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Nick Radge On Demand

The Trend Trader
September 2010

Back by demand, Nick Radge has kind submitted to

another interview with Student 2 Trader. This time
discussing his trading decisions, risk management,
philosophy, entries and exits in more detail. Nick has
an impressive history, from starting his own Hedge
Fund to being Associate Director at Macquarie Bank.
He currently works full-time growing and developing
The Chartist and trading.

Nick, we’ve just been through a major bear market. What was the strategy
you employed to maximise your portfolio?

For a stock trader the best strategy is being in cash, and I say this for a
number of reasons. It’s been easy to look at these last few years and see clear
sustained downtrends, but historically over the last 100 years this type of price
action has been extremely rare. When we run the data through the computer it
becomes quite clear that up until 2007/08 equity trading on the short side
was basically a waste of time. Yes, it was marginally profitable, but the risk
adjusted reward makes it a pointless pursuit in my opinion. One would simply
be better off sitting in cash and awaiting the next upswing. It could be argued
that from now on we stay in a bearish environment and that short side trading
will be the only winning strategy moving forward. Possible, but not probable.

The second issue is how the rules of the game were changed to suit the big
players. Short selling in Australia was banned in September 2008 which
basically stuffed any strategy even if it had historically tested well. It’s
therefore a risk to employ or rely on such a strategy moving forward because
its effectiveness is always going to be questionable.

Short selling is the selling of a security that the seller does not own, or any sale that is
completed by the delivery of a security borrowed by the seller. Short sellers assume that
they will be able to buy the stock at a lower amount than the price at which they sold short.
What are the major risks of viewing declining stock markets as a great
time to buy “cheap” stocks fundamentally?

The key attribute here is that, in general, trends persist and a stock in motion
will tend to stay in motion. Many great traders are trend followers so they’re
always buying strength and won’t fall victim to these types of price shocks.
Interesting enough price shocks tend to happen in the direction of the
prevailing trend rather than against. Its natural human trait to want to buy
something at a cheaper price than what it could have been bought for a short
time ago, which again is why the natural human will tend to be a long term
loser in the market.

I would also add, albeit to deaf ears, that the events of 2007/08 clearly prove
the notion of fundamental investing has serious flaws. Performance
measurements would clearly show that the risk/adjusted rewards being
offered by 99.9% of global equity fund managers is disastrous. In simple terms
an annualised return equal to or better than the maximum equity drawdown
is deemed an excellent record. Most fund managers have maximum
drawdown’s nearing 50% now even though their annualised returns are usually
single digits. It’s simply unacceptable to me.

Risk/adjusted reward is a concept that refines an investment's return by measuring how

much risk is involved in producing that return.

Equity drawdown is a percentage decline in equity capital, commonly quoted as a

percentage loss on capital.

You are often quoted saying “cut your losses, let your profits run”. How
does this philosophy work, taking into account expected win rate?

There is a direct relationship between the win/loss ratio and the winning
percentage. The higher the winning percentage the lower the win/loss ratio.
Using the ‘average human’ again we are brought up to be right. That’s how
we’re rewarded at school, at university and as we develop our careers. The
better performers step further up the ladder. This cultural upbringing makes
us believe that in order to be successful at trading that we therefore must have
a high winning percentage of trades. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The simple fact is that we can’t control our winning rate, or if we can its only
be a very small margin beyond random. What we can control is how much
we’re willing to lose on a trade, and how far we ride a winner. These are the
only two traits we can control which is in essence the win/loss ratio. A
successful trader works hard at these and ignores the ‘being right’ part of the

From that point it becomes basic maths to create a positive expectancy.

The concept of rising winners and cutting losers is exactly why many of the
great traders are trend followers. The edge is easily captured.

Win/loss ratio is the ratio of the total number of winning trades to the number of losing
trades. It does not take into account how much was won or lost simply if they were winners
or losers.

Winning percentage is the average percentage win on winning trades.

Positive expectancy is the expected positive outcome from trading. That is, expected net
win. It is generally the expected annual return.

Often we hear ‘risk management’ in trading. Do you think many beginning

investors overlook the concept? Why?

Absolutely and for similar reasons mentioned above. The average person in the
street feels that there is some inherent secret to unlocking the markets and
profits. Experts must know something they don’t so it becomes the Holy Grail
search to seek out that secret. Once a person truly understands the simple
maths is behind creating a positive expectancy, they will then look toward
staying in the game long enough to allow the law of large numbers generate
that expectancy, and to do that you need to keep your risk down to small
amounts to allow for deviations of expectancy.

