The Calling

Like the eclectic hedge fund star Hugh Hendry, I like to think my path into the world of investing was a matter of predestination. My initial plan was to become a doctor, then a lawyer, but God chose to put me in a bank instead. I started my career as a bank teller shortly after I graduated from university in 2004.

No one aspires to be a bank teller after completing four years of university, but it really was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. I struggled with being shy most of my life, and the role—which forced me to interact with total strangers on a daily basis—helped me break out of my shell. I was still only 20 years old, and it also opened up an entire new world to me. The Toronto bank employed more than 40,000 people and had its arms stretched in so many different activities. Everything seemed possible.

I worked hard and kept myself motivated. The neighborhood branch was not very busy, so I used any down time to browse through the corporate website and figure out the various lines of business and to imagine what I might enjoy doing long term. I had access to the employee directory, so I would make random calls to senior people in different roles to understand what their job was like. It only took me a moment to get my bearings.

I found myself attracted to markets and quickly lost my heart in the process. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has read George Goodman’s 1968 classic The Money Game. “The market,” he wrote, “is like a beautiful woman—endlessly fascinating, endlessly complex, always changing, always mystifying. Then, if you have observed her a long time, you begin to see little tricks, little nervous movements of the hands when she is being false.”

Pretty soon, I was having sleepless nights. I was in… deep! I wanted to get to know everything about her. I immersed myself in the study of macro markets, and my slow-burning passion for playing the game kept growing with time.

In three months, I was promoted to a personal banker. In nine months, I was able to convince my branch manager to let me advance to a fund accounting role within the securities services division—just to get a little bit closer to the flame of markets, even if only as a bystander.

And it was there, as I stood in the corner of the 5th floor of the iconic building at 320 Bay Street, that I knew I was in love. For the very first time in my life, I came face to face with a Bloomberg terminal.

My heart began to flutter, my breathing slowed, and I was unable to snap out of my entranced state of mind. It was like a spell had been cast. I could not take my eyes off the flickering lights—sometimes green, sometimes red, every bit sexy.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland, falling down the rabbit hole into the frantic world of
global macro. There was no rescuing me now. Every night, after work, I’d spend hours with my baby, my Bloomberg.

Together we wandered the whole wide world. She piqued my interest with peculiar insights and allowed me to glance deep inside her soul. There was always something to explore—US stocks, European rates, sovereign CDS. This quickly developed into an obsession for me, although my friends like to think I was possessed.

Over the course of many years, every investor develops his or her strong suit: a unique mix of personality traits, analytical ability, psychological makeup, and intellectual curiosity that defines ones approach to markets and tolerance for risk. I was simply on a journey of self-discovery. Who was I?

The diabolical nature of markets and the ever-increasing competition meant there was nothing more important than knowing yourself. I did not want to deviate from who I am as a person and as a trader, one feeds the other.

Because my path was so wayward, there was no one I could really learn from directly. The only choice I had was to lose myself in the stories of others. I became a student and made everyone my teacher.

My love for markets blossomed as I studied the craft of successful money managers with whom I related to most. This was only made possible by the timeless work of two remarkable individuals for whom I have the utmost respect.

The first was Jack Schwager, renowned author of Market Wizards and New Market Wizards, who conducted interviews with top traders during the ’80s. His interviews with Bruce Kovner, Paul Tudor Jones, and Stanley Druckenmiller emboldened my aspirations to be a professional investor.

Jones set up his own fund when he was only 26 and Druckenmiller when he was 28, and I knew that that’s what I wanted to do as well. Since then, I never thought that there was any possibility that I would not get to do that. It was only a question of when.

The second was Steven Drobny, the pioneering founder of Drobny Capital, who is one of the most respected advisors to institutional investors worldwide. He opened my eyes to the different dimensions of global macro investing.

Drobny interviewed world-class market practitioners during the best of times (pre- 2008) in his first book Inside the House of Money, and the worst of times (post-2008) in his excellent follow-up The Invisible Hands. My favorite interview subjects were Jim Leitner, Scott Bessent, and Hugh Hendry.

Schwager and Drobny were both God-sent. Their books became my life. I got my education in their university. They were my real mentors.

It was through their inspiring and far-reaching efforts that I learned how to think about research and trading, portfolio construction, and risk management. I still don’t have it all figured out—and probably never will—but I was able to develop my own unique investment style.

They also gave me the courage to try, the courage to fail, the courage to succeed, and the courage to persevere. Whenever the object of my desire seemed too far out in the distance, or even during a bad trading patch, I would re-read those six interviews and it would renew my ambition.

If trading is your life, it’s a tortuous kind of excitement—your love is not always reciprocated. I’ve faced many setbacks. Yet, there is something about the global macro world that keeps me engaged to its every heartbeat. My personal calling refuses to keep quiet. There is nothing else—besides the macro markets—that gets me to participate in events of world importance by observing the future and acting before it occurs.

But I’m no longer satisfied with just stories, how things have gone with others. It is time to unfold my own myth.

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