Matt Zimberg interviews Sam Beckers, a Full-Time E-Mini S&P Trader and Money Manager that has been with Optimus Futures for many years, both as a customer as well as a Commodity Trading Advisor (CTA). We thought that Sam’s realistic approach to trading the E-mini S&P contract could provide some perspective on the challenges of day trading, constructing a method and execution.
If you have any questions/inquiries about Sam’s or Optimus Futures services, please call us at 1-800-771-6748 or Local at 561-367-8686. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a substantial risk of loss in futures trading. Past performance is not indicative of futures results.
Episode TranscriptRead Episode Transcript
Welcome to the Optimus Futures Podcast. A place to learn from an industry insider with over 20 years of experience in commodity futures and options. Gain insight to the newest technology, platforms risk management, trading philosophy and advice about the current state of the futures and options markets. For futures trading platforms, deep discount trading commissions, overnight margins and instructional videos. Feel free to visit our website at Optimusfutures.com.
Please remember that this matter should be viewed as a solicitation to trade trading futures and options involve substantial risk of loss and is not suitable for all investors. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. You should therefore carefully consider whether such trading is suitable for you in light of your financial condition. Optimus Futures LLC is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse any trading system, methodologies, newsletter or similar service. We urge you to conduct your own due diligence.
Now, here’s your host, founder and CEO of Optimus Futures, Matt Zimberg.
Matt Zimberg: [00:01:12]
Hi this is Matt from Optimus Futures and today I have with me in the studio, Sam Beckers. Sam runs Soaring Pelican which is a commodity trading advisor. Sam has been my customer for many years now and have seen him turn from a trading individual to a commodity trading advisor. I thought he would help you out a lot. He is a trader of the E-Mini S&P he has been day trading for many years developed the day trading program which was automated and recently has developed swing a trading program as well. So I have one with me here today so I can ask him a bunch of questions and I hope this will help you out in your day trading of the E-Mini S&P. Sam, thank you very much for joining our broadcast.
Sam Beckers: [00:02:03]
Nice to be here, thanks Matt.
Matt Zimberg: [00:02:05]
So we’ll start. Tell us a bit about your trading background. How did you get into trading?
Sam Beckers: [00:02:13]
I started out in the late 90s in San Francisco I happened to be in the right place at the right time for the “dot com boom” and was working closely with a few different hedge fund managers and just in a really sort of a clerical role. And watching these guys day in and day out and it was it was exciting. There was the market was wild and it was just crazy to watch. I thought that was normal. These guys they would walk into the office and they’d say Sam I know I told you this before but I’ve never seen anything like this. And to me it just, you know I thought that was just that typical excitement that was part of the business. But I saw one thing that made an impact on me during those days was some of the funds that were in the managers that were in the offices nearby. We were in the same building as Bear Stearns and some of these guys were doing great and you’d hear about them and some of them didn’t just blow up and they’d be moving out like physically see these guys physically carrying boxes down the hall as they just lost all their money basically. So but you know that made impact on me. These guys who I had a lot of respect for had the power to get all their firepower operate and that kind of reverberated later on in my trading career. And knowing that I didn’t want to follow that same path and hold on to the capital that I had. But anyway from there I evolved into managing a trading desk, co-managing a trading desk with another guy for a mutual fund and then from there spun off and started my own limited partnership in 2002 and basically made a lot of money lost a lot of money and ended up about break even the clients that I had just a few clients I was managing the 500 thousand dollars and the clients that I had. I told them I don’t really feel comfortable managing your money I don’t have a solid discipline for applying strategy to the market. So it was a great learning experience. I’m glad it didn’t lose anyone money, but it for me physically I couldn’t handle the stress of it. It was it was really stressful to not have to be just kind of flying by the seat of your pants and having a game plan. So I went back to trading my own money that I had left from those “dot com” days and over the next three years I basically lost money pretty consistently. I was probably giving back about 20 thousand a year paying tuition and trying different things, but mostly realizing what didn’t work. And I went down the path of trying to optimize indicators and things like that. I was I was I guess somewhat of an early adopter of Trade Station and I was learning to code in easy language and that type of thing. And following probably the same in the same path that A lot of a lot of your clients that are attempting I’m using optimizations and different types of technology to create pretty equity curves that look great in hindsight but don’t necessarily have any kind of validity at all. So I the one thing that I knew one thing I know is that I wanted to stop losing. I wanted to get to the point where I was a breakeven trader. I aligned with a few different people who I had a lot of respect for. They were maybe I’d call them mentors but they had more experience than me or just sort of someone looking over my shoulder sort of thinking needs some accountability on my day to day activities. And I think that that’s important is to have some accountability in your training. But eventually after about two or three years of losing money I got to breakeven which was a pretty big step. You know that I think it’s necessary to kind of touch the fire touch the flame so to speak when you’re learning to go or you can lose all your money if you don’t take it very seriously. Treat it like a business it’s not gambling. And this is money you’ve worked for and treat it that way and so I got to that point and time and aligned with a few other guys and we started throwing ideas back and forth to each other and I finally started to come up with some ideas just through watching the markets I was trading primarily ETF. And the SPY really in particular the SPY and QQQ’s and I wasn’t cleared into the futures market at that point and doing mean reversion trading that was maybe three to five days long in nature and it was sort of à la Larry Connors if you’re familiar with Larry Connors. He’s made a made a big impact on a lot of short term traders in the industry just using his RSI2. I wasn’t using RSI2 but I liked the idea the simplicity of it and so that that kind of set me down a path of realizing that you didn’t have to, you didn’t have to be optimizing indicators you could keep something really simple and do it execute consistently use solid discipline of risk and not risking too much. Not trying to hit homerun’s and that’s that would be the way to survive. And in 2006 to 2009 we had actually some really great years for me in reversion. It was working really well. And so that’s kind of led me too eventually to the futures market. And then in 2011 I was using, I basically took my mean reversion systems and boiled them down to the intraday level and started trading them using just intraday hours trading the S&P futures which is a great market for short term trading in my opinion. Some people say it’s one of the most difficult but I really I think that the liquidity is what really makes it such a good market to trade so I’ve had it kind of like a ten year long relationship with the S&P E-Mini and it’s pretty much the only market that I watch and I watch it every day. And Matt’s got some other questions for me I’m sure about how I apply what it might that my knowledge to right. Go ahead Matt.
