If Universities Really Want To Prepare Students For The Real World, They Need To Teach Trading

I just returned from Penn State for a talk with some future traders perhaps. Some serious college traders inside of an investment club reached out for my visit. My charge? Discuss what it is really like to be a professional trader so some might understand better what we do.

In a recent NY Times article the rise of trading labs was highlighted. Many of these trading labs are not trading labs at all from the emails I get. They are investing labs. Investing is not trading! All things fundamental analysis. Too much buy and hold. I do not wish to paint broad strokes I am just relaying the emails I get from college traders. I just am sharing my frustration at the frustration shared by college traders who have no on campus training nor mentors. How can they prepare for a career in trading without proper training?

Trading is a skill. Just like Shane Battier schooled by Coach K developed professional basketball player skills in college so must college traders. We wonder about the failure rate of traders yet keep asking 20 somethings to master the trading game without years of highly developed skills. How many 21 foot jumpers do you think Ray Allen, the all-time leading 3 point shooter in the NBA, shot before declaring for the pros? Yet most young traders have made zero bullish flag pattern trades before they start their pro trading career. What would the failure rate be if traders showed up at prop firms after years of high level practice and game experience?

Today we are finding a learning curve closer to 18 months before we see the greatest leaps in progress. Four years of trading in college would land a future trader with the experience and skill necessary to star from day one. Trading stars do not arrive on day one be because unlike college athletes they have little to no skill.

With schools pressed to raise money how about this idea? Go pitch some wealthy alumni to pledge for a new Rich Ex Donor Trading centre. Those who crush it after graduation with the help of this training centre will then give back to the school creating a new stream of alumni giving. And the students will be exposed to trading enriching their college learning.

If you are on campus like the work being done at Penn State and Rutgers, start a trading sub group inside the investors group. If you need some help inspiring the students we would be happy to visit and share what its like to “eat what you kill.” After my talk last night a student approached, making the four hour dive down and four hour drive back in a torrential down pour worth the trip: “The reason more students are not trading is they do not hear enough inspiring talks from people like you.” So for the professional traders in the community we should make ourselves available to college traders to encourage them to work on their game and help them build their trading communities.

As our world becomes more niche focused, with the future us watching the Internet from our iPad controlled TV, education will be forced to cater to what the students want. I see college traders/students thirsting for a real college trading curriculum. When will the universities listen?

Mike Bellafiore
Author, One Good Trade

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