Why I Will Never Be A Great Trader, I’m Afraid
June 3, 2010 5 Comments
I like to think of myself as kinda like the DiCaprio character from Catch Me If You Can, only, without the charm. But really I’m more like The Pretender, only, more inept. The Pretender, you probably don’t remember, was a short-lived post-X-Files pre-Alias ’90s TV show in which an ex-child genius who escaped from an evil top-secret government-military-industrial project, knowing very little about the real world, roams around the country ‘pretending’ – slipping easily (due to his genius) in and out of lives and jobs trying to solve problems-of-the-week. And then there was Miss Parker, the sexy cigarette-smoking lady in the miniskirt who was always trying to track him down for some reason, but let’s not get sidetracked.
You see, ‘pretending’ is something I have to do too each time I switch careers (which I seem to do more than most). In this week’s exciting episode, somehow I’ve become a ‘trader’, and I’m not sure how/why. (I assume it’s to solve a mystery or right a wrong of some sort; I should check the newspapers like Pretender-guy always did.) But as a result of all this practice trying and failing at other careers too, I feel as though I’ve developed a healthy sense of my limitations. I’m never going to be a great trader. Here are some reasons.
Trading, at least the type I’m in, is done mostly in chat rooms. To a first approximation what traders do all day resembles nothing more than spoiled teenagers sitting in their room chatting with their friends. (In fact, I reckon that by now, just a few years ago most of these guys were spoiled teenagers sitting in their room chatting with their friends.) And then going behind their backs to chat with other friends in other chat rooms. And so on. This basically goes on all day, at least for a ‘flow’ trader. Now, I don’t like chatting (I barely like friends). All that nonstop interaction leaves me no time/energy to actually think.
You see, (this, my?) trading is social and it is about networking. One problem with all the phone calls and chats is that people become just names on a computer screen if you don’t actually know them. Hence going out and meeting clients becomes a big and, sad to say, crucial part of the role. You have to do it to build up your franchise. People who are good at trading appear good in part simply due to knowing a lot of people – they know a large number of people to turn to try to source or sell risk, and they know/trust that those people on the other end will be good/reliable counterparties. This is done through personal relationships. Without the leg-work to develop and maintain those relationships, you’re left pretty much just spamming and hoping for random hits.
So traders end up being a sort of club unto themselves. Everyone knows everyone, everyone gossips about everyone, everyone has worked with someone somewhere or knew someone who worked with them. The club is maintained at least in part by everyone going out to dinner and drinks and whatnot with each other. To me, there is nothing more awkward and strange in the world. It’s like having a date with other dudes. You either have to enjoy this, or successfully pretend to enjoy it. I do neither.
So inevitably I end up including myself out of the club. I guess I’m not a good Pretender in this episode; I’d be caught by Miss Parker in a heartbeat.
Why was she trying to catch him, anyway? And why didn’t he just let her? Good show.