“I don’t think that anything you can read in a book will work in the sort term trading space.” – Karsten Schroeder (Tweet)
Welcome back to Top Traders Unplugged. On this episode Karsten and I discuss the systems and implementation that has led Amplitude to such remarkable success. As the interview comes to a close, we learn about Karsten’s philosophy of success and entrepreneurship. Despite being based outside the global financial hubs (i.e. New York, Chicago, London) Amplitude has experienced world class results. He provides a deep philosophy on achieving success in the CTA industry.
Thank you for listening episode #016, where we continue our conversation with Karsten Schroeder of Amplitude Capital.
In This Episode, You’ll Learn:
- Allocation of capital from a stop-loss point of view when doing short term trading
- Amplitude Capital’s systems for trade implementation
- Why high frequency trading is a very different strategy from that of Amplitude Capital’s
“We are running 5 days a week, 24 hours a day.” – Karsten Schroeder (Tweet)
- Risk management strategies and the framework for embedding these principles into the Amplitude Capital operations
- Exploring the meaning of market correlation in short term CTA strategies
- Karsten Schroeder’s philosophy on drawdowns
“When you cut a drawdown you lock in the loss and you will limit yourself in the recovery.” – Karsten Schroeder (Tweet)
- How managers can do a better job of explaining drawdowns
- The role of teamwork and processes in the research cycle
- The internal processes for validating implementation of strategies at Amplitude Captial
“We have no interest what-so-ever in hot money.” – Karsten Schroeder (Tweet)
- Karsten Schroeder’s explanation for why Amplitude has experienced such success
- Do financial leaders need to live in financial hubs? How living outside of the financial hubs has impacted Amplitude Capital
- The difference between European CTA managers and US counterparts. Why has the market dominance shifted?
“Stay entrepreneurial, don’t become a manager.” – Karsten Schroeder (Tweet)
- The philosophy of failure that empowers Karsten Schroeder’s entrepreneurial journey
- What continues to inspire Karsten to keep running the business
- The question investors are not asking that they should be:
“…spending more time asking where the money was made and how it was made.”
Sponsored by Swiss Financial Services and Saxo Bank:
Connect with Amplitude Capital:
Visit the Website: www.ampcap.com
Call Amplitude Capital: ++41-41-747 15 00
E-Mail Amplitude Capital: email@example.com
Follow Karsten Schroeder on Linkedin
“Nobody can tell you beforehand how big a drawdown is going to be. There are statistics where you can say, “well a drawdown should not be bigger than 1.5 times the volatility,” but given the wrong market environment it can be bigger.” – Karsten Schroeder (Tweet)
Niels: You're listening to Top Traders Unplugged, Episode number 016, where I continue my conversation with Karsten Schroeder, co-founder and Executive Chairman of Amplitude Capital. This episode is sponsored by Swiss Financial Services.
Introduction: Welcome back to Top Traders Unplugged. Where the best traders in the world come to share their experiences, their successes, and their failures. Let's rejoin the conversation with your host, veteran hedge fund manager, Niels Kaastrup-Larsen.
Niels: ...obviously there are more of the medium to long term trend following managers out there, and so it's quite interesting to hear your perspective and that is, the debate, very often comes down to: are people using moving averages, or are they using price breakout as their indicators? What are the pros? What are the cons? But actually, my question is more, do these traditional trend following type indicators, do they also have validity in the short term space?
Karsten: I don't think that anything that you can read in a book, as you read it there, will work in the short term trading space.
Niels: OK. Now, if I understood you correctly, essentially your models will build you a...the signals will build you an optimal position, so, is that to take it that you essentially are kind of scaling in and out of markets, you're not in and then suddenly you are out, it is more of a process because the models work together to give you the desired position, is that correctly understood?
Karsten: That's correct, we obviously have all sorts of models that work together, and then we have a net situation between all of their inputs, and that will give us the ultimate positioning in the markets.
Niels: Sure, and when you...if we just look at it from a model by model point of view, does each model have any kind of stop loss when it gets engaged, or is that really...I know we'll talk about risk management in a little while, but just out of curiosity, when you decide on the size of the position for a particular model, does that go, in any case, in alignment with some level of stop loss for that, or is that handled differently?
Karsten: Well, stop loss is...the meaning of stop loss is, in short term trading, is not as big as the meaning of stop losses in longer term trading because your models are relatively short term and reactive, so once you have them it's not as meaningful.
Niels: Sure, sure, and when you look at models, is there anything that you look for in terms of contribution, meaning that a model in order to make it into the portfolio has to produce more or less the same contribution over time? I know they won't do it month by month, but over time you're looking for certain profit contribution for it to make it into the portfolio in the first place.
