Phenomenology and existentialism and trading? Oh, my! Nothing in Robert Koppel's background as a philosophy academic could have given the slightest clue that he would end up as a floor trader for 17 years before giving that up for yet another career using the insights of his previous two. Stocks & Commodities interviewed Koppel, who is now a proprietary trader with Innergame Partners, on topics such as how traders see their own versions of reality and the importance of developing a trading plan that is consistent with your personality. By Thom Hartle
When did you first start trading?
I began trading in the mid-1970s, but my formal education was in philosophy. I have a graduate degree from
Columbia University, and the area of my expertise was phenomenology and existentialism.
Well, trading certainly makes you become more philosophical!
So what does
phenomenology and existentialism deal with?
Basically, phenomenology and existentialism deal with how one formulates both objective and subjective
reality, and how one develops a sense of self based on the way one interprets reality. I was a formal student of
both those fields, and I was prepared to pursue that as my life's work, both in terms of writing and teaching.
What brought about the switch to trading?
In the mid-1970s, I was working for a research institute in New York pursuing this line of study, and my
brother invited me for a weekend in Chicago. He was a member of the Chicago Board of Trade, and he traded
in the grain pits. He invited me to come down to the exchange for the day. I wasn't particularly excited by the
idea at first, but I finally took him up on it. And then when I got down to the exchange and actually saw the
pits in action, it seemed like the Great Barrier Reef!