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FX traders seek coaching in battle for dominance

LONDON--In the take-no-prisoners world of foreign exchange (FX) dealing, asking traders to look inside themselves and confront their inner demons may seem a forlorn endeavor.

Yet some banks are turning to performance coaches to give their traders an edge in the battle to make money in the US$4.5 trillion a day FX market.

This soft skills approach contrasts with the popular stereotype of FX traders hurling prices — and abuse — at each other across the dealing room floor.

But while some dismiss techniques to develop a “clear-headed space” in which to trade as touchy-feely gimmickry, many are keen to embrace any tactic to outwit other market participants, whether human or machine.

“I talk about performance enhancement rather than psychology. It makes it a bit more approachable for guys who have still got a bit too much testosterone and ego,” said trader performance coach Steve Ward.

With trading margins squeezed and bank cutting jobs, former physical education teacher and sports performance coach Ward had expected business to dry up.

In fact, the last year has been one of his busiest ever.

Trained in techniques including stress management and performance psychology, Ward also employs strategies underpinned by cutting-edge neuroscience research. Some exercises are focused on meditation to help develop attention and awareness.

Many financial market traders might baulk at such ideas and Ward acknowledged that in the male-dominated environment of some dealing rooms stigma may be attached to talking to a coach.

Steve Goldstein, who worked as a FX rates and fixed income trader for 25 years at institutions including Credit Suisse and Commerzbank before becoming a coach, agreed.

“People still use the term shrink. There are a lot of games in trading rooms that people play amongst themselves and look for signs of weakness,” he said.

Both Goldstein and Ward said many of their clients were successful traders with 10 to 15 years experience who had lost their way and needed to regain self-confidence.

What Makes a Great Trader?

Most traders and coaches agreed the most important attribute for making money in financial markets is self-confidence. Along with discipline and a clear process, it can help traders run profitable bets and cut quickly out of losses.

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