The course that turns you into a trader

FOR graduates, it’s harder than ever to get a job as a trader. Unless you have a double first in something maths-related then you can kiss good-bye to the dream. But is there a way to increase your chances? One way of getting first-hand knowledge is on a “trader training school.” But are they any good?

As a former trading analyst at an oil company, it was with heavy heart that I went along to a course run by Amplify Trading. I thought these courses were expensive tosh in out-of-town locations. But Amplify’s office is just behind Canada Square. Even if the course is rubbish I will feel like I am where the action is happening, I thought. The trading floor wasn’t quite Goldman Sachs standard, but it certainly looked professional: desks had multiple computer screens and phone lines and there was a squawk box – a loud-speaker system that is used to channel market news straight to a trader’s desk.

I was led to my desk and told that I and the others on the course could trade euro-dollar, oil and the S&P 500 mini contract on a simulator. My heart sank. Simulators were always inferior to real trading systems and tended to malfunction. Or so I thought. Technology has moved on. In front of me were two screens. On the right were my charts that automatically updated every minute. Impressive. The screen on the left was the control centre where I would make the trades. We could start trading immediately, so once I realised how to place a buy or sell order – it was only slightly more complex then placing a grocery order online – off I went.

Things started slowly. Oil seemed to move first, with the S&P and then euro-dollar following closely behind. After half an hour I was down $1,000. Time to change tack. Since I write investment features all day, I have a pretty good idea about themes in the market. But what I did learn is that when you trade intra-day you will only make money by reacting to minute-by-minute price action.

GOOD CAMERADERIE

There was good camaraderie during the course. An instant messaging system allowed experienced traders to share market tips with everyone else. I found this useful for generating ideas and also checking what other traders were investing in. Even so, with half an hour to go, I was still $2,000 down. I needed to come up with a plan. Not only did none of the others look like they had made any losses, I was the only one with experience of working in the actual markets. How embarrassing.

Suddenly my competitive streak let loose. I knew that I wouldn’t make a profit, but I at least had to claw back some of my losses. I decided on a buy and hold strategy. I bought all three products when the market was low in the hope it would rise in the next 30 minutes. Finally, things started to go in my direction. The euro ticked up against the dollar. Oil rose, and the S&P 500 also moved in my direction.
By the end of the session I was pleading for just “five more minutes”; I clawed back half of my euro losses, eradicated my oil losses and made a slight dent in the S&P loss. Walking back to the DLR I felt a real thrill. Because the prices were all in real-time it didn’t seem to matter that I was only trading a simulator. I also came away with a different understanding of the markets. If you aren’t looking at the charts and seeing where it is actually going, all the theory in the world is useless.

Are these courses worth it? About 40 per cent of people who have completed Amplify’s courses go on to work in investment banks, but usually in non-trading jobs. JC Zuidmeer completed Amplify’s course after he left his role as a product controller at Morgan Stanley. Although he loved it, he is back working as a product controller for another investment bank. “This is a temporary role, I needed the cash, but my passion is still trading.” Amplify has definitely benefited his CV, he says, and he is continuing to look for a job in trading.

Manoj Ladwa, senior trader at ETX Capital, says: “These courses can be useful since they give new recruits a good idea about how a market works. But what makes a good trader is aptitude to take risk, a quick head for numbers as well as creativity and these things can’t be taught.” The sceptics include Fiona Sandford, director of careers services at London School of Economics. “I would be nervous to advise students who are already in debt to go on a course like this,” she says. “Banks tend to look at a passion for trading, not a huge knowledge of it.” She says there are many ways for to show your passion for trading – interning at investment banks in holidays and joining investment clubs at your university where you can play simulated trading games.

Personally, I loved the thrill of it. While I wouldn’t advocate anyone to get into debt for a course such as this, if you haven’t had the opportunity while at uni to get into the trading community, these courses are certainly one route to doing so.

DETAILS | SCHOOLS FOR TRADERS

Amplify has a four month trading course that costs £3,600 or a two month course for £1,275 +Vat. Students will spend two months on the simulator, then if they are good enough, spend the last two months trading the actual markets. For more details go to:

Schneider Trading Associates offers a free four-week full time course for those who get selected to take part in its professional trader programme. You need to have a minimum 2.2 degree to apply. For more details go to: http://www.schneidertrading.com/tradercourse/

TCA markets’ has a remote trading programme for trainee traders. Go to: http://tcamarkets.tradercareers.com/ for more details.
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