Matt Zimberg: [00:09:11]
So first of all just a comment you know what is similar to both of us is that you know we came. You know well I have to tell you I came to the market right before the collapse. So I’ve seen kind of the same thing that you’ve seen have seen huge trading desks with lots of traders, brokerage firms with lots of brokers, and retail customers and trading retail and then it just came to just a whole just quiet you know trading those that had 500 traders went to 10 where there were 50 there was zero. So I also came from an angle that made me think about the risks which I think you know looking back. I think whatever you saw you know help you out. So essentially you found that you mean the S&P and now you’re going from on a transition of a day trader of your own capital you’re becoming licensed and you became a commodity trading adviser and the money manager. So my next question is what are the challenges to fund today as a money manager specifically trading other people’s capital? What I mean specifically you know more to the psychological aspect of being a money manager.
Sam Beckers: [00:10:37]
There is there is definitely a psychological aspect to it but I think it’s also important to realize that this year you know running a CTA is more than just than just managing trades. There is a whole regulatory aspect to it. There’s an accounting aspect and just like any other business it has you were a lot of different hats when you’re running a small business and that can be distracting. It can be frustrating but as far as the day to day psychology stress I think it’s there’s parallels with running any small business. You have clients. You’re trying to you’re trying to do everything right and to not make any big errors because when you’re dealing directly with money it’s you know it’s possible for things to go wrong and with markets you can lose if you’re not prepared you can lose money in a really short period of time. So there’s a lot of responsibility but I think it’s not unlike any other business you’re trying to hold onto your clients are trying to do right for them. And that’s kind of where your focus has to remain. But at the same time here trying to execute your business. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not doing system development as much as I used to be. The methodologies that I use are, they’ve proven themselves over time and they’ve come to a point where I know that they work. I know that they don’t necessarily work all the time. But I know that they’re affected. And so for me it’s really just kind of you know you could maybe make a parallel with an automobile and you know your car works you just have to do a good job of steering it. So that’s there’s less stress for me on the level of trying to find systems that work and uncertainty about how they work and whether they’re lucky in that type of thing. When I when I get a trade in one of my systems and I don’t know if Matt mentioned this or not but I am all my systems are mechanical and they are non-discretionary. So when I get a trade I know why the trade is executed. And I know that the reason it’s in the market is because of certain statistical probabilities and no matter what I may think those probabilities at a time when I’m looking at the market it may look like a terrible trade. I take the trade anyway and that’s something that’s really important to do. And it took me that was part of my years of losing money was not following my systems. You know if there’s something I could stress enough if you’re going to be a mechanical trader you can’t override your signals at least not initially. You spent a few years just following the systems and trying to match as much as you can back test. After years and years he might use the systems more as a tool. But it’s very important to develop a self-discipline that you can you can rely on and it also makes your life easier. You stress out less so I think that’s you know to answer your question I think that that’s probably why it’s one of the biggest challenges. As I was developing to you to just achieve a solid discipline and to execute consistently
Matt Zimberg: [00:14:05]
I see, well I wanted to tell you that I think you did a really good job and you’re still doing a good job. But I have to tell you that the reason there is this question. Is that a lot of commodity trading advisors were initially good traders when they traded their own Capital, but maybe they were among family and friends but you know the overall pressure of first of all like you said running a business being you know doing things according to regulation. Also the psychology of handling other people’s money. It’s actually got to them at some point. And we saw a transition of a successful trader to a CTA that hasn’t been so successful. So I think you may had a little bit more background that useful background seeing other you know working in other environments probably helped you out. So another thing that I wanted to, that leads me to my next question and I’ll tell you exactly why I’m asking you a lot of traders unfortunately think when they come to any trading asset where the stock futures Forex or whatever they trade they think that there’s some sort of a consistency in every month or every day or certain weeks so they’re willing to accept a certain level of risk. But at the same time they think that you know there’s some sort of a return that is consistent pretty much every method. I always tell traders who are about to open a self-directed account you know be prepared for a lackluster periods that might last for weeks months or years where you go through those periods. My question to you how do you deal emotionally and mentally maybe with lackluster periods when you experience them?
