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What Does a Desk Trader Do?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A desk trader handles trades on behalf of clients at a brokerage. This job is restricted to handling client accounts, not trades executed by the brokerage itself with its own funds. These employees follow the markets, respond to contacts from clients, and attempt to complete transactions at the most favorable rates possible for their clients. The qualifications needed to enter a job can depend on the brokerage and the market.

Working as a desk trader can involve long hours. Traders may come in before the market opens to research, prepare, look over orders, and identify any issues that may emerge during the day. As the market operates, the trader can buy and sell securities by request from clients. This can include some exercise of judgment while seeking the best deal. The trades also need to be carefully recorded to ensure they are valid and the records kept at the brokerage are current.

Once the market closes, a desk trader may need to file reports, look over information from the day, and review the news to look for events that may impact the market. These financial professionals may also network with other members of the firm to discuss issues with client accounts, market analysis, and related matters. Their primary job involves relaying client orders to market efficiently and being accountable when there is a problem with a trade.

Like other financial professionals, a desk trader has a duty to behave responsibly with client funds. Trades must be executed as ordered, and a trader may ask the client to repeat or affirm an unusual trade to make sure it is recorded correctly. If a trade cannot be filled for any reason, this information must be relayed as soon as possible. Insider knowledge, market manipulation, and other fraudulent tactics cannot be used in an attempt to get a better deal for a client.

Other traders handle tasks involving the brokerage’s own accounts, while the desk trader focuses on client relations. Employers expect their personnel to be familiar with trading and financial markets, and to hold the appropriate licenses to handle trades on behalf of clients. Some employers may sponsor personnel as they take classes and apply for licenses; this offer may be extended to interns or applicants if they appear to have promise and would be good additions to the staff once they are fully licensed and legally able to work on the market.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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