Today we continue our series, "Lessons from Hedge Fund Market Wizards", with a look at Jack Schwager's interview with Scott Ramsey of Denali Asset Management.
Ramsey, a futures trader and CTA who works on the island of St. Croix, spoke to Schwager about his first foray into the markets, his evolution as a trader, and the process he stands by to protect and grow his clients' money.
1). Ramsey started trading in college. He was roped into the OTC metals market via a broker's ad in the Wall St. Journal. The broker charged customers a flat fee to buy and sell as much as they wanted in a particular market for six month. At the time, Scott was a novice and didn't know about futures, so he traded metals in this fashion through the inflationary run-up of the late 1970s.
2). Scott had to rethink his trading strategy after he bought silver at $50 an oz., only to watch it collapse to $26 following a long string of limit-down days. He sold as soon as the market resumed trading, but he lost all the money he had made plus some starting capital.
3). "Losing money was what got me hooked", says Scott. He knew that some 90% of futures traders lost money and he was determined to be in the 10% that profited. This motivated him to succeed. He was so engrossed in trading that he left college 9 credits shy of graduating, despite being an excellent engineering student.
4). Scott learned to trade first w/ his own money, then by advising clients as a broker. He leased a seat on the IMM and tried trading from the floor. Being on the floor turned out to be a big disadvantage compared to screen trading. Scott felt there was a lack of meaningful info in the pits and he lost his feel from watching other markets. He soon left the floor.
5). Ramsey continued to broker and screen trade, watching every market and updating chart books by hand. He made money in his own account almost every year, but not a lot. Why? Ramsey says it was because he focused only on TA, not fundamentals. Also, because he regularly pulled money out of his account. He stayed a 1-2 lot trader instead of pushing it and increasing his size.
6). "The evolution of a trader is when you start letting your money work for you and increasing your size."
7). Scott is one of those traders who has used his time as a broker to his learning advantage. By observing retail clients, he learned what not to do - everything from holding losers and taking small profits to emotional decision making and chasing market activity.
8). In order to make the big money, Scott realized he had to embrace fundamentals. The transition began when he started thinking about prevailing sentiment in the bond market and why prices were where they were. He thought about how people were positioned and the psychology behind prices. He then initiated a trade that was positioned against the prevailing sentiment, which turned out to be a very profitable move. "I began to look at the market from the perspective of other traders."
9). Discussing market action during the Euro crisis, Ramsey notes, "The market's repeated resilience in the face of negative news tells me it wants to go higher. Chaos creates opportunity. We learn so much about the markets when we have crisis events."
10). Rigorous risk control not only keeps losses small, it impacts profit potential. You must be in a position to seize opportunity. The only way to do that is w/ a clear mind. Don't expend mental energy by managing poor trades. Cut those that are not working.
11). When asked what trading advice he offers to friends, Ramsey tells them that it's not about being right - it's about making money. Taking losses is part of the process, so don't dwell on losing trades. Think about your next trade. Trading is a business. Treat it like one, keep records of your trades and journal your experience.
Once again, I highly recommend reading Hedge Fund Market Wizards to get the full detail and feeling of these interviews. Hope you enjoyed this latest post and we'll see you back here, with more to come, soon.
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1. First 3 posts from "Lessons from Hedge Fund Market Wizards" series.
2. Lessons from Hedge Fund Market Wizards: Ray Dalio.
Photo credit: Trend Capture Futures.