The Biggest Influences on My Trading Style
Updated: Mar 13
I think we all need a wide range of inspirations, mentors and influencers whenever we aspire to become truly adept at anything. Here are the people who have undoubtedly sculpted the way I approach the markets today.
Mostly a technical (price action) trend following forex trader and author of Attacking the Currency Trends. This was the first book I ever read on trading and I think the main things that I took from his teachings were that in order to stay in control of your trades you need to keep fear to a minimum. The way he suggests you do this is by applying strict risk management rules, but also by only using unambiguous technical tools to plan your trades. By this I mean tools that give you a clear point that tells you when your trade is either bullish or bearish. There's no grey area, no guess work or interpretation involved, because as soon as you start using tools like RSI that don't really give you any definitive/binary feedback, uncertainty creeps into your decision making process, and where uncertainty lurks, fear is not far behind. When fear takes over it's incredible the stupid shit traders do with their trade management (or lack thereof).
He recommends using simple moving averages, trend lines, remembered points of support and resistance and Fibonacci retracements. To this day you'll never see me using anything but these tools to carry out technical analysis. Read his book Attacking the Currency Trends, it all makes perfect sense and is a great guide for budding chartists (although he does use fundamental analysis too).
Michael Covel is synonymous with trend following. Indeed, he owns the website www.trendfollowing.com which is a treasure trove of useful and interesting research, tips, articles, interviews and thought-provoking charts and PDFs to mull over. He is best known perhaps for his book about Richard Dennis' Turtle Traders, entitled The Complete Turtle Trader, this is also a very good Audible listen if you're into that. For those of you who are unaware of this incredible story, it has to be the next big financial film they'll bring out to rival The Big Short and Wolf of Wall Street (yes, and Wall Street I & II). This was the story of a pair of highly successful Wall Street traders in the nineties who carried out an experiment to train up normal people off the street to become millionaire traders using a mechanical trend following system.
I won't go into too much detail (spoiler-free here at SBP), but will say that it's bloody fascinating and off the back of this story I learned sooooo damn much. Michael also has a cracking podcast which has been running for years now called Trend Following with Michael Covel.
Robbie Burns, AKA, The Naked Trader. No doubt if you're UK based you'll have heard of Robbie, his refreshingly honest, no BS approach to teaching people to invest in the markets through his books and seminars (again, it's also a damn good listen on Audible, I have both).
I just wish I'd read these books in the first few years of me learning to trade stocks. He inspired me to start publishing my trades openly on this site, because he's the first trader I've come across that does this on his own site - I have a little way to go before I reach the lofty heights of Robbie's ISA and spread betting trading balance, but I hope that over the years I can gradually build it up at a healthy rate if I stick to his lessons. He is one of a very small group of people who have traded their personal ISAs up into the multi-millions. This is not an easy task when you consider that you're capped on how much you can add into an ISA (tax free) each year. He made his initial trading capital from entrepreneurial ventures as well, so he's an interesting guy to follow. He holds a few seminars each year, and I'll definitely attend one soon as I'd like to learn how to understand and use level 2 data and meet him in person to thank him. He is strongly fundamental in his approach to trading, and touts the merits of being Spock-like in his approach (i.e. emotionless). His method of screening stocks and idea generation has helped me enormously and I try to emulate his advice as closely as possible in shortlisting my stock trading ideas. I would recommend his books to anyone just starting out, his writing style is far removed from the usual constipated style of books you find on finance, he makes me properly belly laugh and smile, and learning is always easier when it's fun. If you're looking for a no-nonsense mentor to learn about fundamental growth investing, then The Naked Trader is your man.
Like most people, I first came across Anton in the four-part BBC documentary Million Dollar Traders, with Lex Van Dam. He is an ex-Goldman Sachs trader with a sterling record that allowed him to retire (a millionaire) at the very young age of 27. He is the founder and Chairman of The Institute for Trading & Portfolio Management who run some very interesting looking courses and qualifications, which at some point I wouldn't mind doing. I watch all their YouTube videos on their channel.
