In Brief

City traders call for shorter working hours

UK and European exchanges urged to cut trading hours to 9 to 4 in bid to improve work-life balance

Traders across Europe could be set to work shorter hours as part of a bid to improve work-life balance, boost liquidity and attract more women and working parents.

The London Stock Exchange is to consider cutting 90 minutes of the trading day after City lobby groups sent a letter to nine exchanges, including Germany’s Deutsche Boerse and the Amsterdam-headquartered Euronext, urging them to adopt the proposal.

The Financial Times says London markets are open longer than those in Europe, the US and Asia, “in part because they can span more time zones in a single day”.

At present, LSE is active from 8am until 4.30pm, bridging the trading hours in Hong Kong and New York. In Asia, by contrast, the trading day is usually six hours, and in the US it is six and a half hours.

“But being a bridge has a human cost” says Quartz.

The Investment Association, which represents City firms and the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME), said that the City’s trading day was one of the longest in the world but did not deliver “material benefits to savers, investors or firms”.

“This long hours culture impacts on traders’ mental health and wellbeing. It has also been identified as a key obstacle in recruiting and retaining more diverse talent, in particular for those with family or caring commitments” the IA and AFME said.

Stock market trading “has traditionally been seen as male-dominated, lagging behind other areas of financial services in terms of attracting women into roles” says the BBC.

Figures from the Financial Conduct Authority last year show that only 13% of staff permitted to take part in regulated activities at trading firms were women.

“Many sectors like tech and banking have begun to admit, in recent years, that the structure of work is one of the reasons women and people from less privileged economic backgrounds aren’t well-represented. Long hours make it difficult for parents, carers, or anyone with other responsibilities than work to get ahead” says Quartz.

City lobby groups also said the lengthy hours were putting a strain on workers’ mental health. “The physical drag on individual staff is also significant. Staff are habitually doing a 10-hour working session at their desk in an industry where lunch breaks are often still frowned upon. This is not conducive to good mental and physical health.”

Shortening the hours would also “concentrate liquidity leading to more consistent trading costs and provide more time for traders and the market to digest corporate announcements” reports Yahoo Finance.

Yet there could be strong resistance to change in a sector where long hours are worn as a badge of honour and where traders and investors in Europe “are already under pressure as automation removes jobs and more investment banks review their entire equities business in a bid to save costs” reports the FT.

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