Sam Beckers: [00:15:49]
Yeah that’s it. That’s a good question. I think that I think that mechanical traders are systems traders have an advantage there where once they get past the idea of losing dollars or making dollars on every tick you see it more as a U.S. more long term kind of perspective. And it’s more just about managing your systems. A discretionary trader on the other hand you know every decision they make is based on their own analysis and to some extent they’re into it and I think that they have a much heavier burden there. I think that day to day aspect of trading I’m you know what I can speak to from a mechanical systems trader manager is if you stop thinking about it tonight it’s you don’t you have to kind of have to it’s kind of like when you’re once again you know if you’re driving on the road to anywhere you’re not looking at the dots right in front of your car. You have to look you have to be looking down the road looking at obstacles and things like that and just realize that you’re in the long haul. The objective of a manager is to create an equity curve that’s nice and upward sloping and has low volatility. And there are methods of doing that. One method that ideas that I don’t mind telling you guys about and I don’t know how many managers do this but I just keep a moving average of my equity that I’m managing and when I’m above when all my accounts are above that moving average then I will be using a full position size. And when the accounts are below that moving average I’ll use a reduced position size and it’s an objective way of just kind of putting the brakes on it’s a good way of using too many automobile analogies here. It’s a good way of just kind of knowing when the market is not appropriate for your style. And so just to hold off there’s most people listening to this presentation probably gone through this. Where do some type of revenge trading. That’s one of the most destructive things you can do on your account because you feel like the markets are against you and you need to do everything you can to fight back and you just start making stupid decisions. So as hard as it may be one of the things that you just walk away the markets are going to be there tomorrow. And this is this is something that is it’s kind of a fundamental idea that you really as a trader have no control over the markets. The only thing that you have control over is your approach to the markets and the way that you execute it. So when I feel that way and it gets to me I mean after years and years and years it affects you less and less. It becomes more of just kind of a routine. But when I’m feeling to have to control I’ll go out in my backyard and all these weed whacking or something like that and it makes me feel like you know I’m actually have some kind of power. And it works you know. I mean I think that it’s important as traders to not be focused on training too much it can drive you crazy outside activities that you can blow steam off. And you know even walking I know a lot of really smart people the way that they see new ideas is by distancing themselves from the research that they’re doing and just trying to clear their heads. Meditation is a good way to do it. I know a lot of traders do that and I think that’s a really wise you’re trying to do is you’re trying to do is just try to settle the waters of your consciousness. That’s how more powerful rules of thought surface. Yeah. When you’re distracted by the day to day stuff you really aren’t probably not making any progress.
Matt Zimberg: [00:20:00]
Ok. So the reason that you know specifically. Again I want to convey to our listeners you know the difficulties that they experience are not only unique to them and also unique to all money managers specifically. I think in the retail direct the crowd wouldn’t ever go through lackluster periods. They usually change your method. So what we find is that when we don’t always know what’s going on. For the most part we’re a discount broker term so people come in you know they deposit their funds. They trade on their own. But what we find is that you know they change methods all the time when we talk to them we find it’s pretty common. So the reason that I shows the that maybe they just need to refine their system or go into them the experience of a lackluster period or being flattened or being negative is something that everybody experiences professionals such as yourself. That leads me to the next question. I would like to know your definition of an edge. How do you develop an edge? Is there really such a thing as an itch that a person can develop? Do they develop something uniquely the day in terms of a method or did just have to have a method that flows with the market? So tell me a little bit about your concept of what an edge is because that word is being thrown around a lot in forums and in blogs and then you know educators say you haven’t said. Give me your perspective after all those years and the market.
Sam Beckers: [00:21:35]
An edge is something that is that gives you some type of insight on what the market may do in the future. And nobody has a crystal ball and so all you know is probabilities really I mean that’s the way that I think about it. I’ve learned to do what I’m doing by a lot of observation and I think that observation is you know it’s it is subjective but at the same time you can learn things from it and what I’ve learned is that in this particular market that I trade on the S&P has a large variety of participants that you know some guys are hedging, some guys are speculating, some people are you know just day trading, there’s high frequency traders all sorts of different things going on. But the main thing is that when larger players enter and exit a market they can’t do it without making some impact on it. And smaller traders have an advantage in that they’re agile and that they’re able to with some skill identify these periods when larger players are entering or exiting and they can make money off of that and that would be my really kind of mean advice to someone who’s looking for an edge just to realize and acknowledge that you are a smaller player and that and that really the only time that you’re going to have probabilities in your favor is when these bigger guys are moving the market around and that’s not something you’ll get your easy traits. The difficulty is going to come in to play and be patient and waiting for those times to arise. And sometimes it’s I mean I look at last year was just a terrible time 2017 terrible time for short term traders. There just wasn’t enough volatility. As far as an edge goes you know you need to try to find that that kind of movement that that creates a high probability trade for yourself, but these things come and go and the more specific you can be in your rules and the more you can document those rules. I find that that’s critical when you’re talking about Matt, earlier was about switching approaches. If you keep switching approaches on it you want to have a foundation knowledge about any one approach. And so it is important to either stick with one approach or have some objective manner of turning on and off that approach. I mean I’m not saying to stick with an approach that doesn’t work. What I would do is introduce some type of an objective measure like a moving average once we can just say okay when this system’s equity is about the moving average I’ll trade it and when it’s below that means it’s not working. And so that’s just one way of kind of preventing yourself from treating a losing system into the ground. It’s a good way works.
