Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Four Pillars of Trading Process

We commonly hear that traders should develop and stick to "a process".  But what is a trading process?  I would argue that, across trading styles and time horizons, there are four components essential to any complete trading process:

1)  Preparing - What you do to identify and exploit opportunity in markets, including observation, research, idea testing, trade structuring, portfolio construction, and trade planning.

2)  Performing - What you do to initiate and manage positions in the market, including sizing, risk management, entry and exit execution, and adjusting to the ongoing stream of news, data releases, and market movements.

3)  Reviewing - What you do to examine individual trades and overall trading to learn from successes and mistakes and to reexamine ideas about markets.

4)  Revamping - What you do to translate your reviews into concrete goals and actions that make you more prepared and aid your future performance.  

Together, these process elements embody a kind of deliberate practice that yields ever-expanding expertise.

As the Buffett quote above implies, when a trader develops intrinsic gratification from processes of discovery and mastery, it is much easier to weather the ups and downs of short-term performance.

The most common shortcoming I see among traders is not that they let their emotions run away from them and lose their discipline.  Rather, they truncate the third and fourth elements above and spend almost all their time preparing and performing.  As a result, they rarely conduct the thorough reviews that lead to ongoing learning--and they even more rarely translate any cursory reviews into systematic efforts at self-improvement.  

Preparing and performing require immersion in markets.  Reviewing and revamping require a step away from markets to reflect upon preparation and performance.  Joined together, the process elements yield a sense of growth, development, and ongoing adaptation to changing markets.

When success is measured in terms of mastery, one can profit handsomely even during periods of trading loss.  That is an important trading edge.

Further Reading:  The Essence of Trading Process