It is a bittersweet day at the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Trading on the physical floor trading closes after 31 years.
In its period of maximum splendour, during the years 1980 and 1990, the floor is the home of over a thousand operators.
But the rise of electronic and internet trading has changed the industry irrevocably.
This is something Christopher Cheung, who started in the industry in 1971, has lived in first person.
“I have a deep affinity for this place. Every day, coming to work, we’re all sitting side-by-side and talked for the whole day,” the legislator and the founder of Christfund Securities, said to me the last day he put on his distinctive red dealer’s vest.
“But, I know that things are changing. And financial technology is changing. So, even though I’m not entirely willing to leave and let this place go, we need to adjust and get with the times”.The deep history
In Hong Kong, the first stock exchange was established in 1891, when this city was still a British colony. In the old days, they told me, the bargaining was dominated by British expatriates.
That’s why Hong Kong, Chinese merchants formed their own associations, starting in 1960.What is behind the rise of Asia, the stock markets?
Four different trade united states in 1986, moving to the present building in the central business district. Since then, Mr. Cheung had previously worked for 15 years.
“At that time, there were more than a thousand people working here,” he recalls.
“The printers are printing all the time. We were so busy sometimes, that we have not been able to enter all the information, so people would shout that what they were going to buy”.
The hustle and bustle of the floor, not to mention the luck that have been made and lost, came to define Hong Kong as a free-wheeling, capitalist financial.
But by the year 2000, the “shouting” style of trading was completely abolished.
Around the same time, many brokers started to move trading operations to their offices, instead of keeping people on the floor of the exchange.
In that year, the trading plan represent more than 20% of the total turnover.
In recent years, the trading floor has contributed only a negligible amount with only a few traders turn up each day.
Francis Lun, who now owns his own brokerage, he started working in the securities industry 20 years ago.
He too was feeling sentimental about the closing.
“It is sad,” he said. “You need to remember with nostalgia the good old days.
“I’m sorry to say that when the automation has begun to affect the real world, in a first moment I thought that the drivers would be the first ones to lose their job, because if you have autonomous driving, you don’t need a driver. But unfortunately it is the floor traders who have lost their jobs.”Curtain closes
The mood is gloomy on the floor of the exchange on Friday.
I saw only a merchant, if the opening bell rang exactly at 9:30.
With tears in his eyes, Mr. Yuen told me that he was very sad.
“This place is like my home. In fact, I have been here more than I was home. So, closing this place is like, for me, losing my house”.
After the closing bell, more than a thousand traders, former traders, financial industry veterans and government officials will gather once again on the floor, to toast each other and remember the good old days.
Officials at the exchange say that the plan will be renovated and transformed into a space for conferences and exhibitions.