It would be great if trading always went smoothly, making you a steady profit along the way. But we all know life is not quite like that. So at the spookiest time of the year, here are six cautionary tales of trading disaster. Make sure you are not the next to fall victim.
1. “A piece of chicken landed on his mouse button”
Drinking while trading is certainly not a good idea, for obvious reasons. And neither, it seems, is eating while trading.
“My colleague and I were having lunch,” says Piers Curran, head trader and managing director of trading education business Amplify Trading, remembering a day earlier in his trading career.
“He’d bought a chicken sandwich, took a massive bite, and a piece of chicken landed bang on his left mouse button. This resulted in him buying 250 German government bond futures. By the time he got out of the trade he’d lost €5000. So that was an expensive lunch.”
2. “Might be on a hard drive in my attic”
Plenty of traders have invested in Bitcoin recently, hoping to cash in on the cryptocurrency boom. Many might be wishing that they had done so years ago, before the hype.
Even if you had just bought one or two, you would have made a very sizeable return by now. But imagine you had done this – and then lost your Bitcoin.
This is what happened to Syl Turner, whose predicament was profiled on NPR podcast Planet Money earlier this year. They sent a team to help him track down the Bitcoin - now worth $25,000 - which he thought just might be on an old hard drive in his attic. Spoiler alert: they were not. Ouch.
3. Computer says yes, yes, yes
Heard of Knight Capital? If you have not, that is probably because they no longer exist, having been taken over in 2013.
But you may remember the stock market panic they caused in summer 2012, which has something to do with their eventual fate. This chain of events saw the value of a large number of NYSE stocks fluctuate wildly, and Knight lose $440 million.
What caused this? A piece of algorithmic trading software that Knight was testing, which turned out to be faulty. It decided to repeatedly buy high and sell low with, as trading site Zero Hedge puts it, “furious repetition and steadfast consistency”. Most traders would call that very faulty indeed.
4. “Disappointed doesn’t even cover it”
Stubbornness can have horrible consequences in trading. William de Lucy, another managing director at Amplify, has a story about this that he hopes will help others avoid or manage a similar experience.
“I was in a position that I didn’t want to get out of, so held on despite the data,” he says. “I remember my risk manager running to my desk to get me out of the position and me not listening to him. Then I had to go for the walk of shame into his office. His exact words were: ‘Disappointed doesn’t even cover it’.”
To make things worse, over the next few weeks other traders kept coming up to him – and saying exactly the same thing.
5. Murder on the trading floor
We have all heard too many horror stories from female traders in the City. Sexism, bullying and abuse continue to occur. So it is good to find a story of a woman fighting back.
An anonymous female bond trader told the Evening Standard in 2016 that she was fed up with the “baboons” she worked with making comments about her appearance and speculating about her sex life. So she decided to do some “ball bashing” – of squash balls, that is.
She took on every man on her floor at the game, and “slaughtered” them all. From then all she had to deal with were “flowers and free cappuccinos”.
6. “Some people will do anything to keep a client on side”
Some traders are reckless, but all are resourceful. This is shown by a story from finance insider Alex Buchanan in his City book, The Game. “Some people will do anything to keep a client on side”, he says, and recounts how one trader borrowing a client’s flat one night realised he had no clean underwear for the next day.
He washed his pants – and decided to dry them in the microwave. The result? “A charred and blackened ceiling”.
Realising the importance of this client, the trader’s team “downed tools, donned overalls, and set to work with brushes, rollers and paint pots”, and concealed the damage. To this day, the client “calls the trader Johnny Hot Pants and doesn’t know why”.