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The Fabric of a 30-Year Career

July 20, 2020

“It was a highly engaging career and I loved every minute of it.”

On June 30, 2020, Walter Brown executed his last trade, retiring after nearly 30 years of dedicated service to the Group.

Vice President, Hedging Operations for LDC’s Cotton Platform, Walter started his career in the Group at Allenberg Cotton Co., joining on October 1, 1990 as an Options Trader.  

“In the early stages of my career, Joe Nicosia was heading up the cotton platform at Allenberg and was known throughout the industry as one of the foremost experts in futures trading for agricultural commodities. After the Commodities Futures Trading Commission reinstated commodity options trading in 1985, Joe recruited me to join Allenberg’s options trading team, which was originally very small – just four of us with the freedom to trade 25 different commodities – whichever looked best at the time,” said Walter. “It was a pure trading job. Every morning a printout came out with a profit and loss statement from the day before,” explained Brown.

In 1998, Walter moved to the hedge desk where he managed cotton futures while overseeing the Group’s proprietary positions and spreads. By 2008 the Group’s footprint in cotton had grown manifold and became global.

“When I first started in the Group, all our trading was focused on American-grown cotton, but by 2008 we had expanded around the globe to India, Brazil, Africa, China – the business just exploded,” said Walter. “And it’s still growing today – we added Mexico to our global origin portfolio only last year.”

Reflecting on how the industry changed over his 30-year career, Walter points to the huge shift that was the move from pit trading to electronic trading.

“From the start of my career in 1981 until around 2008, all cotton was pit-traded. You would spend all day on the phone giving trading orders to brokers on the floor. Everyone stood in the pit yelling ‘buy this’ and ‘sell that’. That was how business was done,” he remembers. “Then in 2007 the Intercontinental Exchange acquired the New York Cotton Exchange and transitioned the market to an electronic trading environment. My job went from interacting with people all day, to spending all day working behind a computer screen. There was no more identifying who was buying or who was selling. Electronic trading took the emotion out of the business, but while I was uncertain about the change at first, it did level the playing field.”

And while trading methods may have changed over the years, Walter’s rigor and meticulous approach remained the same.

“Over his distinguished career, Walter proved himself as a diligent and astute trader, a great manager and a major contributor to the growth and success of LDC’s cotton business,” said Joe Nicosia, Head of the Cotton Platform. “Those who had the pleasure of working closely with Walter will describe him as an outstanding professional, well respected by all in the industry, and someone who genuinely cares about the Cotton Platform, enjoying others’ successes more than his own. Customers, suppliers and employees alike were always eager to hear his opinions on the market – when Walter talked, people listened.”

Asked what advice he would give to new traders, Walter doesn’t hesitate: “I have always tried to share what I’ve learned over the years with those who are just starting out. Not just specifics on cotton, but the value of patience, and the importance of listening more and talking less. But my biggest piece of advice is this: You cannot be an expert on everything. Figure out what interests you the most. Carve out your niche and work at it to become the very best you can be in that area. Close enough is great if you are mowing the grass, but it’s not good enough if you want to be a leader in your industry,” he said.

Looking fondly back over his time and legacy at LDC, Walter says he is most proud of the growth of the Cotton Platform.

“I feel lucky to have been part of a team that expanded this business into a worldwide operation. It was an amazing run of profitability – the result of intense but incredibly rewarding work by a great team that is on call for business 24/7 around the world, to deliver for customers.”

Walter continued, “It was a highly engaging career and I loved every minute of it. I told myself decades ago that I did not ever want to look back and question whether I took full advantage of the opportunities presented to me. For so many years I have given it my all, and I am proud of what I have accomplished. Now it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation of leaders, and I am confident that LDC is the right place for them to experience the same chances for an exciting and successful career that I had.”

When asked what he plans to do with all his newly found free time, Walter said, “I am looking forward to catching up on the other things in life that were a rare occurrence in a busy career – especially dinner and a movie with my wife on any night of the week!”

From everyone at LDC – enjoy the break Walter, you have earned it!


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