Confessions of an Over-Caffeinated Trader

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Former derivatives trader Rhoden Monrose

For three years, Rhoden Monrose, a former derivatives trader, rose every morning at 4:30 and relied on five-hour energy shots to get him through his workday.

“I would just have six packs in my drawer. And I’d just use it as needed throughout the day,” Monrose said. He typically slept no more than five-and-a-half hours each night, and worked 100 hours a week, including Saturdays.

Despite ample scientific evidence about the importance of rest, doing without sleep seems to be a requirement of the job for many who work on Wall Street. The consequences aren't always easy to observe. But last November, a Bank of America intern in London died of a seizure, after having reportedly pulled several all-nighters. Afterwards, many big banks urged their employees to observe a day of rest on the weekends. 

But Alexandra Michel, a former investment banker who now teaches at the University of Pennsylania, said she thinks changing the culture of Wall Street will be difficult. She said bankers face huge workloads. And the prevailing attitude at many banks discourages sleep: “The body is merely an instrument that the mind can wield in whatever way it chooses,” she said.

Michel's research shows that around year four, investment bankers start to experience more acute problems than mere tiredness: Insomnia, chronic pain, and endocrine disorders.

Rhoden Monrose left the trading floor last year. His job was thrilling, but he felt the lifestyle was unhealthy. Now he's hoping to be part of the culture of change in the financial industry. He’s running a startup, CariCorps, aimed at teaching meditation and mindful behavior to new recruits on Wall Street.