Matt Zimberg: [00:24:50]
So it’s really nice to share such a simple method to tell you. Because I think that you know again this is our space right. So you know we obviously work with your too of course. Some of our customers their funds are being managed but you know our self-directed customers again over the years. I get the feeling that they the always think that simplicity is not the way to go so that overwhelm themselves they buy indicators and you know there are tons of screens and on the charts and a number of methods all combined into one. So it’s really nice to hear and an edge could be just something simple like a moving average or very quitting it makes sense. It’s logical, it helped you. So that’s really what should be implemented. But again it’s not always it’s always the case and of course you know I don’t want to sound like I’m accusing anyone of anything of course because people are overwhelmed from the Internet the amount of information the amount of course is the amount of people offer to mentor. You’re obviously seeing all that sometimes that overwhelms them. So you’re adding here a very valuable input and saying OK simplify it. Just you know look at one thing and one method that really helps you to scale in scale out of more positions and less positions.
Sam Beckers: [00:26:16]
Simplify definitely, but one more thing I would add is the edge. Your edge could very simply be consistent execution and that’s a very difficult thing to achieve. But it is very achievable at the same time and executing consistently you will learn about the method that you’re trying to do and while you’re doing it consistently you’ll discover other nuances in that method. And I mean you can take. You could take an indicator based system and probably make money out of it. It’s long as you’re consistently executing and you have a real objective way of doing things that make sense. You know data mining and all these software’s that have come up with trying to find it going through a thousand different systems and little variations of your edX or your known breakout length or something like that. These things are art. It’s just curve fitting and so on the edge that you’re looking for it’s not going to be found in any kind of software that you paid 1500 bucks a month for like that. If it was then obviously they wouldn’t be selling it to the public. And so it really so. So it takes work. Basically I think people come into this business thinking that that it’s going to be fun and you know I’ll just do it on my days. You know my hours are panel just make 100 bucks a day or something like that. But it’s there is there is more to that and that the work comes in your own self-discipline. That’s been my challenge.
Matt Zimberg: [00:27:56]
I couldn’t agree with you more. People do come in with a certain level that they want to make you know it just kind of blindly deciding on numbers. So I would like to now, I think you kind of answered this a little bit but still wanted to know a little bit about how you’re evolved as a trader. So you started from day one and now you’re here today where do you feel the approach, if you were to go back for example at the beginning what would you have done differently? So what you know today if somebody was listening was starting out and people’s definition of starting out could be a year or two or even five spoke to traders who are humble enough to say you know being only doing it for five years but if you had to go back to day one. What would you have done differently?
Sam Beckers: [00:28:51]
I think I wouldn’t have remained as isolated as I did that period when I was losing money. I sort of just woodshed it and trying a bunch of stuff on my own. I didn’t have a trading community or anything like that and I think as an inexperienced trader you if you can find a good trading community and that may not be necessarily a Web site like Futures.io or whatever it may be. It may be a few people within one of those communities and time and try to find someone who is speaking the same language as you know Knot’s maybe you are not mathematically inclined so you don’t want to live with some guys who a pro coder who’s doing machine learning types of things. Find someone that resonates with you and try to collaborate. I mean having to two different types of thinking at the same problem can create you know drastically different results but also potentially synergistic types of ideas. So I think it’s important to look at those trading communities and there’s a lot of junk on there too you have to take it with a grain of salt and a lot of people who are not honest about what they’re doing but it’s the true contributors and the people that are in it have some value are there because they enjoy it and they’ve made maybe they’ve already passed break even trading. I’m sure quite a few of them haven’t. But there probably are some and they’re just there for the camaraderie and maybe even just to give back a little bit too. Find a mentor. Now that’s number one. Find someone who is willing to give their time because they’re successful and you know you why make sure that they it’s nice to know that you have some kind of proof that they’re successful that even if they’re not and they’re able to generate some ideas for you or help you generate your own ideas that’s really valuable I think in any business finding a mentor is really key.
Matt Zimberg: [00:31:04]
I agree with you and I do daily things even after being so many years in the business to get motivated if there’s anything that I would add to it looking for mentors look for somebody who’s going to tell you how hard it’s going to be in any field in life. Any coach or any trainer or any anybody in any given field you know people are always attracted to the ones who give them the good news how easy trading would be and how much they’re going to make every month. But unfortunately the ones who sell reality and say look it’s going to be difficult. Your day does not end when you’re finished trading you have to analyze things you have to think about it and you know those are the real people that I’m attracted to in my life the people telling me how difficult it will be because I think they’re trying to actually sell me anything they should still trying to sell me a reality.
Sam Beckers: [00:31:57]
I’ve heard that too. I know to other people, that you don’t want to see your clients lose money and I think that’s very admirable.
