That which does not kill us

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger” – Friedrich Nietzsche.

It’s a cheesy quote to start with, I know. Bear with me here.  

It turns out it might be true when it comes to professional success as well.

In a recent paper published in the journal Nature, researchers found out that early-career setbacks can result in a stronger career in the long term – stronger even than people who never had a setback.

To sum up the paper in just a few lines, the experiment compared two groups of scientists: a group that scraped over the line in getting a grant from the US government and compared that to a group that had just missed out on a grant (one that just made it, one that just missed out).

Ten years later, the group that had not received the grant went onto have more successful careers than the team that had won the government grant.

So those who’d experienced some pain early on in their careers went onto come back stronger than those who didn’t fail.

I couldn’t help but think of how that pain would’ve fuelled their success in later years and how that so encapsulates what I’ve seen in over ten years of trading and watching hundreds of thousands of traders.

Why early successes in trading could hurt you

You may have seen my thoughts on Overconfidence bias before and it got me thinking how much this could spill over into early successes trading.

I’ve seen this far too many times in traders before.

It’s like the story of the tortoise and the hare. It’s the slow and steady trader that wins the race.

The traders I’ve seen who are new to trading will open their accounts, ignore basic risk management and trade gigantic positions on their account and make huge profits on their first few trades. While I love to see it, often they lull themselves into unbelievable amounts of overconfidence and a feeling of invincibility.

They’re the stories you read like “one man makes $1,000,000 trading options on first trade” or “this is how much you would’ve made investing $1 in Google shares since 2004” or “my friend just made $15k betting on AUDUSD” or other financial “junk food” as it should be labelled.  

Because it is too easy in their eyes, they’re always chasing the same early successes they had. 

What I took away from the Nature paper is that the easier we think something is, the more we can fool ourselves into believing something which isn’t true.

Taking the pain

Let me be clear. I’m absolutely not saying that you must lose big to win big. Nor am I saying making money early is bad.  

I’m saying that in my experience, my firm belief (now backed up by some solid research in a different field) is those that suffer early setbacks in their trading are like those who just missed out in their professional lives. In the same vein, if it’s too easy at the start, you can hurt yourself and trick yourself into thinking you’re better than you are.

It’s more like you need to hit some minor lows to hit the highs, but don’t ruin yourself. Call it a bloody nose.

Trading is not some easy game that can be won in the first week or month. Just like you wouldn’t expect to be a pilot after one week of flight training (though you can certainly have the goal!), the same is true for trading.

It’s hard. Very hard. There’s so much to take in and digest. The market is constantly evolving. That’s why you’ll hear statistics like 40% of traders don’t make it. Most people expect too much and give up too soon.

But real success in trading is more like a way of life.

It involves hard work, true grit, hours upon hours of learning and the ability to look and feel wrong many, many times (and often in painful ways both mentally, financially etc).

If you are just starting and you’re shooting the light outs, then maybe that’s not such a good thing. And if you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone.

Far better for you to see it as the challenge that it is. That a little pain is part of the journey and that if it were so easy, everyone would be doing it.


The Seven Most Common Mistakes I’ve Observed Traders Make

 I’ve been in this industry for over a decade now and have been in a very fortunate position to learn a lot by watching others. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly by watching tens of thousands of traders across various brokers.

Let me start off by saying that I am by no means perfect and I have (even recently) done quite a few of these myself. But knowledge is power, so I wanted to provide my observations of where things can start to go wrong, based on my own experience of sitting on the sidelines.  

1.      Ignoring Basic Risk Management aka Trading too big for their accounts

I have to start with risk because I believe it’s THE most important concept.

"Risk is what's left over when you think you've thought of everything" 

Unfortunately, risk management is not sexy, however. It makes people fall asleep when you hear someone talk about risk management.

Risk can mean many things, but it’s especially prescient when it comes to Forex Trading due to the leverage that’s involved. Unfortunately, it’s a gift and a curse.

I always tell traders that leverage is like driving a fast car. It’s nice to know you’ve got that power if you want to use it. And most of the time you don’t want to (nor should you) drive 100km/h on a busy street.

That is how I best describe the use of too much leverage.

