The FX industry received some very sad news last week as Curtis Moonan, head of execution and clearing services, at Velocity Trade unexpectedly passed away.
Talk to anyone who knew Curtis and probably the first thing that they’ll tell you is that he was a master raconteur who had an uncanny ability to hook you with one of his invariably colorful stories and then have you laughing for hours on end.
In fact, even people who didn’t know him way could probably testify to his storytelling capabilities. One trader in London remembers leaving the office after work on a particularly cold and rainy day and, having decided to pop into the small pub tucked away across the street for a quick drink, found Curtis holding court as every single person inside the pub was hanging on his every word while regaled them with some of the greatest hits.
Known for always being funny and irreverent, Curtis also had a famously expansive style of storytelling.
“When Curtis was about to tell you a story he’d ask if you wanted the ‘long version’ or the ‘Curtis version’, which was actually even longer. There was no short option!” recalls a friend at one platform provider.
His way with words and sense of humor is perhaps one of the reasons why Curtis was so deeply popular with colleagues.
“Curtis was the fun bus, and everybody wanted to jump on board,” says Simon Law, a partner and Director at Velocity Trade. “I can honestly say that everyone who met him would remember him.”
Carving out his own role
But for all the laughter and stories, Curtis took his job very seriously and always remained incredibly passionate about the FX industry, and the role that he occupied within it.
Born in Ireland in 1975 but raised in Trinidad (where his father was from), Curtis moved to Canada (where his mother was from) to continue his studies and in 2005 ended up joining the FX sales team at Man Financial in Toronto, where he was mentored by John Newlands, who at that point was already a seasoned FX veteran.
When Velocity Trade subsequently hired the FX sales team from MF Global Canada in 2010, Curtis didn’t necessarily have the biggest book of clients in the team and yet he soon found himself carving out his own, much broader position within the company, which involved both trading and working on new platforms.
“When he joined us he was more of a corporate FX salesperson, but he morphed from this into his own role – he loved to jump onto special projects and we could throw him into anything and he’d come out smiling. Curtis was never shy of a challenge,” says Law.
Making friends Down Under
By all accounts, Curtis also wasn’t shy of voicing his opinions, even if these sometimes contradicted the opinions of those around (or above) him at the company.
“He was great to work with, but he certainly had his own ideas,” remembers Rolo Ledesma, a former colleague. “Sometimes we conflicted regarding our ideas, but Curtis was a great listener and he was always interested in the opinions of different people or stakeholders in a project, and this always resulted with us ending up in a better position. He was someone with whom you could share ideas, disagree, and then end up at a better place because it.”
Indeed, Ledesma cites Curtis’ influence as a key factor that helped Velocity Trade to develop as a business.
“When Velocity bought in Curtis and the team from Man Financial, it was still really a startup business. But the sales ability and infrastructure that he and the others brought with them helped start to generate real revenues and just took the company to the next level,” he says.
After attracting investment from Macquarie Group in 2012, Velocity Trade began expanding its operations in Australia and New Zealand, with Curtis moving across the world and living in both countries over a five-year period to oversee this work.
“He moved lock, stock and barrel to New Zealand where he would often put in crazy hours, working on projects and reconciliations through the night, and then he moved to Sydney and set up our desk there. He brought his passion for life and socializing to these places too, making many more friends wherever he was,” says Law.
Greg Morgan, partner and director at Velocity Trade, adds: ‘’I worked closely with Curtis in Sydney and Auckland, and we overcame lots of challenges together including restructuring of a company; building a presence in Australia from virtually scratch, regulatory changes, and dealing with a totally different environment than we were both used to. There were times when they only thing that got us through was his sense of humour. We would just look at each other and laugh and laugh and laugh; then get our heads down and push through. It was a great experience for both of us, and in addition to making the business a success, I think it made us better people too.
He continues: “He was a frequent visitor at my home for family dinners and holidays, and always brought a sense of fun, energy, laughter and love. Seldom do you meet truly unique people in your life, much less have the chance to work with them and befriend them. Curtis was one, and will always be one. Above all else, he was a great friend to me and I will miss him forever.’’
Coming in to the cold
In 2017 he returned to Toronto and was, by all accounts, very happy to do so. However, while being reunited with his friends and family there was no doubt one reason for this, more than one person suggests that, rather counter-intuitively, the weather might have also been an important factor.
“Oh, he hated the heat! That’s why he was so happy when he arrived in Canada from Trinidad in the first place,” says Ledesma.
Meanwhile, Law recounts the story of how Curtis bought all-new cricket gear when he moved to Australia, eager to once again be living in a country where the sport is so popular, only to immediately be stuck under a mountain of pads as he was put in at wicket keeper in 40 degree (104 degrees Fahrenheit) heat. It was, according to Law, “a bit of a disaster”.
Law adds: “Curtis was very annoyed with me when I insisted that our massive “portable” air conditioning unit be taken out of our office around Christmas, but to be honest I thought that we ought to be cool enough in Canada of all places not to need it by then. Honestly, he chose his apartment mainly because it had a 12 month air conditioning policy so that he could keep the place nice and cold and he rarely wore a winter coat. I guess you could definitely say that Curtis ran hot!”
A man of many passions
One thing that is abundantly clear talking to people in the FX community who knew Curtis is how much he cared about Velocity Trade as a company, as well as the industry more broadly.
“He was a person who was in love with the FX industry, he lived and breathed it. And just as the industry is global in nature, so was Curtis. He would travel all over – to the Profit & Loss events, to London, to Amsterdam, across to New Zealand and Australia – he was a very global representative for Velocity and everywhere he went he had friends who loved and respected him,” says Ledesma.
But Curtis also had many other passions beyond the FX industry.
For example, friends explain that he was very proud of his heritage and upbringing in Trinidad and would always keep an eye for instances when this small nation would manage to have an impact on the global stage. In particular, he loved reminding everyone of Trinidad’s “0-0 victory” over Sweden in 2006 FIFA World Cup!
Another of Curtis’ big passions was cricket, a sport where the Windies (or “West Indies”, a multi-national team comprised of Caribbean countries and territories) have long been able to compete with the very best teams in the world. Brian Lara, a Trinidadian former cricket player who is widely considered to be one of the greatest batsmen of all time, was one of Curtis’ heroes and he was thrilled at any opportunity he could find to talk to trading partners or liquidity partners about the sport.
Politics was another area of interest for Curtis, with friends indicating that he followed all the latest political developments in both Canada and Trinidad avidly.
“He was quite a political guy,” says Law. “And he liked real world issues, so he enjoyed following politics and seeing the impact that it would have on FX.”
But above all of this, it seems that Curtis loved people.
Everyone who knew Curtis talks about his ability to light up a room because he was unerringly able to find common ground and develop a personal connection with anyone and everyone that he met. In some cases this could lead to a rather dry and technical meeting becoming full of laughter, but equally it could lead to the discovery over Sunday lunch that both Curtis and Law’s youngest daughter both subscribed to the Disney Channel.
And all of these personal connections that he developed all over the world are why there has been such a global outpouring of sadness. The people who he touched in this industry are mourning not the stories that Curtis left behind, but the fact that fact that he won’t be able to tell anymore.
Or, as Law puts it: “The real sadness of this conversation is that the best person to tell Curtis’ story would be him!”