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Viewpoint: Community in a time of need

29 April 2020

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Greetings from my home office/laundry room on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. The laundry is clean and put away! And thanks for all who posted photos of your home offices.   

Last week FIA again took the extraordinary step of canceling upcoming conferences to protect the health and safety of our attendees due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The growing list of canceled FIA events, which began with our Boca flagship conference in March, now includes FIA’s IDX conference in London, Law and Compliance conference in Washington D.C., and the U.S. Commodities Forum in Houston.  

I call this announcement ‘extraordinary’ because it is unprecedented, but truthfully these cancellations come as no surprise to anyone. The fact that these decisions were anticipated does not lessen the feelings of sadness and loss.  

Each of us are experiencing loss and sacrifice in our daily lives due to the breadth of this crisis. First and foremost, our hearts go out to those who grieve for loved ones who have died from the Coronavirus. Theirs is the deepest.  

Loss is also felt by our healthcare workers and first responders, who not only have to muster the courage to treat infected patients but do so at the expense of losing contact with their families to avoid contagion. This is an incredible sacrifice.  

Even us fortunate ones that are not on the frontlines are experiencing losses through missed life milestones—whether its remote birthdays, postponed weddings, or missed graduations. We just learned that our graduating middle school daughter will not return for her final year of school—the only one she has ever known.  My wife and I are devastated that she will not have these final days and traditions with her friends. Every one of us has one of these stories. 

We all know these decisions are the right ones, but with each cancellation, including FIA’s announcement last week, it serves as a cold reminder that normal life may not be around the corner anytime soon.  

But what keeps me hopeful and getting up every day (and still putting on a tie) are the people that I am privileged to be surrounded by in my life, including the amazing individuals of this industry.  

Community is what gets us through difficult stretches in our lives and careers. Community is not just a grouping of people. It involves a deeper and richer connection that involves trust, support, and endearment. And when people are connected and care for each other, they can do amazing things together. 

This crisis, as challenging as it is, has reinvigorated my belief in the FIA community and the markets we represent. While we cannot gather in-person right now, I have witnessed countless examples of the FIA community coming together to help colleagues during the crisis. 

The exchange and clearing community should be commended. As market issues have presented themselves, I have always been able to get a willing executive from an exchange, clearinghouse or clearing member on the phone to help address a concern. And vice versa. One exchange executive called me over the weekend alarmed by the growing calls for short selling bans and FIA was able to quickly put out a statement condemning the practice as ineffective and harmful.  

The regulatory community also should be recognized for its tremendous efforts to keep the markets open and orderly. We have had the privilege of having CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert, BaFin Deputy President Elisabeth Roegele, and ESMA Executive Director Venera Ross, among others, brief our leadership on their priorities and how we can work together during the crisis.  

It’s times like these that test the character of an industry. But from what I can see from my laundry room chair, our community has pulled together, rolled up its sleeves and gone to work. Just like we did with 9/11, the 2008 Financial Crisis, MF Global, and Superstorm Sandy.  

This character is most on display with the charitable acts of our industry. Many of our companies have donated generous amounts to charities helping with or impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.  One trading firm in Chicago is donating N95 masks to the Greater Chicago Food Depository so they can continue to deliver food to the needy. These are fierce competitors by day but generous benefactors in times of need. 

FIA is also doing its part to raise funds and awareness for charities whose funding has run dry. The cancellation of IDX also means the loss of FIA’s Gala for Futures for Kids. This event has raised nearly £2 million for children’s charities around the globe. Sadly, the kilt challenge, which asks one prominent member of our industry to wear a kilt for donations, has also gone by the wayside. 

Or maybe not… 

Last week, Futures for Kids announced the Virtual FFK Fun Run for Charity.  I am challenging this incredible FIA community to sign up and join us for a virtual run in your own community—all while adhering to proper social distancing. Submit your time and distance and we plan to recognize the winners, including the fastest times and most money raised by region/city.   

FFK plans to distribute the funds raised to children’s charities globally. Thanks to the many sponsors who are helping make this possible.  We also encourage you to post a picture of yourself using @FuturesForKids and #FFKvirtualrun2020.   

I plan to take up @TradingJeremy’s challenge and run in a kilt.  I will contribute an extra £50 for any additional runner who competes in a kilt and posts the picture tagged with #virtualkiltchallenge.  This year’s kilt wearer—Pat Kenny—as well as past kilt wearers, and you know who you are, need to step up and participate. It is part of the Kilt Wearers’ Code!  

I’m really proud to be a part of this community, which always comes together when it’s most needed.  And this feels like a time when we really need it. 

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