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Voice of the Employee

City traders have urged UK and European exchanges to cut trading hours to improve work-life balance. They say the long hours are bad for mental health and are not exactly female-friendly.

“It’s hard to find childcare at five o’clock in the morning,” said April Day, head of equities at the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME).

The idea is for exchanges to open 09:00 to 16:00, instead of 08:00 to 16:30.

The AFME is pushing for the change alongside fellow trader body the Investment Association.

Shorter trading hours would cut pressure on traders and attract a more diverse range of workers, it 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,

The AFME’s Ms Day said her organisation had been lobbying stock exchanges in London, Paris, Germany and the Nordic region.

“A shorter working day would improve flexibility for employees and attract a more diverse range of individuals on to trading floors,” she added.

The London Stock Exchange said it would launch a consultation on the request.

Less efficient

Traders in the UK and elsewhere in Europe normally work for a few hours either side of the current 8.5 trading hours, Ms Day said.

By contrast, US exchanges are open for 6.5 hours and Asian exchanges for 6.

Chris Cumming, chief executive of the Investment Association, says that under the current hours, City traders are beginning work when there is not much action on the market anyway.

“We have been doing a review about how we can make sure that trading on the market is as efficient as possible,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

“What it means is that investors, pension funds, you and I as savers, we are able to eventually trade at the most efficient time when liquidity is at its best.

“It is cheaper to do and that actually means we get high levels of savings and better pensions, so this has got a real world impact.”

Childcare challenge

A knock-on effect of having a smaller intake of women in junior positions means that there are relatively few women in senior management positions in investment and banking trading, Ms Day said.

Juggling work and childcare responsibilities can be a challenge for both men and women, she added.

Long hours in a high-pressure job can also exacerbate any mental health difficulties traders may be suffering, Ms Day added.

Galina Dimitrova, director of capital markets at the Investment Association, concurred: “We have heard many deeply moving stories of traders’ mental health and personal life being impacted by their working hours.

“Whilst it is no silver bullet, we hope this European-wide review could start to lead to a step change in more efficient markets to the benefit of savers and those who operate them.”

The London Stock Exchange said it strongly supported improving diversity and workplace culture in the City.

It said the call from the trader associations was “an important suggestion for a European-wide adjustment to trading hours”.

“We intend to consider the request in a formal consultation with London Stock Exchange’s global members and customers,” it added.