The following is an interview with an independent trader/consultant (and future WSO Contributing Author) Lone Wolf. He is also available to answer any questions you may have.
- What is your job title? I am currently adjusting my career direction, but would otherwise be considered an independent trader/consultant.
- What are previous positions you have held and how many years of experience do you have? I have held several different positions including floor trader, liability and proprietary trader as well as Head liability trader and market maker. This spans 17 plus years in all of Canada's major financial hubs.
- Did you go to a "target", "semi target" or "non target".
I went to McGill University in Montreal: aka Harvard North.
- What was the most useful thing you learned in ugrad that you apply in your current position?
The most important thing I learned in university was: how to learn.
- What was the most useful thing you learned in ugrad that helped you get where you are now?
See b. Plus how to think and read critically.
- What was your most useful class and why?
Russian History: taught by Valentin Boss, advisor to the World Bank. He helped to provide context and understanding to the fall of the Soviet Union and how to view and evaluate historical events.
Satisfactory, but likely unimpressive to your audience.?
- During recruiting, how were you able to set yourself apart from other competitive candidates at your school?
I was not recruited.
- What kind of
None. I worked on large industrial construction projects with for 8 summers in several parts of the country during high school and university. This provided valuable insight into the real world and the people in it. did you have during ugrad?
- Did you get an mba (or msf or equiv) or are you considering it?
No and no.
- Do you have any professional certifications (
No, with the exception of being an IA. / CAIA / etc.)? If so, how has that certification helped you in your career?
- How did you initially "break-in" to the industry?
I used a connection from boarding school.
- What were some of the main factors in getting the job position you have now?
Persistence, adaptation, leadership, performance. If however you are referring to my lack of a gig here, the answer is: restructuring.
- What are some of the specific things you do in your current position?
My previous position was proprietaryand market making. Simple and complex.
- What is a day in your life like during the workweek? Can you give us an hour by hour run down of your typical day?
Trading, especially shorter termis highly variable. Sometimes nothing, and suddenly you are game on. Read: The Hour Between Dog and Wolf for a primer on traders.
- What is your favorite part about the job? What is your least favorite?
I enjoyed the freedom to think freely and widely. To act as I see fit. To enjoy the fruits of my labor. Least favorite: a lack of a mechanism for advancement under the arrangement and generally too short term in focus; or too much stress.
- How did your background (life up until graduating college) best prepare you for where you're at now?
I moved around a lot and was always prepared for changes. My training as an oarsman in boarding school, and the cadet corps at the same school provided me with discipline and fortitude.
- What is the company culture like at your firm? What is the size of your firm?
The firm I spent the majority of my career at has grown considerably since I began there. With the restructuring, the firm moved from aand sales oriented firm focussed on speculative resources to a more corporate finance advisory type firm.
- What type of person (what background / knowledge / experience / personality) is best fit to do your type of job?
There is no perfect type of person for this position. It's a personal thing. The business has a niche for every personality.
- 13 How do you see your type of role and your industry as a whole changing in 5 years? 20 years?
The change in the last 5 years has been immense and almost unimaginable. I would say at this juncture, it is difficult to speculate on a business going through this type of transition. What is certain to me is that this period will be the template for the next 100 or more years, once it is completed.
- Did you ever have a mentor and who were some other influential people who helped you along the way?
My mentors were largely periodic and transitory: not especially influential. I have had an opportunity to work with several very talented and extraordinary traders. Mentors are extremely important in this business: choose wisely.
- Are the sacrifices you've made to date worth the benefit realized by you so far in your career?
No, at least not entirely. But I am still relatively young and hindsight is 20/20. Over time I have seen the decay of people's health, appearance, morale and morals in some cases. This is not endemic in all environments, but it represents a cost, a major sacrifice in one's life. I have learned that you must take some time to enjoy and explore the things in life that matter to you while you have the youth, strength and vitality to do so. Money is important but ephemeral. Health, wisdom, strength and fortitude are the most valuable things you can have and work at acquiring. The pursuit of these four has been fruitful for me and any sacrifice in acquiring them has thus far proven worthwhile.
- If you weren't working in finance, what do you think you would be doing?
I have considered this question extensively, and the answer remains: I am not sure.
- What keeps you motivated?
My mind is constantly hungry, learning, observing pursuing. I want to know how things work. How things fit together and what motivates and moves people. These desires are insatiable.
- How much does money motivate you?
I never cared too much about it. It was a good scorecard. But of course, you can't live that way indefinitely. So money isn't everything or the only thing. It's a valuable tool. I try to think more in terms what people value in totality.
- How much does someone in a role like yours make per year (base + bonus)?