Matt Zimberg: [00:32:05]
Well you know sometimes it’s not in our control as traders and online and everything else but so obviously you know I cannot, I don’t have any control over their methods and what they use. But there’s one thing I always tell them how difficult this businesses and this business is very unique because it doesn’t have really expenses per se you know you just set up your computer and you know you have a trading account so you don’t run inventory. You don’t run people. It does have that advantage. So they don’t necessarily always ask where the challenge is. In other words the hard part of trading and this is where I come in and tell them I should do trading against extremely intelligent people. The markets are tough. This is why you get to know you know very good traders because they got to do something in life that a lot of people didn’t. So now you mentioned a little bit you know the kind of touched on technology of what’s available and you know machines the methods. So you know there’s always a debate about you know technology in this business and a lot of traders saying that the HFT, the algos, now that we have artificial technology being introduced to the market are disruptive to traders. Now I just wanted to ask you in the context of the markets in general not just now do those things today affect traders more than they affected , you know more than before because you know before there was maybe information that wasn’t available on the net to some traders you know maybe it was research or anything like that. So is today HFT’s, and Algos, and all those factors do they help traders or they’re made more difficult?
Sam Beckers: [00:33:55]
I do not disagree with you that the markets have changed over the past 20 something years. What used to work in the 80s and the 90s definitely doesn’t work anymore. And you can see that from some of the managers that did great in the 80s and 90s and they did, I Mean the turtles you know like some of these methodologies that were very simple break out systems so things just haven’t worked for years. And so you ask this is there a fundamental reason why they’re not working or what? And I think the answer is these guys that are doing high frequency trading and that are doing kind of more machine learning and that kind of thing. These guys are kind of playing against each other more than they’re playing against retail clients and smaller traders algorithms they’re using or are trying to they’re trying to identify certain patterns in that and that type of thing and the patterns are there. But the more people are trying to get the more these machines are trying to identify them the more kind of corrupted they get. And that’s one thing that I’ve noticed is there are there are patterns that work in the market but the machines are identifying it and then once they get to the critical moment there’s all sorts of weird volatility and stuff going that happens. So that’s I don’t think that it’s really making an impact for smaller, like I said agile traders who are of smaller size you can still identify when big money is entering or leaving a market and be patient wait for that and then participate. The tough part is just being patient and that’s the part where you start spinning our wheels and getting bored and overtrading. Overtrading is your biggest enemy. If you can eliminate that part and only participate when the market is really moving then he’ll be doing a lot better. It’s hard to wait for. You know one thing that I use that I look at in my in my charting platform is I look at no time based charts, but contract based charts I’m looking at right now and basically the bars of my chart change colors when the market speeds up and when the when there’s more bars being printed per minute or per second then that alerts me that something’s going on but there’s volume entering or exiting the market. And so that swinging participate but I don’t think that there’s a real need to for your audience match to be concerned about high frequency trading or any of these new technologies that are supposedly so great. And I don’t think that they’ve necessarily proven you know I mean we remember those days neural networks and things like that they were hitting the market really you know smart people who came over from other industries aerospace and engineers and that kind of thing and I’ve met some of these guys who are engineers who are really intelligent people who know how to address a problem in another industry and create a great solution for it. But when it comes to the financial markets since it’s a nonlinear dynamic system it doesn’t work. And so it’s a really tough problem for these for the guys who are trying to create these algorithms and I’m not convinced that they have any kind of a silver bullet that creates you know winning trade after winning trade. If they are then that’s great for them but it’s not really something that’s going to change our lives. There are very simple systems out there that you can use but that will earn money for you. But that part gets, and I think this is Jesse Livermore quotation or something like that was the times when I made the most money was when I just sat on my hands and did nothing. Overtrading is what’s going to hurt your account the most. And even though you know Matt a broker and I think he would agree with me that he wants his clients to hold onto their money rather than blast it out and end by not overtrading. You’re able to preserve your dry powder for the times when the market is actually going to create an advantageous situation for you to trade.
Matt Zimberg: [00:38:27]
Absolutely so. You know so I just as a comment you know you mentioned patience find that our DNA. You know as human beings works completely the opposite of what the market does. So sometimes we have to fight our own evolution and our evolution is always to take action. So yes you put a trader in front of the screen and you start moving those things. That’s what makes this reflexes of to do something where the fear of missing out or anything of that sort. So I couldn’t agree with you more that you have to fight that. No years of evolution in you. And just wait and wait and wait and look I just want to tell you. Yes I am a broker it’s true. We make our money from commissions and with people trade but we definitely would try our best to tell people the challenge behind it. And we do tell the overtrading because we want them as customers for years. We don’t want anybody to have a bad experience. Unfortunately it will happen. People will come people over trade. They will say trade futures it’s not for me want it will happen people will lose. But our goal is obviously you know to inform people of the challenges that exist in this market. And hopefully you know in bringing professionals such as yourself sharing this would hopefully help them. So we just have a few more questions that I wrote here. I thought I would like to ask you as well. So at some point you added in the last year which I really commend you for doing this is was a really nice change to see because you were able to adapt to the market but you added a swing trading system to your portfolio. So now you know how your day trading and then you have swing trading as part of your trading CTA. Can you tell me, how did you go about developing it? Not so much the secret formula but you know how you go from day trading way of thinking now to swing trading and the reason I’m asking it is because maybe customers out there are traders out there want to develop a number of methods for different markets. So maybe it is possible and obviously you proved that it is. So can you tell me a little bit about that?
