Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has one, his predecessor Wen Jiabao has one, while the hundreds of staff at all 500 Hong Kong stock brokers have one.
But the iconic red jackets worn by floor traders at the Hong Kong stock exchange will become museum pieces when the trading hall closes in October.
“It is the end of an era as electronic trading is replacing the old method of trading,” said Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, a lawmaker who also runs his own brokerage firm, Christfund Securities.
Cheung and about 100 brokers got together last week in their uniforms for a “farewell to the red jackets” party.
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, the operator of the exchange, has decided to shut the floor from October because it is barely used, Floor trading began in 1891 while the current hall has been in operation since 1986.
“HKEX plans to redevelop and rejuvenate the existing trading and exhibition hall when its current lease expires at the end of October,” an HKEX spokeswoman said. The venue would become a showcase to promote the city’s financial market and its history.
In its heyday, the hall hosted over 1,400 traders in 900 two-person booths. Brokers had to pay HK$7,000 a month for a booth, but the jackets, which were compulsory wear for anyone entering the hall, were supplied free by the exchange.
Important guests, including political leaders such as Wen or Li, were given a red jacket as a gift.
However, with all trading now handled electronically and many brokers conducting their business in their offices, the hall is virtually silent, with only about 30 traders remaining on an average day.
“Although we can trade at the office nowadays, I still like to go to the trading hall every day to talk to other traders. I will miss the trading hall when it closes,” said Tammy Shu Yee-nar, chief executive of Wader Securities, who is among the few still wearing the jacket every day.
“The uniform is designed in such a way with the brokers’ number on the front and back which made it easy for all other traders to identify who they were trading with,” Shu said.
The red jackets – only available on one size – have been worn since the merger of Hong Kong’s four stock exchanges in 1986. Previously, the exchanges had different colours – green, orange or red – or no uniform at all.
Veteran broker Chan Po Sum, former vice-chairman of stock exchange, also wore the red jacket to trade in the past, but now she also trades from her office.
“I still want to see the exchange keep the trading hall. The hall is an icon of the local stock market. Without the hall, where can we host ceremonies for political leaders and other guests?” she said.