Monday, November 10, 2008

A Few Thoughts About Traders and Trading

I spent the day in Chicago meeting with traders; here are just a few thoughts from those meetings:

* Risk Management - If you lose 10% of your trading account, you need to make 11.1% on the remaining capital to get back to even. If you lose 20% of your account, you need to make 25% on the remaining capital to return to breakeven. At a 30% loss, you have to make 37.5% to become whole; at 40% loss, you have to make 67% to return to even. Once you've lost half your trading capital, you need to double the remainder to replenish your account. Much of trading success is limiting losses and avoiding those fat tails of risk.

* What is a Trader? - If you ask a trader what is a good market, he will tell you that it's a market that has good volatility; a good market is one that moves. If you ask an investor what is a good market, he will tell you that it's a rising market. Lots of people try to succeed as traders with the mindset of investors. It doesn't work.

* Refutation - The story goes that Samuel Johnson, upon hearing Bishop Berkeley's theory that objects existed in mind only, kicked a rock in front of him, announcing, "Thus I refute Berkeley!" The incident came to mind when I met with a trader today who trades very actively every day, has made money on more than 80% of days this year, and has made several million dollars this year. His performance was clearly documented by his firm and the firm's risk manager. Thus he refutes efficient market theory.

* Success - When I see traders like the one above (quite a few at his firm are up more than a million dollars this year), it's an inspiring reminder that success *is* possible to those who work diligently at trading as a career. The support of a superior firm doesn't hurt, either.