Sam Beckers: [00:40:49]
Sure. I think the reason for developing the hybrid program, well really the hybrid program using multiday trades and swing trading is goes back to when I was trading from 2006 to 2010 I was doing multiday trades. They’re basically the same systems that I was using back then. And one of the reasons why I resurrected them was because they just kept performing. I think you have to have a bit more of an edge when you’re trading higher timeframes in that it’s easier to identify potential reversal points. That’s kind of tricky still too but, here’s the detrimental part of trading higher timeframes is that you need to have wider stocks and that means that you need to have deeper pockets and be willing to accept a potential larger loss. What my swing trading approach does is basically it looks at multiple timeframes and what we’re trying to do is to identify where tradable volatility exists. When there’s not enough movement on the intraday level. It means that it doesn’t mean that the market’s not doing anything. It just means that it’s not wiggling enough on intraday timeframe to create trades that have an adequate reward risk profile and so you generally just need to go. It means that the trades are there. They just take longer to complete than the daily timeframe or the intraday timeframe. So we’re kind of zooming out and looking at a different resolution and looking at 60 minute charts of time based charts. It’s not that’s not really necessarily important. It’s just that you’re recognizing that that the market is still creating these waves that are tradable. They’re just on a higher timeframe. So in 2017 there are plenty of opportunities to make money in the S&P but they were not existing on that on the lower timeframes on intraday level. So I recognize that and realize that hey my multiday systems are doing just fine in this environment but I’m just beating my head against the wall trying to make money on the intraday level not really being head against the wall just once again just practicing patience and weed whacking. And so I think that the data there’s a lot of data out there for developing swing trading systems and I think that you can do it successfully. I would say that the temptation is to find some kind of a swing trading system that you can apply to hundreds of different markets and it works great in every market or it works reasonably well in every market. I would disagree with that. I mean my personal approach is to get to know some market know somewhat intimately and become familiar with it and really just try to focus on it. It’s once again getting back to simplicity and no information overload it. The other advantage is that you are able to if you are able to look at markets somewhat passively you can watch these traits develop as you’re involved in them and take better notes. You know if you decrease the frequency of your trading as we were talking about earlier by looking at higher timeframes you’re avoiding the overtrading type of temptation and you’re also able to document your trades and better notes. I think that’s really key and getting to that goal consistent execution and self-discipline.
Matt Zimberg: [00:44:30]
Thank you. So now you’re obviously on the radar of many people obviously have to train more and more contracts so I’m going to ask you a question about this and the reason that I’m asking is because sometimes when I talk to traders they think they if they’re successful trading let’s say one lot or five lots in the E-Mini SMP they can turn around and start trading 20 and 30 lots and the profits will just multiply and I always tell them that there’s a challenge of scalability and also size. So you know there’s a risk level where they could maybe I mean in terms of contacts they can work with the ones they doubled or triple it. All of a sudden they start losing units because it has a different psychological effect on them. So to deviate from their method again because of the large fluctuations of contract. So I wanted to ask you, how do you approach scalability both from a psychological standpoint or both from a tactical standpoint of actually trading more contracts in the marketplace getting filled and then getting out on them? You know slippage and so forth.
Sam Beckers: [00:45:40]
Sure. I think first of all I think that the it’s very important to us if you’re going to be choosing a market to know intimately it’s important to select one that has adequate liquidity. So there’s enough trading contracts or there’s enough participation going on that you don’t need to worry about you know whether you’re trading one or 20 contracts. I mean really in this in the S&P futures even trading 20 or 30 contracts is still such a small fish in this market. So you don’t want to be trading some penny stock we’re moving it around or something like that too much when you’re getting in and getting out. But then to get to scaling up or even scaling back I think it’s really important to look at what you’re trading in terms of percentage percentages rather than dollars and cents. Definitely get away from looking at how much PNL from a dollar and cents standpoint you can is that’s a really critical look at it in terms of percentage points. There’s also I think it was one of these educators who uses R values and his definition of R something like your profit per trade on based on how much you risked. And I think that’s a great way of looking if you’re able to say I risks half a percent and I made 3 percent on that trade then that would be 6 to 1 a reward to risk ratio kind of thing. Once you stop looking at dollars and cents you really kind of opened up a different kind of way of thinking about the markets because we all are affected by that by money. It’s one of the key psychological drivers to humans once again kind of like a survival thing we’re trying to create stability and security in our lives by having enough money to survive. And so when you think about your daily PNL in terms of dollars and cents it can be really it can make you sick when you have a bad day or are really enthusiastic and overconfident when you have a good day. If you’re thinking that in terms of percentage thing you’re turning it into more of a business decision. Less of an emotional decision. It’s more just numbers. So I think that that’s really critical. And that would be my recommendation on number one.
Matt Zimberg: [00:48:13]
That is, I think that is a really, really good point. I think it also starts with the fact that people should trade their risk capital. Tell them if you trade your risk capital, you’ll approach it differently if you don’t trade risk capital. You know you might be psychologically you know it might be impacting you when you’re in the trade.
Sam Beckers: [00:48:33]
Something I would add to Matt, is just with my own program that I risk a maximum of 1 percent of the account value per day. I never risk more than that. And once if I do hit that level that I’m out for the rest of the day no matter what. And so my downside on a daily basis is theoretically caps whereas my upside is uncapped and that’s really important. And then one the other thing that I do is why I’m in an adverse phase of risk of only half a percent a day. And that’s one way of just putting on the brakes for me it’s an objective method that I use to do that. And I think yeah having it having a capped losing amount and an uncapped winning amount is a great way to kind of control your account volatility.