It’s great that you have the flexibility with it if you need it, but you shouldn’t be maxing out the margin on every trade. It gives you less flexibility if the trade goes against you and kills way too many traders too soon.

I’m not a big fan of martingale systems and have seen this ruin many traders; however, depending on the circumstance, I do enjoy averaging into a trade. After all, if I liked buying EURUSD at 1.1000, wouldn’t I also like it at 1.0960 where I’m getting a lower average entry?

Many forex education providers will advise you never to risk more than 1% on any trade, and this can be good advice, yet I’d say more than half of traders I’ve seen will routinely trade at least 10x that. Some will even come close to margin call triggers on the first trade. Frankly, this can just be like lighting money on fire.

It might not be as “fun” to trade when it’s so small. But if you’re getting too excited by it all, maybe you’re taking on too much risk.


2.       Too many trades/ Trading outside of the area of competence

A close cousin of too much risk is taking too many trades, or branching out into other areas.

There’s a reason that doctors specialise in one area. You’d probably be scared if you saw an eye doctor have a go at performing surgery on the brain.

Stick to just a handful of products at the time (I’d say a maximum of five, preferably three). If there is a correlation between them, that’s fine but don’t assume your knowledge of the yen will mean you’re a great trader of the Turkish Lira.

In most investment banks back in the day when they had large proprietary desks, traders would only stick to a few currency pairs. You’d be on the “yen” desk or the “sterling” desk. That makes much sense as there’s only so much information you can absorb.

If I see a client that is successful trading in currencies who then makes a jump to the Indices it often is a sure sign of trouble ahead.


3.      Getting caught up in FX Headlines/Mainstream Media

Many will disagree with me on this one, but following the same headlines as everyone else in forex trading can sometimes lead you astray.

Yes, you need to be informed about what’s going on. You shouldn’t stick in your head in the sand.

Howard Marks said it best when he remarked: “You can’t do the same things others do and expect to outperform”.

If you’re reading Bloomberg headlines saying so and so thinks EURUSD is heading to 1.10, then every man and his dog is reading the same thing. Ask yourself what do you know that isn’t already baked into the price? How can you have the edge over someone else? Is it really by consuming the same news like everyone else?

Being contrarian in life might make people think you’re strange, but in the financial markets, I find it invaluable. The markets are (mostly) efficient, and a lot of what you see is already factored into the price. You need to think differently to the market if you want to get ahead. Remember the GBP after Brexit? Analysts were calling for parity against the USD. You’d be crazy to buy it people said. Fast forward, and it was probably one of the best trades you could’ve made once the negativity died down.


4.      Not using a Demo

This is a pretty standard one, but if you’ve started trading without using a demo first then you’re asking for trouble.  

Do think you can be a pilot after a day of flying lessons? Then when you’re risking your money, you can't be expected to perform well in the markets without doing some practice first.

It takes a lot longer than people think to master their craft at trading and many mistakes on the way.

That being said, you can also spend far too much time on a demo and never understand the psychology of a real trader with real money and emotions on the line. So do practice, but just like when you learn to ride a bike, you will need to take the training wheels off at some point. That’s why we recommend having a demo and a live side by side (and Fusion offers unlimited demos for funded accounts)


5.      Moving Stops and Limits

Ah, the old “Greed and Fear” comment. Lots of people will talk to you about how two things kill a trader/investor, and that’s greed and fear.

Good trading is about good entries and exits.

Traders I’ve seen have spent much time setting up the perfect entry, but then they don’t have an exit plan.

The trades go well for them and then all of a sudden, the greed sets in. Suddenly, their take profit has been bumped up just a little bit higher to capture that extra drop of profit. Then boom! All of a sudden, the trade has reversed, and their profits have disappeared faster than you can say margin call.

Trading without stops and limits is also just as bad. You never know what “black swan” can happen while you’re away from your platform or are asleep. Having protection in the form of stops and limits can help minimise your risk. You can also try to use “trailing stops” which move up as the price moves in your direction. Ask me how if you need a hand with these.


6.      Ignoring the important of Psychology

You might’ve read my other posts about biases and psychology. But my personally believe that life is 80% psychology, 20% strategy and I believe trading is no different.

