Trend Following: The Journey of Self Discovery

It has been a long journey discovering trend following. Consider an excerpt from the preface of Trend Following:

Trend Following challenges much of the conventional wisdom about successful trading and traders. To avoid the influences of conventional wisdom, I was determined to avoid being influenced by institutionalized knowledge defined by Wall Street and was adamant about fighting “flat earth” thinking. During my research, starting with an assumption and then finding data to support it was avoided. Instead, questions were asked and then, objectively, doggedly, and slowly, answers were revealed.

If there was one factor that motivated me to work in this manner, it was simple curiosity. The more I uncovered about trend followers, the more I wanted to know. For example, one of the earliest questions (without an answer already) was learning who profited when Barings Bank collapsed. My research unearthed a connection between Barings Bank and trend follower John W. Henry (now the majority owner of the Boston Red Sox). Henry’s track record generated new questions, such as, “How did he discover trend following in the first place?” and “Has his approach changed in any significant way in the past 30 years?”

Now for feedback in the same vein…

Hi Michael,

I am a trend following trader and entrepreneur based in Miami and Toronto. I have to tell you that you have become a mentor to me even though we haven’t met. You have helped give me the tools, conviction and confidence to believe in trend following and put it into practice. Admittedly it took me a long time to fight through the noise, particularly because I spent 10 years on an institutional equity desk in NY and Toronto. Ironically a traditional commission based institutional broker/investment bank is the absolute worst place to gain confidence as a trend following trader. The brokerage house is all about “the story” and predicting the future never even touching risk management, position sizing or exit strategies.

I first bought your TurtleTrader course around 2000 after devouring the website and wanting more, but I was 26 and on my way up the corporate ladder at Merrill Lynch. My ego always got in the way and I didn’t have enough quiet time to think and read and gain the confidence that is so critical. I also was still searching for the “holy grail” not knowing I’d already found it.

Years later I picked up my study of trend following again after rereading Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. I then read your books and then ordered your current course. I now turn to the podcasts when I want ideas refreshed or motivation and I look forward to hearing your interviews.

This message could not have asked for a better messenger Michael. You kick ass with your podcasts. You are honest and direct and even funny at times. I’ve even got my girlfriend to listen to a few. The episode with Vernon Smith was particularly powerful. Putting this out there for free is mind blowing and I’m very grateful to you for putting out such an incredible body of work. You are affecting people’s lives and I thank you for affecting mine.

Okay, enough smoke up your ass. Tim Ferriss should be on your podcast and/or you should be on his. In his most recent episode (63), he talks about his investing style toward the end and why he is scared to invest in public markets. He can’t deal with the ups and downs of staring at rising and falling equity so he only invests in startups. What struck me is that he is basically following a trend following risk model in his angel investing. He accepts that less than 50% will be winners and diversifies with the assumption that the winners will more than pay for the losers. Considering Tim’s expertise is in breaking down and mastering skills that have scientific and mathematical track records it seems to me that he would be interested in your work. I find it hard to imagine why anyone who wants to make money in the markets wouldn’t be interested in your work. Anyway, worth exploring even just as a reference in your own podcast.

My question is on constructing a model and automating a fairly basic trading system: is there a data feed you recommend and/or software that can generate signals with a data feed? Do you recommend any particular broker that is very reliable and execution based with competitive fees and an online platform?

Thank you very much

After initial interchanges a few months later I heard from the listener again:

Your podcasts continue to be a wealth of education, entertainment and enlightenment and I can’t thank you enough. I don’t think people really appreciate the value you are providing. I have spent approx [number] (courses and books) on your products and I feel like there is more than that value in the podcasts alone and I get those for free. If you’re ever in Toronto or Miami (we split our time) let me know so I can buy you a drink

All the best