Sean Lee wants to help you become a top FX trader, no matter whether you’re living in New York or Nairobi. Lee, a former Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas spot trader, is searching for about 100 part-time FX traders with enough raw talent to eventually land jobs in hedge funds and other buy-side firms.
His company, Sydney-based FXWW, is a “career starter” for aspiring FX traders who want to become professionals in the field. “Think of us a managing agent looking after traders who we think have got what it takes to make it into the big time,” says Lee. “We provide an allocation, help you get regulated, and set up your business structure. We fine tune you into a more polished product, so you can potentially secure a buy-side trading job in the future.”
Where does FXWW find its talent? Lee says almost all of them are retail FX traders, who use their own money to trade from home in their spare time as they work in other sectors or complete their studies. “From the mid-1980s (when I started my career) until the 2008 financial crisis, FX traders were all trained by big banks,” say Lee. “Since then, because of tighter regulations and new technology, jobs have been drastically cut back, so banks no longer provide a large pool of young traders wanting to work in funds management or hedge funds.”
This “massive shift” in the job market is making it difficult for the buy-side to hire ex-bank traders, he adds. “The next generation must come from the burgeoning retail FX trading market, because it’s now the only place to find people.”
FXWW already supports 5,000 accounts for retail traders across the globe, providing them with access to Reuters FX news and data on its own FXWW Connect system. “We have purely technical retail traders in our network as well as those with quant, strategy and analytics backgrounds,” says Lee. “The others are more traditional finance people who have a risk-taking mentality and aren’t confined by any particular strategy.”
But for an elite group of retail traders with outstanding potential (only 17 people have currently made the cut), FXWW offers a whole lot more. “We arrange your first substantial start in trading, with an allocation of US$150k to US$500k, funded by third parties such as hedge funds,” says Lee.
When people start trading those kind of sums the pressure “suddenly goes up 10-fold”, he says. “We don’t provide coaching or investment guidance, and some people freeze as a result. But the great traders perform better when the pressure rises, so if you succeed with this allocation, we give you more money in the future.”
How do you get from being in the 5,000-strong FXWW network to receiving your own allocation? For starters, FXWW can analyse every trade you’ve made since you joined. But Lee says the best way of finding trader diamonds in the rough is via the competitions that his firm runs in partnership with brokerages. “These are three-month-long trading events where you’re up against about 1,000 people globally,” says Lee. “It’s a pressurised environment, which concentrates the mind – you can see exactly where you stand every day on a leaderboard – and it sorts out the chancers from the proper traders.”
Lee describes the competition as “a bit like golf’s PGA Tour”. “Think of it as one of the sub tours where you’re battling to break through to the main draw.”
Those who do make the cut typically spend about two or three years trading off FXWW’s allocation before trying to secure a job on the buy-side. “Even if they’re successful, not many of them want to continue just as retail traders. People with quant expertise, for example, often want to work for a hedge fund, or set up their own fund.”
Trading your allocation is an “incredible opportunity” to promote yourself to potential employers and attract investors, says Lee. “Nobody else is offering a service like this – one that can build your profile and open doors to a career in FX trading.”
And while you trade, you don’t even have to move to a major financial centre. “If you’re good enough, the money will come to you – there are no boundaries,” says Lee. “We have one emerging trader working on an oil rig, a top-class quant from Kazakhstan, and a super swing trader from Pakistan. We’re finding the new generation of retail traders, no matter where they’re based, and giving them a clear pathway to becoming successful FX professionals.”
What makes a great FX trader? “You need to manage risk and the downsides. But the single most important trait is an ability to make money – to turn a good idea in your head into something that produces a good percentage return,” says Lee. “I’m looking for people who have that rare talent to essentially make money for themselves.”
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