If you can master your trading psychology, you’ll be a far better trader for it.

This is everything from being too afraid to enter a trade, to being too greedy to close it to learning even more about all the biases we have and how to prevent them.

 7.     Not having a strategy 

Yes, I believe trading is 80% psychology. But you still need the 20% that comes from a strategy.  

What is your strategy? Why would (or should) that give you an edge? How long has the strategy been successful for? Is it technical or fundamental based?

You know the quote – if you to fail to plan, you plan to fail. You can’t show up and hope for the best. You’ll get killed. That’s where testing comes in whether that’s via a backtest of an algorithmic strategy or if it’s just applying the strategy on a demo. Or even just starting small with micro-lots.

You need a strategy if you’re going to succeed.

Sure you might get lucky for a little bit, but it won’t last forever.


Overall, this isn’t a definitive list and unfortunately, following it blindly is no guarantee for success in the markets.

We all make mistakes. I know I do – all the time. But I hope that the above is useful for you as I’ve had a window into watching traders for a long enough time.

Did I miss any? Was there something you thought was even more important? I’d love to hear from you.




Why Your Stop Losses Are (Probably) Wrong

When you start to learn about trading, you'll come across plenty of material about minimising risk and money management, because they're two of the most critical areas of the business. 

Learning to manage risk and preserve trading capital is fundamental to a successful trading journey. 

One area the literature focuses on is the use of stop losses. A stop loss is simply a price level beyond which you choose not to run an unprofitable or losing trade.

But for me, stop losses are one of the most misunderstood tools in a trader's arsenal, and I wanted to offer a different perspective than what is usually found in the research.  

I'll give you a hint; it's in the name!

Knowing your risk

It's important to know the risk you are taking on any given trade, this can be calculated by multiplying the distance of your stop loss, from the entry-level of your trade, by the notional size of your trade.  

In theory, this simple calculation determines the maximum risk or loss that you face on a given trade. I say in theory because that risk figure is not cast in stone.  

Firstly, if the stop loss you use on a trade is just a mental one, i.e. a figure that you have chosen, (but will watch rather than attach to an order), then it will be down to you to monitor price action and trade it. That's a sure recipe for looking like a maniac checking your platform or mobile app every second you get.

Systemise your process

Rather than rely on them being in front of the screen to close a trade (which in a 24/5 market is not that realistic), many traders will place a stop loss to an open position. This is essentially creating an instruction to close the position should the price of the underlying instrument reach a pre-set level.

In doing so, traders are systemising this part of their trading. On the face of it, that sounds like a good idea doesn't it? 

But what if that automated stop loss level was defining the loss you make on a trade and eating away at your trading capital, not protecting it?  

The use of a stop loss should be what its name suggests – the prevention of a loss, not the realisation of losses as 90% of traders currently use their SL for.  

Crowding together

Here's the thing. Traders of all sizes fall foul of "clustering" which means they place their stop losses in the same areas, at the same time.  

For example, at or around round numbers, (e.g. USDJPY 110) just above or just below a moving average or indeed close by the same support or resistance levels everyone else is keenly watching.  

The market is aware of this behaviour and is often on the lookout for these clusters of stop losses. When they are, it's known as a stop hunt.  

But what exactly does that mean? 

Well, a big bank (a price "Maker") might see on their books that they have a cluster of orders around 1.10 on EURUSD, and then be willing to commit large sums of capital to "hunting down" that stop loss level. They do this by moving the underlying price towards it, in a selfish way, to reward themselves, rather than because of natural order flow (and they wonder why they have bad reputations!).  

As an aside, a broker such as Fusion Markets, that typically services "retail" clients, e.g. mum and dad investors, often get accused of doing the same thing, despite the fact we are a price "Taker" not a price "Maker", and have no control over the prices coming through to you, as a client.  

Think about it if the market can find these groups of stop losses and trigger them, then that's easy money for the banks and traders who have the opposing view and positions.  

Remember that in FX trading there is a winner for every loser and vice versa. A successful trader endeavour's to be on the winning side of that relationship more often than not.

A different approach to stop losses

Are we saying then that you should trade without a stop loss? No, we are not! 

