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Why can’t we all play nicely?

Antipathy towards banks is unwarranted

Talking to retail FX traders one thing always comes across to me. There is a general antagonism towards banks. This could be jealousy, it could be an inferiority complex, it could even be a feeling that the market is skewed towards banks and their ability to almost print money.

It never ceases to amaze me how few traders have been inside a bank’s dealing room. Admittedly we don’t all live with a stone’s throw of the City of London, Paris Frankfurt or even Sydney but even a ten-minute visit would be a real eye-opener and time well spent.

We all know the statistics about retail FX traders; 90% of them take 90 days to burn through their initial deposit. True? I’m not sure. One thing is sure; it’s not just the lucky ones who survive and prosper.

Ex-traders who were, if you like, the pioneers of retail trading, don’t have a much better track record despite their experience. So, is the market skewed in favour of the banks? Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s skewed but by providing liquidity and pricing, having the clout to take on large positions and simply seeing the flow or orders, banks certainly have an advantage.

But that doesn’t mean retail traders are doomed to failure! Also, they don’t need to act like banks to make money but it certainly would benefit them to understand how a bank’s trader operates.

The first verse in the bank trader’s bible is about discipline. If you are wrong, you are wrong. Don’t fight it, get out

Next, don’t try to generate interest. When I was a young PIGlet coming from a back-office role in the bank, it was ingrained that I should at least look busy even if I wasn’t, otherwise I could be deemed surplus to requirements. My first interbank trading role was Scandinavian currencies in a major U.S. trading bank.

We were there for every player in the market in whatever size of trade they wanted. It was scary stuff but if there was nothing going on, there was nothing going on. I could read a copy of The Sun, even page three in those days, without worrying that come the end of the year I would be out! Only one thing mattered and it wasn’t your friendly nature and willingness to help out that is typical of a non-trader’s appraisal. Make your budget or Bye Bye.

A lot is made of pressure. What is scarier? Trading your own money or living with the fear that having built a decent lifestyle one bad year and you could be out. If that coincided with a downturn you may never work again.

Management of expectation is critical. Don’t expect to make your fortune trading from your basement in isolation. When they say on gambling adverts on TV, don’t risk more than you can afford to lose, that’s aimed at the guy in the pub with a five team acca expecting to make his beer money for the week for the cost of a single pint.

It is impossible to generalize and say who is risking more the employed trader or the retail guy. Bank traders are one of the only breeds in senior positions in banks who can lose their jobs without doing anything wrong. Being paid to speculate is real pressure, especially in an industry that is traditionally conservative.

Read the book Dinosaur by Haydon Murray. He takes the reader on a journey through the whole 1990’s trading excesses ultimately falling foul of an unseen enemy; progress.

Interbank traders don’t paw over charts they use their instincts. Trading is, in my opinion, an instinctive challenge and not everyone, no matter their mathematical prowess, can handle it.

We can all understand charts, signals, Algo’s even robots but at the end of the day a price goes up or down or stays the same. It’s a basic primal game that demands strong nerves and sharp reflexes.

Any retail trader who say’s “I don’t get involved in chatter” and trades longer term will have been shaken out of his nice short cable position which all the charts, signals and algo’s say is definitely correct, by some American pharma business paying billions for a U.K. firm. They need to buy xxx billion pounds and up goes cable. It takes real nerve (and deep pockets) to stay with your position at that point convinced you are right. But then you are maybe just fighting reality.

Want to see how the big boys do it? Sit in with a dealer when the employment report has just come out. He is short Usd/Jpy and the non-farm is +300k against an expectation of +100k. The speed with which these guys can turn a position or add to the existing one at better levels is truly phenomenal.So, is there room in the sandbox for everyone? Of course, there is, just don’t cuss the bully or you may end up with a black eye!

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