Karsten: Well it depends on the situation. We are mostly talking about components here, so components have to deliver, ideally, a consistent improvement in the system, or if they are introduced for a particular reason, than they have to deliver that specific performance characteristic. I don't think that you can make a general statement to that extent that somebody has to do an X percent of platforms contribution. It's like what we do has a lot of component building, and so when we look at a new component it just really has to improve what we have currently, and if it does that then that would lead to potential implementation.
Niels: Sure, and in this short term space, if I can refer back to the medium to long term trend following strategies just to have a reference point, a lot can be said that actually the entries and the exits are not that significant and what is really significant is actually how you size the position. How does that sit in the short term space, because I could imagine that entries and exits also play, maybe a bigger role due to the slippage factor that you've alluded to a few times, but I imagine that still position sizing also plays an important role. How do you see that?
Karsten: Well nobody wants to trade, like big trades in one go, so everybody tries to split up those trades. Entry and exit points are a design question after your program - that's a general efficiency question. Entry points will define your reactivity, so short term traders will obviously enter a trade earlier on than a longer term guy, and then the question is where you exit it. So you can exit it, obviously, through other models or through the reversion of...like your indicator actually turning around, and whatever your models will tell you. Obviously nobody wants to, or likes to do big trades in one go, so in designing your models and designing your execution strategies you always want to have small activity at any given point in time.
Niels: Sure, and staying on that subject of trade implementation, I imagine that your systems essentially are running 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, and just constantly looking for these opportunities?
Karsten: Absolutely, we're trading all markets. We are trading Europe. We are trading America. We are trading Asia. So yes, we are running 5 days a week, 24 hours a day.
Niels: Sure, and how long does it actually take from a signal being generated for it to be executed, because obviously in the longer term space it's not that important, but how quickly do your systems have to react to these things?
Karsten: Because we are still operating on a directional basis, we're not doing any other arbitrage things, I don't think that mili mili mili seconds matter so much to us, so it's not like we have to say we need to be co-located to do our business, but well, you've got to be fast. Of course we have a solid infrastructure and we choose counter parties that have robust infrastructure, and we have dedicated connections, so we would not obviously go through an internet connection for that.
Niels: Sure. This is not related directly to Amplitude, but you know a lot more about this than I do, and there is a lot of talk, at the moment, about high frequency trading and the politicians and other groups of interest trying to maybe restrict that to some extent, is that kind of definition of high frequency, is that much shorter term than what you actually do?
Karsten: Yeah, that is significantly shorter term, and it has a different functionality to be honest. It's more an issue on cash equity trading, in particular when you have markets with de-fragmented liquidity, let's say defragmented markets, so there's not all that liquidity on one big central exchange so you have dark pools and various exchanges, those are things that we do not favor, and any regulation that tries to mitigate this we are clearly in favor of, as well as any regulation that would address message to fill ratios and co-location, because it's...I think markets are not there to create a technology game. In the end it's about investments, and it's about placing assets, and not doing tech war games, so therefore anything that creates a stable solid marketplace we are clearly in favor of. I don't think all this co-location stuff and market order book manipulation is really helpful. So message to fill ratios, when they become unhealthy, I think it is absolutely reasonable to introduce penalties there.
Niels: Sure. Now, at $1.7 billion under management, clearly execution is a major focus. Do you see, with all the computer help we have now-a-days, are you still able to find new efficient ways of executing your trades, or do you also have to rely on certain increased liquidity, generally speaking, in the markets in order to achieve the goals of say $4 or $5 billion under management?
Karsten: I have to say, from a pure slippage perspective, the last couple of years have actually not been that bad. So, some markets from liquidity perspective have been somewhat constant, and was the way we designed the programs, and the way we implemented execution strategies we've managed to continuously lower our execution costs. So otherwise assets were rising, when 2009 or 2008 we had $800 million, now we have $1.6 - $1.7 billion. That's obviously a good result from the way we managed to digest this additional asset load.
Niels: Absolutely. Now I wanted to change the subject way from trade implementation, and talk about risk management. I'd love to hear if you could describe in your own words, how you define the risk and how you set the framework of your risk levels or targets, in broad terms, and how you embed it into your programs?
Karsten: Well, the way the portfolio is constructed, as alluded to earlier, is very much driven by volatility and liquidity in the markets. At the end of the day the risk you have is like the position you have in the market - the bigger the position, the bigger your risk. So, being a short term trader, obviously risk management plays a bit of a different role because your models are also reactive, so you will have...the market turns the other way, you will turn the other way pretty quickly as well. Of course there's the risk of overnight and over weekend gaps which you will be exposed to and there's nothing you can do about it. We do have position limiters, and risk limits, in particular how big aggregated positions can be, and we also have two risk management layers that will filter volatility developments and decrease the position sizing accordingly.
