Learning From Traders That Made It (Part 3)

03/19/2008 12:00 am EST


Timothy Morge

President, MarketGeometry.com

Mark's response was firm and immediate: if I'd give him a chance, he was ready to start right away. He didn't care about the money, he knew the work would be hard and the hours long. He just wanted a chance to get started on his new career. Then he asked if I would give him the chance, a chance to learn to be a successful trader.

I reached over, picked up my phone and called Human Resources. I told them I was coming upstairs with a new hire and then took Mark to see them. He started two weeks later. Most people think athletes are dumb. Most people think athletes get through college because they are offered easier classes and given special tutoring. I don't know how most colleges treat their student athletes because when I went to college at the University of Chicago, we didn't have organized sports and so there were no athletes there on scholarships. But I can tell you this about Mark: he was a hard worker. He gave up one dream and started working on another and on day one of his new job, he was there when I walked in the door at 5 a.m. and he was ready to learn.

I'd be lying to you if I wrote that it was easy for Mark to learn how to be a successful trader. Like any skill, some people take to it easily and others have to work harder to find their own way, their own style. Mark had to work hard to find a style that worked for him, but he did one thing that really helped him succeed: he asked lots of questions. And if he asked a question and he still didn't understand after you explained something to him, he'd just keep asking until he finally did understand it.

The day-to-day trading intern grunt work didn't always come easy to Mark either. He was generally the last of the interns to finish balancing the trading accounts he was responsible for. There were many evenings his first year as my assistant that I left while he was still checking out trades and balancing accounts and then waited for him to call me to tell me that he had finished and was finally heading home. But he never cut corners-if it took an extra two hours to get the accounts balanced, he stayed the extra two hours, if it took three hours, he spent three hours. He did what he had to do so we were prepared to trade the next day from day one. He learned on day one that attention to detail was very important to me-and since he was my assistant, it became very important to him.

At some point in a trading intern's career, they have learned enough and shown enough promise to get a small amount of capital to trade on their own during the day-or the bank has learned enough about them to tell them they just aren't going to make it as a trader. I remember calling Mark into my office just about 18 months after I had hired him. I could tell he was nervous: he was hoping I was going to tell him he had earned his own trading limit but he was worried that I was going to tell him he was not going to make it as a trader. When I told him he had worked hard and earned a small limit in the Scandinavian currencies, he let out a big sigh and then a grin lit up his face. I reminded him that even though he now had a trading limit and was expected to make money for the bank trading, he was still my assistant and he'd still be checking my trades and balancing my accounts. 'No problem, Tim,' was all he said. Then he thanked me for the chance to learn and went back out to the trading desk to start checking out the day's trades.

More tomorrow in part 4 Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 4  |  Part 5  |  Part 6

Timothy Morge


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