But what if we took a different approach to stop loss placement? Instead of lining up to provide a free lunch for the banks, what if we placed our stop losses above our entry price rather than below it?   

Of course, that means that we'd have to risk-manage our trades in a different way.

For example, employing less leverage and taking smaller positions relative to our account size. But that is really what we should be doing anyway. And of course, we would have to monitor performance closely in a trade's early stages, as we should.  

However, if the trade we have taken is the correct one, then our position will soon be on-side, and once we have a buffer between the current price and our entry-level. Then, our stop loss can be locking in profits rather than minimising (or realisation of) our losses.  

Trailing a stop-loss behind a profitable position is something of a holy grail in trading it's often talked about, but rarely seen in the markets. By not acting like the crowd, maybe we can turn the tables on the stop hunters.  

What are you waiting for? Why not stop your losses in the way they're supposed to be stopped? 


My Top Five Tools for Traders

One of the questions I'm frequently asked is "How do you follow the markets? So, I thought it was time to compile a list of tools I use nearly daily that help me become a better trader.

These are for various experience levels. Oh, and they also happen to be completely free.

Here they are:

1. – Depending on your trading experience, their free forex school is second to none. It covers from beginners to advanced. In fact, these resources are so comprehensive that most brokers I’ve worked for make any new employees do the course from front to back!

2. – handy website that I personally use and love! It has the most important (and live) news in the currency markets (hence the name). I remember during the Brexit vote that we were glued to their analysis of the markets.

3. – If you love your charts and technical analysis (fun fact- something like 70% of traders do!) – then TradingView is for you. They have over 4,000,000 users, and the users are all very passionate! It’s not just for currencies either - you can pull up currencies, commodities, indices are more. While I’m personally not TOO much of a tech analysis guy, all my clients rave about TradingView.

4. – Following the technical analysis recommendation, if you are a fundamental guy (I am guilty!) then getting a good understanding of the macroeconomic picture is a great place to start. Needless to say, Boris and Kathy are legends in the forex market. You’ll see them on Bloomberg or CNBC every other week, but their free daily analysis of the fundamental state of the markets is second to none. It’s how I usually start my day. Ignore the slightly dated website they have, the content is amazing and is one of the first things I read each morning at my desk. 

5. – Knowing what big events are happening in the markets is critical. You don’t want to wake up and see the USD has made a 200 pip move and not known there’s been a US interest rate (FOMC) meeting. The Myfxbook economic calendar will be your friend. They also send out an email each week with the upcoming period just in case you forget.

That’s it for now.

Why so short? The last thing you want is the “analysis paralysis” which comes from digesting 20+ resources. You will get overwhelmed and give up.

Believe me, it was hard for me to get it down to five, but these are my go-to resources, even if you asked me what the best paid subscription-based services are.

There is so much value in these resources, so please use them! Just because they’re free doesn’t mean it’s not great content. As I said, I use this every day myself (except Babypips – I like to think I’ve got the basics down pat) and I hope you do too.


Your reptile brain is hurting your trading

These are unprecedented times for all of us. Not only have we seen the financial markets crash, moving from an 11-year bull market into a bear market, with a -33% correction (only to see it bounce back up 25%!), in less than a month, but we have also seen the oil price collapse, thanks to a price war between two of its biggest producers and an oversupply. On top of which we have the small matter of the Coronavirus and associated lockdowns and isolation to contend with. What a time to be alive! 


Life has changed dramatically in the space of just a few weeks and things we took for granted can no longer be relied upon.


If you watched the way the financial markets have been performing over recent weeks you will have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions that has matched, if not exceeded the peaks and troughs of the market. What kind of market are we in? General fear and greed? Are professional Investors rushing to cash and dumping everything they can? Algorithms? Passive Investing/ETFs exacerbating moves? Everything and anything is being put on the table but these moves are unprecedented.

 If you're not confused, you're not paying attention. 


You‘ve probably been conflicted, part of you may have wanted to bury your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. Another part of you may have wanted to sell everything and “head for the hills” except (literally speaking) of course you can't because you are under lockdown.


Let’s be clear these are stressful times. Even hard-nosed professional traders who have seen market crashes before are in unchartered territory at the moment and are trying to work out what to do next.


