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Podcast: Q&A with Steve Ward on the psychology of trading


Trading is about more than just technique – it can also be a mind game. In this podcast we had the opportunity to speak to Steve Ward of Performance Edge Consulting.

Steve started out as a psychologist working in the professional sports arena, but has progressed on to advising fund managers and indeed whole teams of traders.

Trading can produce a lot of stress, hence Steve emphasises the balance of mind and body when approaching trading. He worked with top athletes to give them the mental skills to perform better in intense athletic environments. He progressed to trading after he met a prop trader at a sports psychology session in 2005 and realised that his teaching would also work with traders.

Steve’s expertise is now highly sought after by professional traders. Today 95% of his work is in the trading and investing space.

Mental activity

The big difference between sports people and traders is that traders are more focused on their mental activity, but both areas are very dependent on winning and losing. Dealing with winning and losing can be tough, especially when you are making 20 to 50 trades per day. Traders don’t have an off-season either, so there is less scope for taking a break. This brings with it further pressure, sometimes over 52 weeks a year.

Even a private trader who is working part-time, maybe with a day job, can still face fatigue. Professional traders have to grapple with long hours and high levels of fatigue, but all this can have a negative impact on the brain, and on the ability of traders to make decisions and manage risk.

Common challenges

In the podcast we talk about some of the common challenges facing traders and the mistakes that crop up time and again. Steve talks about some of the systems that can make traders more successful in their decision making, especially under conditions of uncertainty. Some of these represent simple wins, some of them require a higher degree of self-awareness.

We also talk about the changing dynamics of markets and asset classes, and how traders sometimes need to be able to adapt to meet these circumstances. Steve has 15 years of coaching under his belt, so has some interesting perspectives on how changing markets can punish traders who are not capable of adapting.

Steve also discusses how he works with traders and helps them to recognise their individual strengths and weaknesses, and how they can adapt this to suit their lifestyle and their investment strategy. “Things will just start to come together, they will start to make sense, and you will begin to find your way,” he tells us. “The goal is to find your way of trading to be successful.”

Steve is one of the coaches on The Armchair Trader’s panel of vetted trading educators. While he primarily works with professional traders, there remain some limited opportunities for our readers to benefit from his coaching. For more information, please go to our trader education program.

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This article does not constitute investment advice. Do your own research or consult a professional advisor.

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