Why Brokers Can't Help You Trade

Why Brokers Can't Help You Trade

If you have a one on one relationship with a stock or commodity broker, then you have likely had the unpleasant experience of losing money. Your broker might be the type that makes a great neighbor, worthy of inviting over for a Sunday barbecue. You might even consider him a friend. But pay-as-you-go friendships are strange things indeed and would he remain friendly if you stopped putting food on his table? In friendships, loyalty is a good thing. But when the heart of the matter is a business decision or financial transaction, excessive loyalty can lead to clouded judgment and costly mistakes. It is almost uncanny how steadily brokers drain cash from the pockets of would be traders who do not understand basic truths about the industry. Hopefully the next few paragraphs will open your eyes.

To make a cynical analogy, brokers everywhere engage in a well rehearsed game of bait and switch. Promise new clients the world, then switch to damage control when losses start eating away at the account. Once the bloom is off the rose, keep the game going, and the commission dollars flowing, for as long as possible before the client quits in disgust or goes off on his own.

There are many different styles of broker, all of them eager to drain your account. Four of the most common are the pusher, the yes man, the true believer, and the rationalizer. The "pusher" is by far the most aggressive. He wants you to take X trade right NOW, and will not take no for an answer. The pusher is not above belittling or even mildly insulting you if you do not do exactly what he wants you to do, when he wants you to do it. The pusher typically gravitates towards nave or weak-willed individuals who are susceptible to a dominant personality.

In contrast, the "yes man" has precious few of his own ideas- instead, he prefers to rubber stamp everything, always saying what he thinks you want to hear. His basic strategy is to wait until he can detect some hint of opinion, and then agree strongly in the hopes of getting you to place a trade. He is the ultimate sympathizer, always commiserating, forever testing the wind. The yes man is usually a passive aggressive type who seeks out confident, opinionated clientele who like having their egos stroked. The "true believer" is often an old timer and always a fundamentalist at heart, beating a tired drum for the same tired market that had a big move years ago. For the true believer, hope springs eternal- and so does disappointment. The true believer tends to lean on his one sided analysis like a crutch, seeking any tidbit or rumor he can find for reinforcement, and it is his mission in life to find and recruit other true believers.

The "rationalizer" is an amazingly consistent loser who always has an excuse for why his recommendations go bad. The rationalizer can cheerfully explain away everything except for his pathetic track record, which is never discussed- and like the true believer, "next time" is his eternal refrain. These styles are not concrete- in some brokers one will dominate, while others may display a combination. Of the four, the true believer and the rationalizer are probably the most dangerous, because if persuasive they can do the most damage, keeping you hanging on to hope for months or even years while leeching the lifeblood from your account- eating away at your capital, your confidence and your desire to trade.

The problem with the brokerage industry is not the calibre of individuals that it attracts. Honest, intelligent, hardworking people are drawn to the markets every day, and brokerage firms are a natural gateway into the financial world. Many successful CTA's and fund managers got their start as stock or commodity brokers. But that is exactly the catch: those who evolve into successful traders inevitably move on to bigger and better things over time. Thus it is no coincidence that the vast majority of "experienced" brokers cannot trade. If they could trade, they would not have stayed brokers. Of those who do not move on as traders, another large portion leave the industry because they are fed up with the internal conflict and sense of moral compromise- the frustration of seeing clients lose money day in and day out without fail. What does this leave behind?

The brokerage industry also has a gross conflict of interest built in to the payment structure. CTA's and fund managers have interests in direct alignment with their clients, because they are paid as a percentage of trading profits. They only make money if the client makes money. With brokers, there is no such alignment. Brokers take their commission cut whether the advice is good, bad, or worse than useless. It is thus no surprise that when it comes to measuring broker performance within the industry, the entire emphasis is on commission revenues generated, as in: "he generated a million two in gross commish last year- he must be a great broker." Profitability of clients is not even an afterthought! The broker collects whether you win or lose (and in fact expects you to lose, be it sooner or later, partly due to his high costs). Therefore, it is his job to get you to trade as much as possible, regardless of your best interests, so he can get his cut before you burn out. With this in mind, what percentage of recommendations would you guess are actually based on solid analysis and firm conviction, rather than the simple desire to bait a hook that draws in commission dollars? Zero would be a cynical answer, but sadly close to the truth.

But say that you have found the rare broker who is competent, knowledgeable, has a passion for the markets, knows how to trade, and actually has your best interests at heart? He is probably new to the business, five years or less, and will not be staying much longer. Even now, there is one final obstacle to be overcome: You. In order to make consistent use of your broker's skill to place your trades, you must have the emotional temperament and discipline to ride out inevitable losing trades of your system. You must have strong commitment and consistency to take each valid trade of your system without fail and remain diligent. In otherwords, to make good use of a broker, you have to be knowledgeable and skilled enough to not need him in the first place.

The final lesson is that if you are going to trade, you can never substitute someone else's experience for your own, or expect someone else to make up for your shortcomings. You must play your own hand, and ultimately dictate your own success or failure. This in itself ultimately makes the broker irrelevant.



Well-Known Member
Of course,what we can infer from the article is the same thing I have been saying. Selecting a broker/RM is as important as selecting the brokerage you choose to trade on. Good brokers do move on to different companies taking their HNI clients along with them.
Of course some things can be learnt while trading at the branch office. We learn things like the time trades are done,the scripts that are selected and the indicators they use.

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