And just like you, they have been behaving a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights. That is, not sure whether to run or stay put.


Before we can decide what to do next, we need to take a step back and examine why we’ve been behaving and thinking as we have.


Firstly, we need to realise that it's not personal or unique to us. Everyone is stressed at the moment, they are out of their routine and under immense pressure. concerned for the wellbeing of families, friends and finances.


At times like these our everyday decision-making processes take a back seat and the way our brain and body operates undergoes subtle but important changes.


When we are severely stressed our blood chemistry changes dramatically, adrenalin, noradrenaline and cortisol are produced by and pumped around our bodies.

These chemicals increase our heart rate, our pace of breathing. and ready our muscles for action. Without us being aware of it we are preparing for fight or flight.

Why does this happen?

Well, the truth is that a prehistoric part of our brain is taking control of our actions. There are "Two-yous" in your brain. A rational, deliberate, thoughtful you. And an emotional, fast-thinking you.


The frontal cortex of our brain, which is the part of the brain that we normally use for decision making, becomes less active and a part of the brain that's sometimes referred to as our reptile mind, called the amygdala, takes over.


The amygdala is an almond-shaped cluster of neurons and nuclei buried deep in our brains, frankly, it’s a “throwback”.  It has its own independent memory systems and it deals with our emotional and physical responses to stress and fear.


The amygdala evolved to make us alert to danger and to keep us alive if, for example, we came face to face with a large predator. These days, for most of us, confronting a large predator, is a remote possibility.


However, the amygdala's response to heightened levels of stress and stressful situations have become baked into our brains thanks to millions of years of evolution. Such that it’s become part of our subconscious, and something we are only faintly aware of and are not able to control.


So if you have been watching the markets or financial TV recently and have felt your heart pumping, your brow sweating, your muscles tensing and have found yourself only able to focus on the screen, even ignoring someone who is speaking to you, in the same room, you are not alone or to blame. You only need to watch five minutes of television or visit a news site to see blaring counts of the death toll, economic shutdown and other news that puts your amygdala in the driver's seat.


When our reptile brain takes over our decision making becomes short- term and driven by fear and our long-term strategic thinking goes completely out of the window.


That's why it's so dangerous to make financial decisions under stress at the heat of the moment if you will.  A few rash decisions or actions that are taken then can easily undo years of hard work.


So how can we try and counteract these primaeval forces in our brain and psyche?

Well, the first thing to do is break the cycle, so walk away from the source of stress be it the TV or the computer screen and gather yourself. If you can get into the garden or get some fresh air for a few minutes that will help.


Having removed yourself from the situation you can try to re-impose some order.


Think about the timescales you are investing or trading over. If you are trading FX you may be taking short term positions, but they are likely to be part of a longer-term plan. Perhaps you can re-appraise this as a once in a generation buying opportunity?


Remind yourself what your investing goals are and over what time scales were you trying to achieve them.


I very much doubt your plan was about weeks or even months was it?


Your plans were probably conceived to play out over several years, weren't they?


It also helps to think about who you are investing and trading for and why.

Perhaps it's for you and your family or other loved ones, thinking about these long-term goals can help you centre yourself once more. When I'm investing or trading I think about 65 year old me retiring and ask myself "Will I care about today's trading result then? Or even in one year?"


If you do need to make a decision or take action on your portfolio, try to make that decision when the markets are shut and you are free of distraction. You will find that you can think a lot more clearly in those circumstances. That clarity is only likely to benefit your finances over the longer term. Take a minute to take some deep breaths.

Remember, this too shall pass.



Why Trading Costs Matter So Much | Fusion Markets

Fusion Markets prides itself on its low-cost approach to trading, but have you ever wondered why access to low-cost execution is important and what part it might play in your long-term success as a trader?


You might not even link the two things together, and I can see why. After all, a few pips of spread, or dollars and cents of commission paid, is small potatoes when you are trading in tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of currencies and other instruments daily, right?


But not so fast because these costs do make a difference in the long-term and that is the timescale that Fusion Markets wants to be your partner in the markets.


