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Jan 27

This Is Who I Am

“When I was young I used to think that money was the most important thing in life, now that I’m old I know it is.”

I remember when I was about 15 or 16 reading and smiling at that quote from Oscar Wilde. I wrote it down and stuck it on my wall. I was an impressionable young man. It was the mid-80’s in Thatcher’s Britain, there was an economic resurgence unfolding, it felt like there was money all around but not in my own household. We lived modestly and despite caution from elders that ‘money isn’t everything’ and ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ I was struck by the simple notion that people who had money were generally happier than those who did not. Taking my logic one step further I later naively surmised that the two ways available to me to earn as much money in as short a time as possible were to learn to trade the stock market, or become a rock star. I set about doing both.

I left college with a diploma in business studies and started working in the back office at Schroders (one of the UK’s largest asset managers) just three weeks shy of my 18th birthday. It was the summer of 1987. It didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t where I needed to be. I did all the things necessary to secure a job within the fund management arm, teaching myself to use spreadsheets, taking a class at night to learn Economics.

After three years in the back office I landed a job as a portfolio manager’s assistant, later moving into the trading room giving out orders to hungry institutional brokers. My God, they must have been salivating at the prospect of courting a 22-year old in order to win more business. So many stories. Looking back it’s absurd to think of the responsibility afforded me at such a young age, all the Japanese and Asian trading for one of the country’s largest managers. By this time I was also a singer/songwriter for an originals indie rock band. Life was good.

At 25, I setup and ran a trading desk for Kemper, transferring all the trading for their international funds from Chicago to London. I finally left the buy-side in 1999 and went to work for Lehman Bros., first as a sales trader selling European equities to hedge funds and institutions, then as a proprietary trader trading futures and equities. I was let go in 2004, and moved my family to the US the following year. I’ve been here ever since. After briefly trading for myself, and an even briefer stint as a model (future blog post), I started work for a local broker focusing on idea generation for hedge funds via their alpha capture platforms, and developing a technical analysis research product with unrivaled transparency, something I intend to further explore through this blog.

At just 43, I’ve been working in markets for over 25 years, I’ve seen the end of the biggest bull market in history, numerous booms and busts across all asset classes, savage bear markets come and go, and countless players, clients and individuals triumph and fail. I’ve been in the game long enough to find so much truth in Jesse Livermore’s observation that “Wall Street never changes, the pockets change, the suckers change, the stocks change, but Wall Street never changes, because human nature never changes.”

The market has been my constant companion. I love that it will always be there. I’ve come to learn that you can never master it, never truly understand it, nor should you try. I’ve learned that the most successful people in this business are those that have a systematic approach regardless of investment style, with a defined philosophy and set of rules which they execute with complete discipline. By first knowing themselves, they then discover how to make money in markets. They develop a system, a process that suits them, their personality and their trading style.

In due course I will expand on much of what I’ve covered here, these periods in my life and my observations. These are the building blocks of what defines my beliefs and approach to markets. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I know and understand I am the sum of all my experience accumulated in something over 5,000 trading days, and I hope sharing that knowledge may somehow benefit others in their own trading journey.

 

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