Matt Zimberg: [00:49:27]
Definitely everybody should define their risk limits for the day the day traders and go from there. I read a lot of people who participate and you know they react to forums or blogs or anything like that. That’s one thing that people are mentioning that they had their stop and they just kept going, going, and going right after that and it just got themselves into a bigger and bigger trouble so definitely having the discipline to do it. Sometimes people come and say you know can your software disable me after I lose a certain amount and I find it absolutely fascinating that people just can’t say OK I’m just going to walk away. They need to actually there’s software to disabled. The first one when people started asking me that I thought it was just a coincidence but then it was more and more and more and more people are saying could you do it and the software is a certain level of funds so some software allow it some don’t. You know essentially I always tell them you got to have it in you as well. You have to have it. So what are to execute specifically about day trading. Everybody has some sort of a challenge when it comes to day trading specifically. Where in your opinion is hidden risk of day trading?
Sam Beckers: [00:50:53]
Definitely boredom. I would say. And once again overtrading we’re back to that what you were talking about earlier is this Puritan work ethic where you have to work hard if you work harder to make more money thing which is absolutely the opposite in trading. So that’s definitely the danger is trying to see something that’s not there and not having objective ways of keeping yourself from you know just rules to keep yourself from overtrading. That’s the key. There’s you know there’s also this old rule that they called the 80 20 rule where you know 20 percent or 80 percent of your profits come from 20 percent of your trades. That’s definitely true. And so you keep that in mind and recognize that that’s going to be true for your account just like it is for everyone else’s account and you’ll maybe start to be more patient just wait for those things to line up for you.
Matt Zimberg: [00:51:54]
I agree. You know actually the question of what is the hidden risk of day trading was actually asked by a potential customer that actually called here once. My next question for him after a conversation we had for 15 minutes. I said you know that’s when he actually asked me, Where’s the risk? So I asked him what do you do? And he said I’m an engineer. And I started laughing and he said, why are you laughing? I said because I thought you’re an engineer because my father is an engineer so you know it’s interesting that people think that they can bring sometimes their own strength from their own profession into the business but actually training actually draws out the weaknesses of what they did in the past. So you know engineers think in terms of systems and I’m not saying that you can’t apply a certain discipline to another but you have to be aware where your weakness is. And engineers have everything so structured in a market that’s so fluid sometimes flexibility is not something that’s always within them because in their world there is no flexibility. The system has components it’s got to work that way. So when I had to explain to him the hidden risk of day trading is actually explained to him because he was it was approaching from the mechanical side but more from a discretionary trading. So you know it’s not always going to be exactly the set up that you want that’s it’s not always going to have the same shape or form as you anticipated and you have to be flexible enough. So for me the risk of day trading is always depends on where you come from in your background how you look at it might day trading might pull out you know your weaknesses.
Sam Beckers: [00:53:32]
The biases you bring into the business. Yeah I see that too. I agree with that. Well I wished that I would just agree that we all come into every experience in life with some certain type of bias. And the more that you can think objectively and with the healthy skepticism is well that’s when you’re able to try to try to eliminate your rose colored glasses and really just see things for as they are and see both sides of everything.
Matt Zimberg: [00:54:03]
The key is always to be flexible always learn on top of what you think you know. Let’s talk, just for a brief moment about money management and Day Trading you. You know exactly you defined your risk parameters for your program. What advice would you give day traders today when it comes to money management? So for example you know do you, let’s say somebody trades only one lot starting out. What kind of advice would you give him? What would you give somebody who trades multiple lots, specifically in periods that they’re not doing so well?
Sam Beckers: [00:54:44]
I think you know once again to take in other ideas from other types of disciplines is to have short term achievable goals and if you’re trading one lot you know you’re not trying to change your account from ten thousand dollars to one hundred thousand dollars within six months or something like that yeah you see all sorts of you get tons of e-mails about people that say they’ve done that but it’s just not realistic. You’re trying to hit consistent singles and not necessarily home runs it. That would be it’s great to have those home runs but once again you know most of your trades are going to be plus or minus a little bit with an occasional home run. So having short term achievable goals for that objective to take you from one lot to two lots it should be profit base it should be based on your own performance. You can get as you get bigger you might look at it from a different angle and say OK when the market is this volatile than that I know that it’s a good trading environments all increase my size and maybe decrease my size when the market is less appropriate for trading. But I think that comes further down the road for beginning day traders who are in a losing phase. Deleveraging is key when you’re not doing well. It’s the hardest thing to do is to cut off you’re basically you’re basically cutting off some of your firepower. And you want to make that back the money that you’ve lost. But that is likely to turn into some kind of revenge trading. So it’s difficult to do. Go out go out and do some weed whacking for a while and think about it and then. But don’t be afraid to go back to one lot. I’ve done elsewhere where I will build. I’ll take an account and I’ll say OK Michael has to take this account Fifty thousand dollars grow from ten thousand dollars to fifty thousand dollars something like that and then when I do that I’m going to take out 40. Take it right back down to 10 and just do that again. I’ve done that and it’s a great way to. It’s a great thing to do because it kind of cuts you off from say you took it from 50 to 100000 and then and then it went back down to 50 because you’re trading bigger size. That’s not so great. So maybe just having you know a short list just having goals like that is it is a good way to go.
