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Advice for young insider traders

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by , 05-11-2014 at 07:03 PM (1891 Views)
Advice for young insider traders

Made vital rookie errors: One of the accused duo, Lukas James Kamay leaves court on Friday. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Apart from getting caught, the two men accused of one the largest trading operations in the nation’s history made a couple of other mistakes.

They used the foreign exchange market rather than the bond market and given the privileged information they had, should have made $70 million rather then the reported $7 million.

That’s according to a few veteran traders with almost 30 years experience who spoke to Fairfax Media.
With the money they did make, it looks like they splashed out on lavish items that would have drawn attention to themselves. Another rookie mistake.

You only need to watch Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas to know you spend the money gradually and not on flashy expensive items.

But there probably isn’t a trader in the world who at some stage, hasn’t thought about getting vital information before anyone else. After all, who doesn’t try and make their job as easy as possible?

Each month, or quarter, when the country’s key economic data is released at 11.30 am, the art of making money would be so much easier if you knew the numbers in advance.

But of course, there’s a world of difference between breaking the law and doing whatever it takes to get some sort of advantage. And getting some sort of advantage is nothing new.

In the 1990s some trading desks would send staff to the office of the Australian Bureau of Statistics to be first there when the data was manually released.

As soon as the latest current account data was known, they’d be on the phone straight away trying to be the first to report back with the market-moving information.
But once everyone did that, the edge was gone.

To try and keep that edge an operative at Banker’s Trust, a banking powerhouse at the time, came up with the idea of ringing the Darwin office of the ABS.

The hope was a staff member at a branch office might say what the number was a few minutes before the official release.

And a few minutes is all that’s required to make money.

Although dealing in shares tends to get the headlines when it comes to insider trading scandals there is, at times, more money to be made in bond futures.

In addition, the Australian dollar at times may not necessarily move in line with the sensitive information that was leaked about the labour force, retail and trade figures. In the bond and interest rate market, however, it does.

Furthermore, by placing big chunky trades of say, the equivalent of $100 million in the foreign exchange market, it means the two men accused are more likely to stand out; as volumes can be thin leading into and straight after the release of vital economic data. Although at times volumes can also be light in the futures market.

Some traders on Friday said that if the two men had opted to trade in smaller parcels, they might have got away with it for longer.

The other talking point on trading desks on Friday afternoon, as news of the trades filtered through, has been the performance of public servants over the years when it comes to important statistics that move the market.
Every now and then there will be a late trade heading into an important number that will draw the ire of some who end up losing money on the day.

If the late trade ends up being a losing one of course no one says anything. Liquidity is never at its best just before a number but of course if you know the number you can pay up to get set - safe in the knowledge the market is about to move substantially.

But given what sort of sensitive information goes through so many hands at not just the ABS but also the Reserve Bank of Australia, some market veterans on Friday were praising the honesty and integrity of the public service.
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