What is a simple strategy an investor or trader can use to manage risk?

From a trading or active investing perspective you must only risk a very small
portion of your capital on any given trade. The textbook rule sprouted is 2%
but my experience suggests otherwise. Basically your end goal is to stay in the
game, both monetarily and psychologically. If you can’t cope with losing in the
near term then you won’t achieve the long term positive expectancy. So by
working backward from the angle of, “how much pain can I deal with?” you will
be in a better position to move forward. How much capital am I willing to lose?
It’s different for everyone. Some people can handle 30% or 40% declines, whilst
others can only handle 10% to 15%. The rule of thumb from my 25 years
experience is that your estimation of how much pain you can handle is actually
well beyond the reality. If you think you can handle 30% drawdown, I say you’ll
be very nervous at 15% and probably throw it in at 20%. Therefore, keep your
risk even lower than what you think you need until you really start getting the
psychological issues intact.

For those more mathematically inclined, can you explain how the ‘2% rule’
might work in risk management, and why we might use it?

The 2% rule is an anti-martingale equation. In layman’s terms it adheres to the

principle that when doing something right, do more of it, and when doing
something wrong, do less of it. In other words as we make money from our
positive expectancy system we slowly but surely up the ante because 2% of our
increasing capital ensures that each new trade has a slightly higher dollar risk
associated with it. It’s natural compounding if you like. Conversely when we’re
having a rough patch and our capital is declining we’re ensuring that we’re
betting a smaller dollar amount on each new trade. In theory we can never lose
our capital, we’d need some 140 consecutive losses to get to the point of
being unable to trade.

The other important consideration is that each and every trade is equally
weighted. We have no favourites. We don’t wake up one morning and decide
that today is the day we’re going to be 100% right so we’ll bet the house.
Using 2% ensures that every trade is taken with the same bias.

Would you describe yourself as a trend follower? Can you explain how this
idea works?

Yes, I a trend follower and have been since I was 18, although back then I had
no idea what I was doing. The concept is simple and the best analogy is like
being a hitchhiker. A hitchhiker stands on the side of the road in the direction
they intend to travel. They have no idea which car will stop and when a car
does stop they have no idea how far that ride will take them. They stay with
that ride until it stops. In some cases that hitchhiker may only go 10 kms up
the road. On other occasions they may get a ride all the way to their
destination. When I jump on a trend I have no idea how far it will take me but I
do know that I’ll never make big profits by taking small ones. Once you’ve
ridden a massive trend you’ll never look at the markets the same way again.

Often we hear that amateur traders fall into the trap of thinking that the
more complicated a trading system is, the more likely it is to succeed. Is
this the case?

This again is an example of thinking that so called experts know something

that the average Joe Public doesn’t. What the average Joe needs to understand
is the simple maths behind positive expectancy. They need that light bulb to
go on before they can start moving forward. Using the analogy of travelling in
a car from point-A to point-B. Some people choose a high powered sports car
whilst others choose a simple family car and others again choose a bike. They
all achieve their respective goal – getting from –A to –B.

What is an example of a simple entry and exit technique an investor can

use on a longer timeframe?

Every trend, up or down, is preceded with momentum. One simply needs to

catch that momentum. Think of body surfing. You get in front of the wave,
swim ahead of it then allow it to drive you forward. But prior to catching that
wave there was already momentum driving it. That’s what we do with riding
trends – await some form of momentum and jump on board. In a very
simplistic measure any stock making a new 100-day high can only have
momentum. It’s impossible not to have momentum or else it wouldn’t be
making a 100-day high?

Nick's article on a simple and effective SMSF investment strategy is worth a look:

How would you recommend investors manage their initial stops for their

As a rule of thumb, and verified by my own testing, any shorter term traders
should use intraday stops, that is stops that are triggered as soon as the level
is penetrated. However, longer term active investors are better advised to use
‘stop on close’ orders. What this means is wait for the market to close below
your delegated stop price and exit the following day. It’s what I use and it’s
highly effective.

Stops loss orders are placed with a broker to sell a security when it reaches a certain price.
A stop-loss order is designed to limit an investor's loss on a security position.

How about a simple entry and exit technique for a trader on a short

This would depend on the market type. US equities tend to be more ‘back fill’
markets, that is choppy moving back and forth. The best style in these
conditions is to be a buyer of weakness and seller of strength, so more mean
reverting rather than trend following. In Australia, a less mature market, we are
blessed with great trends so momentum or trend following are best. Short
term traders need to be cognizant of commissions as these can drag
excessively on accounts and almost create failure regardless of how good the
strategy is.