Niels: Does market correlation play a different role when you are short term, than it might do for some more traditional trade length of medium term or long term managers?
Karsten: I would say that market correlation plays a smaller role the shorter the term you go. Because you treat the markets individually, you react individually, but I can totally see that obviously, if you're a long term trend follower, and you're flat out long in all equity markets, and you're flat out short in all bond markets, that's a position (laugh). Of course if things go the other way then you're going to be very exposed, and it may take some time to turn around. So from that perspective I would certainly manage that, yeah.
Niels: Now shifting gears again to another topic that people like to talk about - drawdowns. A big part of being a CTA means that you're in a drawdown of some sort, and what's happened in the last few years, not necessarily in your case, but certainly generally in the CTA space, is that the drawdown profile has changed and, in some cases, quite dramatically compared to maybe the previous two or even three decades. What have you seen, in terms of your own drawdown profile in the last few years? If I'm not mistaking, actually, you're not that far away from an all time high, but you may have seen something during the last few years that you can reflect on?
Karsten: So, drawdowns are everyday business in a CTA, because statistically speaking only 20% of the time you are actually in high water, and it's a natural thing with a trading strategy. Now we explain environments to our clients - what would lead to a drawdown. We are not a big fan of drawdown management because it's statistically doesn't make sense, in particular for short term trader, because the position you have on tomorrow is independent from the position you have today. So if you cut it, while you're cutting it, because you lose conviction in the program, then you may just as well redeem, because when you cut in a drawdown you lock in the loss and you will limit yourself in the recovery. Nobody can tell you beforehand how big a drawdown is going to be. There are statistic where you can say, "well a drawdown should not be bigger than 1.5 times the volatility," but given the wrong market environment it can be bigger. Do drawdowns ever change? I don't think so, really. I don't think that the environment we're creating and experiencing is like creating tail risks for CTAs, it's just like a bit of a mediocre environment that doesn't allow you to make a lot of money. I don't think it creates a huge problem. It's not that there are extraordinary bad price movements, it's just that they're not the great runs where you can make a lot of money. It's more that problem. Then there are obviously strategies that are relying on certain value, or that are relying on trades or exposures which have changed, which will experience a drawdown because so far those trades have been very beneficial for a very long period of time, but even then, since this is all being communicated and should have been understood by the investors, I don't see that you can blame it on the funds. That almost comes back to when you do a credit trade, and your trading a spread, then well yes, you collect premium as long as that spread works. If things go bad, and you have a highly leveraged position, well then you have a problem. You can't really complain about it because you should have known it all the time. That's why you're collecting a premium, because there is some sort of tail out there. So to that extent, I think when you understand what a strategy is doing, you can relate to the drawdowns, but never forget there's no guarantee in terms of a maximum drawdown.
Niels: Absolutely. I'm taking what you've said earlier on and trying to put it together here. It would seem to me that because you have (or you want to play) a specific role in the portfolio with the downside protection...would it be a fair statement to say that typically your drawdowns would then occur when other things in the portfolio of an institution - the bonds, the stocks, whatever it might be, are doing well, so in a sense the timing of drawdown may actually be less stressful for the investors in your case, because they may occur at a time where other parts of the overall portfolio is doing well?
Karsten: Yeah, absolutely, a drawdown occurs in our case, when you have range bond markets. A perfect example is what we've seen now in May, with equities just trading range bond in a 1.5%, 2% range, so that's obviously not helpful, and that should not be a stressful period for investors, generally speaking.
Niels: Sure, sure, I'd like to hear your comment on this question, due to your experience...of course drawdowns, for many investors and for some managers, certainly add to the emotional roller coaster. How do you balance this emotion when the drawdown periods occur?
Karsten: Yeah, I can totally agree it is a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but even if you...when you add up all the negative days you have in a year, and you add up all the positive days, then the delta would be like...obviously in the return that you make, I'm neglecting geometrical effects here, but the number is actually surprisingly big in terms of the negative and the positive performance that you will have to digest. So my point is, when you're a percent up for the day, you go like "yeah, that's the way it's supposed to be", but your positive emotions to us that 1% up, are not as strong positively as your negative emotions when you're a percent down. Even, let's say we take the spread, let's assume you're 90 basis points down, and you're a percent up, if it continues to do that you're going to have a somewhat good scenario here; or let's say 80 basis points down and one percent up, so that emotionally would still feel tough because you're doing a lot of 80 basis points, and I can agree. Also with fee negotiations putting pressure on, obviously with a management fee you become more and more dependent on a performance fee, and that's the gray side and the dark side of the business.
