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Foreign Exchange

Alternative investments: Funny peculiar

Around the time I started in the FX market back in 1981, a new form of humour was emerging in the UK, labelled alternative comedy. Its detractors claimed that it wasn’t funny. I wonder if the same accusation could be made for what have become known as alternative investments?

There’s no doubt many alternative investment managers are different, as a TV series on the BBC called Million dollar traders  has shown over the past few weeks. The show’s premise was that ‘top City trader’ Lex Van Dam would prove you could make dealers out of almost anyone. Van Dam provided them with a brief training period and then let them loose on the markets with $1 million of his capital to trade. The show claimed that such a training programme had never been carried out before, which is nonsense, but I suppose hyperbole is necessary for good entertainment.

Anyone who has ever worked in a trading environment will have spotted the many inconsistencies in the show. In the final episode, one of the trainees, Emile, took umbrage at the way Van Dam and his trusty sidekick ‘sacked’ one of the rookies. Emile seemed to show talent and turn a profit all the way through the series. After he told Van Dam and his sidekick what they could do with their trading programme, the two described him as a losing trader. This made me immediately think Van Dam may have learnt his management skills at Merrill Lynch.

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