Let’s look at some numbers and imagine that you are a moderately active trader, with a strategy that you deploy across five instruments on a daily basis. And that on average you make 20 trades per day. Let’s call you Trader A. You have a friend who deals with another broker using a similar strategy, but they don’t offer Fusion Markets low commission rates let’s refer to them as Trader B.


You pay our low commission rate of USD $2.25 per trade whilst Trader B pays $5.00 per trade. You both trade 20 times a day, five days a week. That means, that you, Trader A, pay $225 per week in commission while your friend, Trader B, pays $500 in commission per week and that’s +275 dollars more than you pay.


Now let’s scale that up:


Over a month, that’s a difference of around +1,100 dollars commission and over the course of the year, Trader B pays an additional +14,300 dollars more in commission than you, for the same or similar trades.


That means that over five years of this type of active trading, Trader B will pay away an astonishing +71,500 dollars of additional commission.


Now not only does Trader B pay those additional costs, he or she also “pays” the opportunity costs of not having that money available to them. Money that could have been saved or invested or that could have helped pay off the mortgage or the car loan that much quicker.

Money that might have been put into a nest egg for the kids in later life. And all that before we even consider the possibility of compound growth on that money over time.


Tighter spreads matter too


Now not only do lower commissions benefit your trading and finances so do tighter spreads. After all, some brokers charge astronomical amounts in spreads.  


Spreads are the difference between the bid and ask prices in the market, the prices at which you can buy or sell a financial instrument like a currency pair or equity index.


Each we time we buy or sell an instrument at the market price we are said to be” crossing the spread” or if you prefer incurring the cost of spread in our trade.


The spread is seen as a cost because we have to make it back before our trade moves into profit.


Think of it like this: Instrument A is priced at 100-101 we can sell at 100 and buy at 101.

If we buy a unit of instrument A at a price of 101, we incur an immediate running loss. That’s because our trade is valued at the price that we can sell the unit of instrument A for, and in this case, that’s 100.


In making the trade we have incurred the spread as a cost, to make those costs back we need to see the price of instrument A move up to 101-102, or higher. If it does that, it means that we now can sell our unit of instrument A at the price we paid for it. That is, we are now at breakeven on the trade.


And if the price of instrument A moves to 102-103 then we have a running profit on our trade because the bid price of Instrument A is now above our trade entry-level.


Spreads in FX trading may appear to be small but don’t forget that trade sizes are typically larger here.  Remember that a standard FX lot is US$100,000 of notional value.


What’s more FX trading is leveraged meaning that clients can gear up their account and at the maximum available leverage of 500:1 that means that a deposit of just US$ 2000 could control 10 FX lots or US$ 1,000,000 worth of a currency pair.


Even a small value like the size of the spread in EURUSD grows pretty quickly when you multiply it by another 6 or 7 figure number. So, the difference between a 0.1-0.2 pip spread, that you typically find at Fusion Markets, in this most active of currency pairs, and a 1-2 pip price that you might well find elsewhere, quickly becomes material (in your head you can do the math - 10-20x the figure is a LOT)


Quite simply, the narrower or tighter, that the spread you pay is, then the more chance you have of your trade moving into profit and doing so more quickly. Which, in turn, means more of your trades are potentially viable. Of course, you still have to do the leg work and get the direction of your trade right, but tighter spreads also mean that if you are wrong, and you cut or close the position. then you are doing so at a more advantageous price and that can help to keep your trading losses to a minimum.


Think of trading like an Olympic hurdle race. With a low-cost broker, you have a tiny hurdle to jump over in the form of lower costs. Your friend at Broker B has a giant hurdle he has to jump over every single time he enters a trade. Who has the better chance of success here? Do you want to jump over a 1 ft hurdle or a 6 ft hurdle?


Successful trading is not a get rich quick scheme it’s about finding and honing a style or system of trading that works for you and applying that to the markets over time. Successful traders often talk about slanting the odds of success in their favour and they try to do this not just for the trade that’s in front of them now but for all of their trades during the months and years they are active in markets. Having a trading cost base that works in your favour can play a key part in this. It means your the margin for error can be 10x lower than what your friend pays at Broker B.

Want to Start Trading? Get started live or try a free demo.