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A dealing desk or trading desk is a desk in a financial institution where real time trading of securities takes place. Dealing desks can be found on the floors of security exchanges, at the offices of broker/dealers, and in other locations where people expect to have access to real time trading. A licensed representative is available to take orders from customers, who many come in or phone their orders to the dealing desk, depending on the setting and the situation. People working in such positions must comply with the laws governing activities of securities representatives.
The dealing desk is a literal desk, with room for a computerized trading system, phone, and other tools a representative may need access to. The trading system and phone allow people to place orders and execute trades instantly, communicating with other traders, as well as trading systems. Making deals quickly is often critical for taking advantage of the best price or a sudden shift in the market, and clients expect to be able to execute trades instantly.
Typically, a dealing desk is focused on a specific type of security like stocks or bonds. The representative has experience and training in handling securities of that nature and can execute the most effective and appropriate deals on behalf of clients. People who need to trade in multiple types of securities can phone in orders to other dealing desks or request referrals from financial advisers and representatives. Customers of a firm like a brokerage usually have access to a range of representatives to meet their needs, as brokers want to keep their customers loyal to them so they can make more on commission.
The person behind the dealing desk is authorized to make trades on behalf of people who are represented by the representative's firm, and representatives can also make their own trades. There may be certain restrictions on trading, depending on the security, and people cannot execute illegal trades. If a representative believes a trade may be illegal in nature, it can be refused and reported to regulators in the interests of keeping the trading floor fair for all participants.
Working at a dealing desk requires a number of skills. People have to be able to act fast, analyze situations quickly, and work well with others. Customer service is an important skill for people interacting directly with clients, as is the ability to network with other representatives and traders to get a trade executed properly. The hours can be long and the work environment is often very stressful.