How would you recommend traders manage their initial stops for their

Short term traders should exit as soon as their stops are hit regardless of the
time of day. I set mine to be executed automatically by the broker.

What are your thoughts on using breakeven stops? Trailing stops?

Both are very important. Breakeven stops are an essential ingredient to

success and I diligently use them when swing trading. They can become
frustrating, but they serve a purpose and must be adhered to. Trailing stops
are what makes the money. It’s important to not fear giving back open profits.
It’s a natural tendency to want to bank the profits, but as I stated above, you’ll
never make a big profit taking small ones.

Breakeven stops are when stops are moved up to the entry price at which you bought a
security, assuming you are long, designed to stop the investor out at breakeven, minimum.

Trailing stops are a stop-loss order set at a percentage level below the market price - for
a long position. The trailing stop price is adjusted as the price fluctuates. The trailing stop
order can be placed as a trailing stop limit order, or a trailing stop market order.

Should traders employ profit targets? Why, why not?

In certain market conditions targets should be used. In choppy range bound

markets they can be useful, but in strong periods of time they are the worst
kind of tools.

Now if we might talk some basic technical analysis. You’re a follower of

Elliot Wave Theory, can you give our readers a bit of background to the

Elliott Wave Theory is not for everyone, indeed I get a lot of people coming to
my site to cause troubles, yet when they see it in action they readily change
their minds. We now have a solid following but doubters will always loom. It’s
important to understand how we use technical analysis, which is very different
from what the academics claim. I do not use technical analysis as a predictive
tool. I use it as a comfort tool, that is, simple a way to get involved in a trade
that makes me feel okay to manage it. I want repeatable patterns for trade
frequency. I want specific right/wrong points of reference so I know when to
enter and when to get out. Technical analysis does this, albeit the predictive
power of any pattern is about random. This is where we use of basic maths to
create the positive expectancy even with a 50% winning rate.

Elliot Wave Theory is named after Ralph Nelson Elliott, who concluded that the movement
of the stock market could be predicted by observing and identifying a repetitive pattern of

What are the most important pieces of information for chartists?

Volume and its relationship with the closing price are highly important.
Volume is very much misunderstood and many common measurements, such
as On Balance Volume are erroneous. Gaining an insight into volume traits can
be very helpful, especially for discretionary trade setups. That said the only
true confirmation tool is price.
Do you use any indicators or oscillators?

The only oscillator I use is what I call my Divergence Oscillator which is simply
a K% Slow Stochastic. There is nothing special about it and I could use
numerous others to do the same job, but it suits me and I have been using it
successfully for many years.

Can you explain the concept of divergence?

Divergence is a point in the trend where underlying weakness is building. In

essence we may have price making new highs yet the oscillator is failing to
follow and making lower highs. This will tend to lead to a stalling of price or a
fast snap back. We use these setups as a trend reversal trade.

Divergence occurs when the price of an asset and an indicator, index or other related asset
move in opposite directions.

What type of divergence is most reliable?

There are three types; A, B and C. I only ever use Type-A which is where price
makes higher highs yet the oscillator makes lower highs. It’s acting like a
rubber band being stretched to breaking point.

What trap do amateur traders fall into when looking at using indicators
and oscillators as a trading system?

Amateurs are looking for that secret entry technique so it’s natural for them to
look into all these oscillators and indicators that look pretty on the page. Until
they ‘get it’ they will probably spend the rest of their lives roaming the
universe for the Holy Grail indicator.

What are your current developments at The Chartist?

2010 is a year of creating a succession plan for the business. Currently it’s
solely me. Because many subscribers no rely on us for their SMSF we have to
ensure that the business remains viable should something untoward happen to
me. It will also allow me more free time to research new strategies and
improve current ones. Research is a never ending pursuit. The second
development is moving into the FX arena and also adding futures. We’ll be
offering trading advice and technical research on global futures and FX in the
coming months which expand on our current equities offering. The last
development is the establishment of an ‘auto trade’ facility which will be the
first one of its type in Australia. Auto trading will allow subscribers to have our
recommendations automatically executed on their behalf without any input
from themselves. It’s like a midpoint between a managed fund and doing it
themselves. They will be able to choose the specific strategy as well as some of
their own parameters. We do the rest.

Do you have a future vision for The Chartist?

Our vision is to keep The Chartist as Australia’s premier ‘value add’ technical
advisory service. There is scope to expand into the US at some stage but there
is a lot of scope locally first.