He's influenced me most in the way he talks about money management and how he sheds light on the truth behind the industry of financial educators. There's a lot of misinformation amongst retail traders, and Anton and the other mentors at the ITPM seem to me like they're the good guys trying to save aspiring traders from making poorly informed decisions and becoming another FX or Crypto overnight dooshbag pretending to make millions when in reality they're losing traders. I found these videos of his very enlightening: 10 Secrets to Achieve Financial Success and Anton Kreil Annihilates Retail Brokers and "Trading Educators".
I first came across Steve Burns when he appeared as a guest on Michael Covel's Trend Following Radio podcast a few years back. I'd listened to around 70-100 episodes of this podcast by now, and the guests are always fantastic, but when Steve started talking I really listened. Not just because of his amazing Tennessee American accent, but because he started to verbalise the ideas that I'd held independently in such an astoundingly simple way.
It was both tremendously validating and enlightening as I went on to learn bags more from following Steve and reading many of him and his wife Holly's books - I think to date they've co-authored over 11 books. They now both run an educational website called NewTraderU which is a tremendous resource of blogs, research and courses. Follow Steve on Twitter here and Instagram here for daily updates and inspirational quotes.
Jack is the man behind, arguably the most famous series of books on trading ever written, The Market Wizards. He's an expert in futures, hedge funds and clearly a wizard himself when it comes to interviewing influential traders. The Market Wizards books feature in depth interviews with some of the absolute best traders in the world. His books had a profound impact on me once I'd started to see the wood for the trees with my own trading. Reading his book The New Market Wizards made me realise that there are any number of ways to successfully extract money from these seemingly confusing markets. But one thing was for sure, there is no ONE single way that SHOULD work for any given individual, you have to find the style that suits you. It needs to match your lifestyle, personality and physchological tendencies, and above all, you have to love it! Which I sure did/do.
If your system meshes well with these characteristics and you truly understand why your system works and have backtested it, then you have a system you can trade for years and eventually become a market wizard yourself.
Having now read all his books, sometimes several times over, I started to form stronger beliefs around what I felt was going to be the right approach for me in mastering the markets. The trend following traders that he interviewed seemed to be the guys who had to most impressive results over time.
There are different ways to follow trends of course, but it became clear to me that many of the biggest names from his books had a single philosophy at the core of their strategies...the trend was their friend!
Right from the off when I read Greg Michalowski's book 'Attacking The Currency Trends', and then Michael Covel's 'Trend Following' and 'The Complete Turtle Trader', I had started to form this opinion myself. But through the Market Wizards books I found many more traders who have absolutely crushed the markets, and many of them tout trend following as their driving force.
I particularly enjoyed a seminar of his that I saw a few months back that was published on YouTube - here, and he's done many interviews with podcasters and YouTubers that you can find online.
Van K Tharp
In my formative years of trading, where I spent roughly 90% of my time devising new systems and backtesting them I hadn't then read Van Tharp's book 'Trade Your Way to Financial Freedom' but boy do I wish that I had!
For anyone who deems to take themself seriously as a trader you need a plan. Van Tharp's lessons in how to ensure that what you're testing is foolproof are absolutely priceless. I shudder to think of the number of novice traders who sunk hours and hours into backtesting their system, the one that's going to allow them to retire in 10 years time, and on paper it looks perfect, but then... catastrophy strikes and they've someone just experienced a 40% drawdown - how did that happen?
There are lots of possible reasons that a system can look great on paper, and even after manually backtesting it, but you need to consider all the angles and properly stress test any trading plan.
If you're interested in system development and/or trading psychology, then you're in for a treat if you pick up any of Van Tharp's thought-leading trading books!
Well, if you can suggest anyone else I should reach out to then hit me up on Twitter @MatthewSpurr because I'd love to find more inspirational people to learn from and follow. I've added a recommended reading list on the site here where you can find some of my favourite books from the above legends.
DISCLAIMER: Please be aware that I am not a qualified professional trader/investor or educator. Trading, especially with leveraged products such a derivatives carries enormous risk and you can in fact lose more than you deposit if you don't manage your risk carefully. I am sharing my own thoughts, opinions and trades on this site for the purpose of discussion, interest value and above all...fun. I do not accept any responsibility for losses you may incur as a result of following my advice or actions. I'll take credit for your profits though ;-) Please trade responsibly and enjoy the markets.