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I founded and co-founded a couple of companies: Redington and mallowstreet; now I have launched a global initiative, Partnership for Change, which is working to improve healthcare, long term care, pensions & savings and technology for a rapidly ageing population. I write about issues of the day that touch me and make me think. Mostly about how to make things better.

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Maybe you’ve got what it takes. Maybe.

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Any Given Sunday

Most Sundays in 1997, the kid living in the house next door to us, lifted his mud-spattered go-kart into a trailer hitched to an old red Vauxhall Cavalier. Then, his long-suffering dad would drive him 10 miles to the Rye House Kart Raceway track in Hoddesdon where he would race against other local karting hopefuls. Most of the time, he won – convincingly.

I knew his dad pretty well and he had high hopes for his boy:

He’s got some talent. One day, I’m hopeful he’ll make it into the big time.”

Do they do karting ‘big time’?” I asked.

Not karting, my friend, Formula One.”

Oh. Yes. Sure. Of course. Formula One.” I mumbled. Silly me.

Well, the kid is still driving around the track in the rain against other hopefuls, although these days he doesn’t have to chuck his kart in the back of the beaten up trailer. Someone does that for him.

In fact, last time I watched Lewis Hamilton climb into his car, it looked distinctly like things had moved on somewhat since those early days in Orchard Road, Tewin, Hertfordshire.

Lewis, it turns out, was that one-in-a-million kid who just knows precisely where to put his car on the track;  when to unleash 1,000 snarling, whining, braking horses; and the exact point to slam on his Brembo brakes, slowing from 200mph to 5mph in 2.8 multi G-Force laden seconds. Over and over again.

It Ain’t Easy

It looks pretty easy when you watch him on the telly. But as Martin Brundle put it after he test drove an F1 car:

When I hit the brakes, I thought my lungs had been ripped out through my rib cage.”

Driving an F1 car is way beyond difficult.

The same is true of trading and “calling” the market, as young Kweku Adoboli amply demonstrated last week when he (allegedly) confessed to single-handedly blowing a – wait for it – US$2.3 Billion jagged hole in the hull of the Swiss supertanker, Union Bank of Switzerland.

As Kweku found out, when you trade, just like driving an F1 car, you have to get a lot of things right all at the same time. Or you crash.

For instance, you have to assimilate an insane amount of technical data and interpret it correctly at high speed. Consistently, and better, than everyone else.

You have to know when to go for it, and when to hit the brakes. You have to have oceans of self belief and you have to recognise when you have lost control.

And, of course, you have to have that old intangible: innate ability. That is, you need raw stand-out talent.

How Hard Can It Be?

Do you ever wonder whether you have what it takes? Not to drive an F1 MP4-26 McLaren, (you can’t), but to make consistently correct decisions on market direction, timing and size. Here’s your chance to find out.

Next week we’re going to team up with my good friends at Markit to run a three week trading simulation for exactly 100 mallowstreet members. First come, first served.

The successful applicants will each get to trade real asset classes, real time, real prices, real systems, real adrenalin. The only bit that’s virtual is the money. But, boy, will it feel real!

So, if you want to know whether you are Lewis Hamilton in disguise, now’s your chance to find out. If you advise clients on the business of allocating assets and making decisions on when to buy or sell, you may want to find out how you perform in the real world. Get your fellow trustees, lawyer colleagues, investment consultants and actuaries to sign up and let’s see who comes out on top. We’ll have a real-time leader board showing only the top talent.

Also, we’ll invite the final Top 10 to meet some real live traders to talk about how they each performed and to give them some tips on how to do even better next time. A sort of Trading Top Gun, if you will.

I almost forgot. At the end of the simulation, we’ll give an iPad 2 (yes, an iPad 2) to the individual who most successfully trades the markets, because she or he will certainly deserve it.

 

And if the markets in the last few weeks are anything to go by, it’s going to be interesting. Stand by.

 

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