcohol consumption behaviors. In April, insurance syndicate Lloyd's of London prevented One Under Lime, its underground pub, from serving alcohol during office hours. It now works like a coffee during these hours. This initiative allowed the 300-year-old institution to comply with its own behavioral guidelines, introduced two years ago, banning alcohol consumption during labor.
London's financial sector has long been synonymous with high water consumption and liquid lunches. In a report published in 2017 by the Institute for Alcohol Studies on alcohol in the workplace, financial services were among the sectors with the highest proportion of young workers drinking excessively.
For some alcohol awareness groups, the LME approach does not go far enough.
"This is a good sign that the London Metal Exchange and other organizations are taking action to make alcohol play a less central role in the workplace," said Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK. "But daytime bans are not enough culture of consumption in the workplace.
As the wave of sobriety at work spreads across the city of London, not everyone likes change.
"The puritanical rules will not make the LME more profitable," said Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit party and Britain's leading advocate for the exit of the European Union. Often photographed with a pint in hand, Mr. Farage cuts his teeth as a commodity merchant at the LME in the 1980s.
As the clocks of the city of London sounded at 17 o'clock. and trading closed on Friday, a steady stream of valuable men flocked to the 14th century Leadenhall covered market pubs and now serves as a food court in the heart of the financial district.
Some veterans of the trade drank to forget the new rules. "It's a small minority that ruined it for the majority," said a 30-year-old resident of LME, who refused to give his name.
Many traders said their employers had banned them from talking to the press about the new drinking ban.
"I'm empty," said a young trader with an ironic smile, dancing between moving cars to avoid questions.
The banning of alcohol in the exchange networks is not the only sign of changing times at the LME. In recent years, the Exchange has put in place plans or new products to satisfy a growing interest in new popular technologies, such as e-commerce, as a complement to traditional methods.
When asked if he knew traders who drank heavily during the day while betting on copper or aluminum without fully utilizing their faculties, one trader replied, "No. They are all dead. "