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Stockbrokers more reckless than psychopaths: study

Traders react as they work on the floor of the London Metal Exchange in London on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011.

Simon Dawson/Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Amidst market jitters, a new Swiss study that compares stockbrokers to psychopaths doesn't offer much comfort.

According to the German news site Spiegel Online , the study by researchers from University of St. Gallen found that stockbrokers behave more recklessly and are more manipulative than psychopaths.

"Naturally one can't characterize the traders as deranged," co-author Thomas Noll said. "But, for example, they behaved more egotistically and were more willing to take risks than a group of psychopaths who took the same test."

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Kweku Adoboli, a 31-year-old trader at UBS AG, was arrested in London on Sept. 15 over suspicions of losing $2-billion (U.S.) through unauthorized trades. If the results of the small Swiss study are indication, the financial world could be a breeding ground for rogue trading cases.

The researchers measured the responses of 28 professional traders while they participated in computer simulations and intelligence tests, and then compared the results with those of psychopaths, Spiegel report. They were shocked to find that the traders weren't just aiming to earn the highest profit, "it was most important to get more than their opponents. And they spent a lot of energy trying to damage their opponents," Mr. Noll said.

Perhaps providing support for the study's findings, trader Alessio Rastani told the BBC in an interview today that he would welcome a financial crash.

"For most traders … we don't really care about how they're going to fix the economy, how they're going to fix the whole situation – our job is to make money from it," he said. "Personally, I've been dreaming of this moment for three years. … I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession."

He added: "When the market crashes... if you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this."

What do you think? Are stockbrokers any more reckless and manipulative than the rest of us?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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