Stocks & Commodities V. 27:7 (42-49): Quant and Consultant Ernest P. Chan by J. Gopalakrishnan and B. Faber

Stocks & Commodities V. 27:7 (42-49): Quant and Consultant Ernest P. Chan by J. Gopalakrishnan and B. Faber
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Quant and Consultant Ernest P. Chan by J. Gopalakrishnan and B. Faber

If you’re a trader who wants to design your own strategies but would like some guidance, here’s someone who’s right up your alley. Ernest Chan is a quantitative trader and consultant who advises clients on how to implement automated statistical trading strategies. He has worked as a quantitative researcher and trader in various investment banks including Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, as well as hedge funds such as Mapleridge Capital, Millennium Partners, and Mane Fund Management before striking out on his own. Chan, who earned a doctorate in physics from Cornell University, wrote a book, Quantitative Trading: How To Build Your Own Algorithmic Trading Business, available from John Wiley & Sons.

Stocks & Commodities Editor Jayanthi Gopalakrishan (JG) and Staff Writer Bruce R. Faber (BF) interviewed Ernest Chan via telephone on May 6, 2009.

Ernie, what led you to becoming an independent trader, considering your quantitative background?

Until 2006 I always worked for large institutions, investment banks like Morgan Stanley or Credit Suisse and hedge funds such as Millennium Partners or Maple Ridge Capital. I brought a history of sophisticated research in computer science and statistics to these firms. I thought that based on my academic knowledge I would be able to really bring a lot of profit to my employers. But that turned out not to be the case.

JG: Why?

Despite building complex models, I found that often the real-time results diverged from what the model or the backtest showed. So in 2006, partly based on my family relocation back to Canada and also because of a disillusionment with advanced computer science and statistical techniques, I decided to trade for myself. Instead of spending my employers’ money, I decided to use my own capital and adopt a different style in my trading to see if I could make a go of it.

JG: How was it different?

First of all, I did not have the excuse of having a manager interfere with my operation. If I lost money it was my fault and not because somebody else overrode my model. Second, I could try models that were not constrained by so-called risk management measures imposed by investment banks or hedge funds. I don’t believe they really reduce risk, but they are just used to satisfy senior management who have no idea what risk really is, as evidenced by the recent debacle with the banks.

So I started trading on my own. I opened a brokerage account and decided to do some backtesting and read up on everything I could. Of course I continued to read academic papers published by business school finance professors. I also read trading magazines such as Stocks & Commodities and blogs. I sucked up information from everywhere.

I tried to select the simplest strategies, because as an independent trader I could not afford to run the kind of strategy the big banks use. I do not have the sophisticated programs they have. I do not have the computational power they have, and I do not have the vast amount of historical data and real-time data and the superfast execution systems that institutional traders have. I stick to the simplest and the most basic strategies. I find that to be profitable. And that is how I started on the road to profitability. It has been quite a difference from my experience at the investment banks and funds.

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