Niels: Is there anything that managers can do to help investors overcome these concerns where they don't necessarily have to see a drawdown as a big risk, but just part of the strategy? I guess you are doing a lot of that being so intimate with your investors in your dialogue, but is there anything in general, do you think that managers can do a better job of explaining this?
Karsten: Yeah, first of all I think that, at least in our case, I feel like the emotional stress is higher on our side than on the investor's side because, the investor has a portfolio, I would say, generally speaking, the portfolio would have done relatively well in the last couple of years, but we only have what we have. But, coming back to your question, I think...well there are two things - you should be transparent, you should be honest, and you should be humble, and those three things in combination actually will get you a satisfied investor.
Niels: Sure. The next area that I would like to talk about is really research. We've already, as you so elegantly said, that investors they want managers to continue to innovate and evolve, but they don't want change, so I know that's certainly part of the setting. But in terms of research, do you have a cycle of research that you follow, or how does research come about? Is it ideas being thrown around in the office, or how does that work? I know that's a really big part of what you do and a big part of your success.
Karsten: Yeah, research is the integral part of the business, and at the end of the day, when you invest, you are not getting the track record that has been there, you will get whatever we will manage to produce in the future. So research is, certainly from an investors perspective, the topic that you should spend most of your time on in due diligence, not really so much the actual things, but how the process works, because you have to be comfortable with the process, because at the end of the day the manager's not going to turn to you and say, "oh yeah, we have this idea do you think we should implement it?" So you have to be comfortable with the way, and how ideas are selected, how they are managed, and what the decision making process towards implementation or rejection of that idea is. So, we have a committee which manages this. I'm managing the research with my Co-Heads. We have weekly research meetings where we discuss in an open forum what is going on, so that also sometimes helps to get ideas from other team members. Basically projects get allocated to individual research members who will do the testing. So we'll get ideas, we'll try to work that problem. Then as things may look good, we do a lot of validation work. So validation means, first of all that all the programming has to be done correctly, that we understand all the impacts in terms of where the performance has been coming from, and what negative aspects of particular components there potentially could be. And as all of these questions get answered along the line, it may eventually lead to an IT implementation. There's a sign-up process actually: there's a system that we have internally which requires a couple of people to say, "yeah, this is actually OK", and that nobody has any major concerns before things will actually be put in place.
Niels: Sure. Do you feel that you might be a little bit constrained in your research given the fact that you, on one hand, you want to have a certain profile of the product, meaning you want it to make money when equities go down, so I could imagine that excludes some ideas because they may not be working in that kind of environment. So do you feel that there is some constraints and such, or not really, as long as you know what you are looking for?
Karsten: Well there are sometimes situations where you have things that may look attractive, but that just don't go along with what you're doing, or with what you are suppose to do, and then yeah, and then it's tough luck when you just have to stick with what your mandate is. Otherwise there's always room for creating new programs, or creating prop testing stuff. In looking at things that we're currently building an equity strategy, and we've been building it for quite some time now in the prop trading phase, so there's always that opportunity. I think when you want to do things that are not within your original return characteristics, you should carve it out. If you think it's awesome, then carve it out, make a new program you can make available to your investors either as a component, or even as a new program. I think that is totally fair. What's not fair is changing stuff on the back of...not really telling people or forcing them into something that they maybe don't want, and to be honest, we have a product here that has a very high liquidity. If you start doing this you run the risk of your investors saying goodbye, because they're just not comfortable with style drift, and strategy drift.
Niels: Sure. I completely agree. Now, shifting to another area which is a little bit related to what you just said, the business side. Now overall, I'd say Amplitude has been the exception to the rule in the last few years, as you've described, you've had an amazing growth at a time where a lot of managers have had decreasing asset bases, and then some of them have even gone out of business. Why do you think you've been so successful?