My last position was performance related only. Ie I received a portion of what I produced net of costs and the firms take and limited capital. Not a deal that accurately reflects what many traders can earn under a more well thought out structure.
- Have you ever considered leaving your job to start your own company?
Maybe. I could be a greatcoach/consultant where real people are involved for example; but in general I think I would be an amazing 2 I.C. (2nd in command) I make things work and drive them forward. I don't know that starting a business on my own would be a focus.
- What is the one tip you would give to current students (ugrad and/or grad students) to help them succeed?
Be true to yourself. You will be challenged always and everywhere to do "the meaner thing".
- What are some tips for moving up and becoming "the boss" (i.e. a department head / managing director / partner)?
Every firm is different, however a couple things that can be useful. First, find a firm with values and a culture that you understand, relate to and can maintain. If the values of the organization make sense, advancement amongst your peers is more likely because your performance will be better. Second: never rest on your laurels. Your big win can be a big loss later. Always and everywhere look to make things better. Find new opportunities, and explore new ways of thinking about your situation and the world around you. Dynamism means longevity. Third: honor is important. If you need to steal, lie and cheat to get ahead, find something else to do. It will rot you inside, and eventually you will blow yourself up personally or professionally. Do not stand for unethical behaviour, it's a cancer. Forth: A person who can lead by example and get things done is more likely to be a leader and mentor. Five: I hate ass kissers.
- Any specific cold-emailing or cold-calling tips you can pass on?
No. I have little experience in either of these areas. In fact, avoiding cold calling was one of the reasons I chose thefloor.
- Any specific
Conduct yourself in an honorable manner always. Be helpful whenever you can to junior, up in coming people and anyone that genuinely wants a little time to improve themselves or understand your position/company/world better. These efforts will pay significant dividends later. Start this at school and especially when your working life progresses. An old lobbyist told me years ago that he befriended the new guys that showed up to political party functions that no one would talk to. These efforts yielded great fruit on many future occasions. you can pass on?
- What are unique things college students and young-professionals can do to separate themselves from the crowd?
Think for yourself. A good exercise would be to read: Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz given at West Point in 2009.
- What are some ways (in general) someone could best prepare for an upcoming internship or ft job at a firm like yours?
Open your mind. Think broadly and widely about everything. There are few absolutes in this world, and the more rigid and narrow you are in your expectations, view and interpretation, the less value you will derive from the experience and provide to the work.
- What is your opinion on gaining relevant experience at a lesser known firm vs. working for a brand name firm (with less relevant experience)?
Smaller firms have greater opportunities to do a broader number of things at once. This is what dynamism is about. Larger firms may have a broader range of possibilities, but your focus will be much narrower. Small then Large could be a great stepping stone.
- What are your thoughts on this statement: "Wall Street is a more meritocratic place than most. If you are a young person and you have good ideas, people will often listen to them, if you are in the right role" ?
My feelings on this are mixed, although you must remember that I am more Bay St (Canada) than Wall Street.
To begin with I think you need to define what a meritocratic environment is. Does it have and reward seniority? Does it reward image over substance? Is merit accumulated or temporary? What constitutes merit in the first place? Does merit need to be based on an ethical matrix or does it matter? Is merit a singular concept or multifaceted?
I have seen junior brokers become rich, made VP's get fired and go broke in a 5 year span. More than once. They flowed with the market cycle. Many traders are no different. In some ways this seems meritocratic, others not. As they say: never mistake a bull market for brains.
In reality, if you aren't a performer, you will not advance. But, if you don't understand the merit game in your own firm, you have little chance of moving forward regardless of performance. I think some areas and some periods in the business are a meritocracy, others not; but it all depends on your definition. In other words I view merit in the context of finance as a game like everything else.
- Any other interesting stories or wisdom you would like to share with the WSO readers?
Hopefully through my writing I will be able to convey some useful and thought provoking prose. Overall if I had to say one additional thing, a person's attitude about setbacks is important. In spite of the endless droning about having no emotion to be successful etc, this is an emotionally driven business wrapped in the facade of rationality. If you doubt this, ask how many cars/houses/watches/wives or other things some of the successful people you know have. Is there anything especially rational about multiple supercars...in NYC? Dick measuring while perhaps "fundamentally" based is in fact rooted deeply in emotion.
Setbacks are important moments that test your mettle, your emotional depth and provide fodder for evaluation and reflection. Objectively observe your emotional reactions, the cues. Evaluate them as rationally as possible, and watch these in others. This will provide meals for a lifetime. Treat setbacks and challenges as opportunities for learning. This is a thought process that adds wisdom and builds fortitude. You will need both if you plan to be in the business for longer than a few years.
On the job