Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Virtual Trading Groups: Getting to the Next Level

One of the most common concerns I hear from traders is difficulty "getting to the next level". Many have a sense that they've made progress, but can't quite take that next step toward consistent, significant profitability.

A tremendous advantage of trading within a firm is that you have multiple potential role models for getting to that next level. Within trading firms, you have colleagues who can discuss ideas with you, help keep you positive and motivated during dry spells, and inspire you to greater accomplishment.

Within a firm, also, you get regular feedback on your performance, assistance with risk management, and recognition for accomplishment.

All of these things are lacking for most independent traders.

I do not trade for a firm, but my work as a trading coach/psychologist brings me in contact with many traders and trading institutions. I cannot tell you how much I've learned simply by being around experienced, skilled traders. In such environments, you cannot help but absorb some of their knowledge and wisdom.

Does one need to actually join a trading organization, however, to benefit from group interactions with other traders? The popularity of chat rooms and Web 2.0 trading communities suggests that independent traders are using the online medium to create "groupness" and some of the advantages of affiliation with other traders.

But why not carry that forward yet another step and create actual virtual trading groups? Certainly the technology is readily available (instant messaging, Twitter, online conferencing) to facilitate interactions between and among traders in real time. If a truly committed band of traders decided to openly share ideas and trades, learning from mutual successes and setbacks, the gains in performance for the whole could be far greater than anything that might be achieved in isolation.

Such virtual trading groups would not require investments of capital or added risk. The only demand would be complete and total openness with trades, trade ideas, and trading results--and a willingness to both learn and facilitate the learning of teammates.

To be sure, such groups would require the right kinds of participants: ones sufficiently experienced to offer value to others, ones sufficiently committed to putting time and effort into learning, and--perhaps most of all--ones sufficiently secure to maintain an open kimono and share all the successes, failures, lessons, and letdowns.

A while ago, I conducted real-time postings of market observations, including my own trade ideas and trades. I then hit upon the idea of offering readers the opportunity to take turns leading these sessions via the blog, so that we could all benefit from multiple role models, myself included. Between 2000 and 3000 unique visitors access TraderFeed daily. How many responses do you think I got to lead even just one trading session by posting real time comments?


Given that result, it's perhaps not so surprising that we don't see more virtual trading groups.

The most painful part of my training as a clinical psychologist was having to play tapes of my sessions for my supervisors. Every mistake, every missed opportunity was laid bare; there was no escape. In group supervision, getting a student to volunteer their tapes was torture. After initial hesitance, I pushed myself to volunteer; the worse the session, the more I forced myself to put it out there for learning.

That's what it took for me to get to the next level as a psychologist.

And that, I suspect, is why so few traders make it to that next level.


Performance and Profitability