I discovered last week with deep pain that I am really an “old” trader. Yes, old chicken make broth delicious, you will think, and it could be true. But in an environment that is ever changing like the trading on line industry to start to be “old” must be more a warning than a compliment !
It happened last week when I moved with my family in the villa that has been for 15 years the headquarter of my Italian company LombardReport.com. So that I cleaned the offices throwing in the dump all the stuff that time had piled up in shelves and in the archive. It was here that I understood that I am really a kind of survivor over an island in the middle of the Ocean.
I found the diaries that I used in 1994 – 1995 to report all the stock trades: in that time I was a journalist in Rome, I had no personal PC and no software since it was not allowed to own personal software on the corporate laptop. So I was forced to draw charts by hand updating those that the newspaper was publishing every week. Not an easy job and over all a job that looks really primitive.
I found also the Joe Ross course on how to place orders by phone with exercises on a record cassettes. Placing orders by phone (no electronic trading in those times !) was a kind of nightmare for non English speaking traders since the broker was not the kind of Englishman prototype you find on every English language textbook. The guide taught you the difference among the many orders like stop, stop with limit, OCO, Fill or Kill, etc. and over all the guide made the wonderful job to put you on alert against the possible frauds a broker can do against you, how to register the trades you place, the order confirmation liturgies and the ticket number, etc.
When I discovered a shelf still full of recorder cassettes with all the phone orders I placed in 1995-2000 I really started to cry. Before electronic trading it was recommendable to place orders to the broker always registering with a cassette recorder: in case of dispute with the broker you had the proof that the order was place correctly. When you find some hundreds of cassettes it means that you placed some millions of orders: it is not history, it is a life !
Then popped up the diaries of the 2 secretaries I had employed in 1995 – 2000 to follow the systems. Since there was no automation for the systems if you wanted to move from an amateur stage to a professional level you had to hire some monkies to place the orders. Just think that we had systems which did not make more than 2 trades per day but with 1 minute bar charts it meant you had to move your stop orders or limit orders hundred of times per day. And for a secretary it was not possible to trade more than 3 systems per time since the flow of orders was to intense. And every order had to be recorded on cassette and placed in the correct way always introducing yourself and mentioning the account number and asking confirmation. A 20 years old secretary lasted not more than 2 years with that kind of work, then she usually became depressed, nervous and dismissed after a while. Trading in that way was really hard, over all because with dozen of contracts it was very delicate to place orders and a minimal mistake could cause huge losses. I saw secretaries crying for the strong emotions that a big win or loss was causing. Placing orders was not a common and useless work, it was the primary step for success, so that these 2 girls were the primary tool you had to care about with a deep education and a satisfactory economic treatment. I usually sent them on holiday for some days every month at my expense.
I could write a romance with all the books, softwares, magazines, seminars slides, brochures I found all relating to a time that now it seems prehistory. A really engaging flow of emotions came out. But the bad feeling was that I am really an “old” trader. Yes, old chicken make a delicious broth, but to make a good broth you need as a chicken to end up in the pot, and this is the nightmare of all the successful traders. A nightmare that has a precise name: black swan. Sooner or later all the successful trader will challenge black swan with a duel.