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European traders demand shorter working day to improve culture and diversity

Employees walk past FTSE AIM share price information displayed on an illuminated rotating cube at the atrium of the London Stock Exchange Group offices in London, U.K.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

European traders have called for the London Stock Exchange and other European trading floors to shorten market hours to 9am until 4pm, in order to "improve culture, diversity and wellbeing."

The professional bodies representing traders, the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME) and the Investment Association (IA), have asked European exchanges to shorten trading hours by 90 minutes.

Europe's current operating hours of 8am to 4:30pm are among the longest in the world, at 8.5 hours. U.S. markets are open for 6.5 hours and Asia just six hours, by comparison.

Traders are also expected to start their day "long before markets open and close."

Both the AFME and the IA argued a culture of long hours impacted traders' mental health and wellbeing.

In an industry known for its male-dominated culture and lack of inclusivity toward women, both bodies recognized long hours had become a "key obstacle in recruiting and retaining more diverse talent, in particular for those with a family or caring commitments."

They hoped the proposed changes would improve traders' work-life balance and would help create more "diverse and inclusive trading floors."

April Day, head of equities at AFME, said trading remained one of the areas within financial services where staff faced "significant mental issues," with excessively long hours a major factor in "generating and perpetuating this problem."

She warned European trading risked lagging behind its global peers in terms of diversity and inclusion unless long hours were "tackled by an industry-wide approach."

Galina Dimitrova, director of capital markets at the IA, said she had heard "many deeply moving stories of traders' mental health and personal life being impacted by their working hours."

While she acknowledged shortening trading hours was "no silver bullet" to these issues, Dimitrova said enabling a better work-life balance "lead to a step change" in the industry.

Sam Smith, CEO of brokerage finnCap Group, said it was an "encouraging" proposal.

"As a financier, business leader, and a mother, I very much welcome developments which seek to modernize the City's culture and make workplaces more flexible," she said.

However, Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at spread better CMC Markets, said the changes might impact domestic stockbrokers, in terms of having "the same amount of admin work squashed into a shorter working day."

A spokesperson for the London Stock Exchange said it would consider the proposal "in a formal consultation."

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'More efficient markets'

Cutting down trading hours would also help create "more efficient markets," argued the AFME and the IA, explaining that currently the first hour of trading often attracted little liquidity and so is actually a more costly time to trade.

Meanwhile, the final hour of trading attracts 35% of total daily volume.

The bodies said shortening hours would therefore "concentrate liquidity leading to more consistent trading costs and provide greater time for traders and the market to digest corporate announcements."

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