Matt Zimberg: [00:57:21]
Absolutely. And by the way I’m going to fire my landscaper today I’m going to work on the bushes just a little bit more discipline it’s going to save me some money I think it charges too much. Ok. So the last question I have for you is can you share the technology execution your trade with today? Why did you choose it? You know just wanted to share with our traders because I’ll tell you what’s going on in the retail world is that people always look at what others trade. Right? So you talked about the sense of community and define people within a certain community but that’s exactly what they do. But I sometimes find that you know finding a too big of a community sometimes they choose what other people do and it’s not always good execution. So how did you go about choosing how you want to execute them? What technology do you use today for that?
Sam Beckers: [00:58:14]
Sure. My number one criteria has always been stability. I started out like I said using Trade Station which I thought was OK but not very stable it would crash all the time. ORPlat.exe It’s always something I was shutting down and having to restart. And so I and the other thing that I didn’t like about Trade Station was that it was not Broker neutral. I wanted to be able to use different brokers so I migrated over to multi-charts and I’ve been using multi charts for years now. It’s a blessing and a curse. I think it’s I think it’s a decent to good platform in that I like using easy language. It is easy. I’m not a programmer and I like to be able to lay down ideas really quickly. I execute through using multi-charts. I use CQG as a as a way of executing and sending orders to brokers and CQG is great. It’s very stable. I’ve never had any issues with it really. I think that if I were not married to easy language I would probably use Sierra chart. As far as retail platforms I think Sierra chart is a great platform if you can code in C++ which is not easy. So stability is really a key thing. My systems run on a server dedicated server in Chicago that’s close to the exchange it’s not right next door to the exchange it doesn’t have a pipeline going right through the wall to the exchange or anything like that. It’s not necessary but it is important to have a trading located or at least where you hold your stops and that kind of thing either on the exchange or located in a place that has multiple redundancies. So that I know that if I lose I mean I live on Vancouver Island in Canada and we get storms here sometimes and the power goes out. So what am I supposed to do? The power goes out. I don’t want to have any kind of unknowns there. I can flip a generator on and get to the get to a place where I can have a connection. But I don’t want my systems to be in limbo and have that disconnection so the servers that I use are have multiple power and connection redundancies and that’s a real great thing for peace of mind. Technology I would say you don’t need to have to be subscribing to some service that you pay a lot of money. You know there’s a lot of stuff for sale out there and they make it look really flashy and the numbers look great. No call you constantly try to get you to sign up for it. What I think this whole conversation has been about is that the holy grail of trading is not it’s not indicators it’s not hitting home brands. It’s all within yourself. It’s being able to develop consistency and your execution self-discipline and really analyzing you’re trading and learning from your mistakes and being humble and knowing when you’re making a mistake to cut it short. And I think that’s that that’s a really thing that we all like to try to achieve.
Matt Zimberg: [01:01:40]
Absolutely. So one thing I want to tell you is that you know you mentioned Multi-charts and Sierra Charts. One thing that those two platforms are very good, very stable. I think multi-charts specifically, have done a phenomenal job when it comes to interface design. You know sometimes people who are not traders you know they use they developed the front end. It’s not so intuitive. When I saw all multi-charts I thought a combination of colors visual and also the way they develop their DOM for execution it’s very good. Sierra Chart is amazing for people could trade volume profiles absolutely one of the better ones out there. And what’s unique about those platforms you know they don’t spend a lot of money on advertising. And this is what people look for companies and software to dedicate all the resources you know to pour into engineering to improve it. See how they work internally you know to develop it more and more and more. I see more and more software as you know working more, I don’t want to mention who, but you know but some of them work like advertising agencies to put more money into advertising. And I see their ads everywhere and Google as opposed to putting resources on what really matters which is their clientele. CQG is great. I’ve been using CQG for 20 years you know CQG went from if you recall, went from charting software it went to a trading platform. So back in the day that’s what we used for when I started at least. We used for charting and today, I don’t know if that helps you at all but you can take the same credentials and also plug them, CQG credentials work both on Sierra Chart and Multi-charts and then they have their own iPhone app that you can check quotes and I think they’re developing for android. But even if you put it on a browser based on the phone it will turn it into something which is very mobile friendly. So definitely good choice of technology. Sam I’m extremely grateful that you have dedicated all this time and your patience. You’ve been working with us and you tolerate me which is you deserve a medal. You know in a day to day communication so I appreciate the time this would really help our customers they always, I always wanted to share with them information from people who made it in the industry. Been there, not just some you know a lot of people share their experience online. But some of it is can come from part time trading or for paper trading. I always see people like yourself for practical day to day face the challenges. So I’m extremely grateful that you took the time and shared with our listeners. I wish you all the best and you know we’ll be in touch.
Sam Beckers: [01:04:25]
Thanks Matt. Yeah it’s good to get to talk to you guys. I hope it’s helped somebody. And glad to do it.
Matt Zimberg: [01:04:33]
Thank you Sam. Thank you. And for the listeners until the next podcast. Thank you again. Take care.
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