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Q&A: Do you need to go to university, if you want to work as a trader in Russia?

Marsel Tazetdinov

23-year-old Marsel Tazetdinov, a St Petersburg-based trader, doesn’t have a degree, but is an experienced and successful trader. He conducts training courses for beginner traders via iLearney. We asked him if this kind of trader-training is really sufficient if you want a trading career.

What is your academic background?

I graduated from the St Petersburg Admiralty Humanities College, a specialised secondary education institution. I then studied at the St Petersburg State Economics and Finance University, FINEC, for a couple of years, but left without graduating as I saw no connection between theory and practice. I was already familiar with the subjects in the first and second year syllabi, as I like reading and studying the subjects I need to know on my own as needed. Back at college I had started my own business, an online clothing store, and my university studies failed to bring me any additional knowledge relevant to setting up and managing a business.

How did you get into trading?

The economics professor at college suggested that my classmates and I contribute RUR1,000 (ca. £20) each to a savings account and try our hand at investing. Our initial capital amounted to about RUR15,000 (£300). It was in 2007, and we traded Dow Jones index futures using a buy-and-hold strategy. We were lucky: we started earning money almost from the outset, and broke even by the next quarter. Our profits were rather laughable at a few thousand roubles, but it was my first practical trading experience. I was 18 at the time.

I started doing serious transactions three years later. Clients would find me through discussion forums and through my blog. Some of them were traders themselves, and investing funds with other traders was a sort of hedging technique or a way of diversifying risks. After a number of successful trades I decided to reinvest all the proceeds and was lucky in the outcome. I have occasionally done it since then in order to get to a higher level professionally.

I now work in a team with another trader who is also a programmer. We develop automated trading algorithms together and have our proprietary software to test trading strategies. We also work with two proprietary trading companies, one New York-based and the other Moscow-based, that invest in our projects.

What are your career development plans? Are you thinking about continuing your studies?

I’ve been getting job offers. We are now developing a trading strategy portfolio for a hedge fund, and the lack of a graduate degree is no hindrance there. I am thinking about getting a degree, but I think it is more likely to happen after next year, as I don’t have time for it at present.

In my case, a graduate degree would be useful not so much as a way of getting a job but as a way of improving my maths, as trading algorithms are not the kind of thing you can develop and forget; you constantly need to grow and seek out new market opportunities. At present I specialise in designing trading systems, and maths is my weakness. As a result I am now thinking about getting a degree from the maths faculty at one of the major universities, Moscow State or St Petersburg State.

How much money have you made since your first transaction?

I’d say that at the start of my career, once I had started trading with confidence, I’d take home $1,000-2,000 every month. Now I make almost eight times the money I’d make on my first trades.

Do you have other sources of income besides your current job?

Yes. I run training courses for traders in the Russian market at the financial skills workshop iLearney. I also conduct free webinars and maintain a blog for traders that is read by about 600 people and that also brings me additional income. I use it to bring up examples from my trading experience, post market commentary, and analyse lessons learned. Maintaining a blog has turned out to be a profitable enterprise; thus, it has enabled me to use VolFix, a rather expensive analytical software package, for free. It has also enabled me to enrol in a С# programming course.

What advice would you give to beginner traders?

There’s a type of trading novice who’s jokingly called a “Grail seeker” – for whom the process of attaining knowledge is more important than practical trading. As a result, they can find it difficult to see the really important stuff due to information overload.

I’d tell beginner traders not to waste too much time on financial markets trading courses, forum discussions, and trader chatroom. I’d also advise them not to read tons of specialised literature or to try to learn everything at once. It’s much more important to focus on the skills you’ve already acquired.

I’d also suggest that everyone starts with day trading. The more transactions a beginner does, the less time he spends on decision making. The fear of risk gets less acute as time goes on. Later on, it should be possible to develop one’s skills in various directions, such as swing trading or even scalping, as some people will be better suited to making investments. I believe that the market is the best school for a newbie trader.

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