Five Market Insights from Jim Leitner

The right trading mindset

I was absolutely unemotional about numbers. Losses did not have an effect on me because I viewed them as purely probability-driven, which meant sometimes you came up with a loss. Bad days, bad weeks, bad months never impacted the way I approached markets the next day. To this day, my wife never knows if I’ve had a bad day or a good day in the markets.

Learning never stops

I am really humble about my ignorance. I truly feel that I am ignorant despite having made enormous amounts of money. I calculated the other day that I have taken over $2 billion out of the market for my investors and employees so far. That seems like a lot of money and yes, I am relatively wealthy and happy to be independent, but there’s never a day when I feel a lot smarter than everybody else.

An advice to aspiring traders

Aspiring traders should be open to the entire spectrum of market experiences. I never locked myself down to investing in one style or in one country because the greatest trade in the world could be happening somewhere else. My advice would be to make sure that you do not become too much of an expert in one area. Even if you see an area that is inefficient today, it’s likely that it won’t be inefficient tomorrow. Expertise is overrated.

On the benefits of using options

Options take away the whole aspect of having to worry about precise risk management. It’s like paying for someone else to be your risk manager. Meanwhile, I know I am long XYZ for the next six months. Even if the option goes down a lot in the beginning to the point that it is worth nothing, I will still own it and you never know what can happen.

I once owned a one-year option on the euro swap rate that became worthless soon after I bought it. Then, with two weeks to go to expiry, the swap rate came back my way and blew through my strike. After being worthless for 11 months, I ended up selling it for five times what I paid for it.

Short-dated volatility is too high because of an insurance premium component in short-dated options. Longer-dated options are priced expensively versus future daily volatility, but cheaply versus the drift in the future spot price.

Every Friday, we go out and buy one-year straddles. We admit that we’re ignorant but we expect that sometimes, over a year, there will be enough trend that we will make money. So, yes, we overpay for options but that doesn’t mean that we don’t make money. If the option maturity is long enough, trends can take us far enough away from the strike that it’s okay to overpay.

Hedge fund money is not the smart money

The big thing that distinguishes the real money world from the hedge fund world is redemptions. Universities don’t have redemptions, nor do family offices. Both are going to be around for years so they invest for the long-term. Meanwhile, the hedge fund world industry invests for the one to three-month time horizon, which subjects managers to taking inefficiency risk and missing out on opportunities that are longer term in nature.

Source: Inside the house of money, Steven Drobny