Karsten: It comes back to a point we were talking about earlier on. It's the selection of your investors. We actually...sometimes people may take this the wrong way, that they say, "oh yeah, the guys from Amplitude are arrogant", but we have no interest what so ever in hot money. So the moment when you start a conversation, when the first question from the other side is, "can we see the performance from last year", that's kind of like a show stopper. There's no issues looking at performance, don't get me wrong, at the end of the day we are getting paid to make money for investors, but if that is your primary concern, then we are probably not the right fund for you. So having clients that are really interested in what you do and how you do it and when it makes money and when it doesn't make money, that's kind of the client that you want because that is also the client that will stay with you through more difficult time periods. I would say our growth has never been aggressive, apart from maybe 2007, 2008, where by-the-way we had hot money flowing in, which did flow out in 2009, which we replaced with institution money. We're not going to make the same mistake again. So ever since we've had a pretty slow and steady growth, with no real negative years on EUM, so I think to that extent it's been stable. It's not been a radical growth path, but it's been stable, and I guess that's also, thanks to very good communication we have with our client base, and Heiko is doing a really good job in keeping everybody up to speed there. We have regular calls on strategy. We do an on-site visit at our client's offices once a year. They mostly do an on-site office visit once a year at our offices, so that beyond the conversations that we have on the phone or video conferences, there's also seeing each other and talking about staying within a bit more detail, and I guess that's important.
Niels: Sure. Communications is certainly key, and speaking about offices, I wanted to ask you something completely different, and that is location freedom, because you've actually also done something a little bit unique, namely you chose to move away from the pulse of one of Europe's financial centers to the little bit less stressful place of Zug in late 2008. Tell me about whether that's had any impact, good or bad on the way you do things?
Karsten: Yeah, back in 2008 we said we don't want to be in a big city any more. I want to move to a place where there's a bit more of a balanced lifestyle, which from a business perspective, I have to say, had no negative impacts. Of course you can move to a Caribbean island, which probably will create some issues, and also within Europe, I guess there a places which are not so, how can I say...they may not be seen from a investor's perspective as such a professional base, but I guess when you talk about Switzerland, and when you talk about Zug, there are a lot of financial institutions sitting here, and actually a lot of firms that are significantly bigger than we are. Also logistically speaking, it is fairly easy to get here. So we had no issues with investors what so ever when we made that change. From a personal perspective, coming back to the comments that you made earlier on this regard to the emotional side of it, I think it's easier to handle that in an environment like we have here. I'm actually looking at the lake now and seeing a kite surfer out there, and just contemplating the idea if I should go in the evening for a quick run on the lake, just a quick kite surfing session, I certainly couldn't do that in London, right? It's not an option, and we have a lot of people who have families here, who do lots of sports, and for those people it's a really good setup here.
Niels: Sure, absolutely. Now, if we look at the CTA part of the overall hedge fund universe...you know when it all began it was quite US dominated as an industry, but in the last 10 years or so, it would seem that the European managers have taken over and created some of these massive success stories, of which you are certainly one. Why do you think that European managers have kind of become the preferred type of firm for investors to do business with?
Karsten: I think that the European firms have more of a scientific approach towards it, and more of a technology driven approach towards it than the American firms. The US firms largely came from a trading background, and with the way the markets have developed, I love the old firms, I love the old systematic firms, the old CTAs from the US, the new firms...I mean even a firm like Winton is not that old. They've all been set up here in Europe with a strong academic focus, and that just has been really essential in the last couple of years. Having said that, there are peers in the US who do really, really well also on the technology side and on the research side, and have a lot of academics on board. At the end of the day Renaissance [Technologies] has set the ultimate example. But in terms of the vast majority, I would say yeah, the business is currently stronger in Europe.
Niels: The last section I want to move to, I call it general and fun, but what it really is, it's about getting into hearing your more personal thoughts on certain topics and also maybe to get to know sides of you that people may not know, but I wanted to start out by asking generally, from your perspective, what does it take to become a great trader, or great CTA in your opinion?
Karsten: I think you have to love the markets. You have to love math as well, I think. You have to be good with numbers. You just have to love the idea of trading stuff. That I think is a prerequisite. Then the question is what does it take to become an entrepreneur? There is a whole range of other factors. You can be a fantastic trader, and it doesn't mean you will be a fantastic or successful hedge fund owner, because there is a business side to it and there's an entrepreneurial side, and a risk taking side to it. There are people who are excellent traders, who should actually stay in a framework where everything else is provided to them and they just have to worry about the trading. And there are people who may actually not even be the best traders, and may not even be the smartest guys, and not the best researchers, but they have the entrepreneurial spirit and everything that has to come with that, and they will probably run the businesses.
Niels: Sure, sure, and if you go back to your own beginning, were there any CTA firms that you were aspiring to at the time, anyone that you thought "Wow, if we could be like them one day, that would be fantastic"?
Karsten: Honestly, not at all because, when we came to London, I didn't even know the term CTA, and I don't think I could have named anybody that would have been one of my peers. So I have great respect for the vast majority of my colleagues. I'm good friends with the vast majority of my colleagues, I would say, and I hope they would say the same thing about me. They're firms that I think have great success, they have been built up in an amazing way, they have fantastic teams, they have great research, they have good academic people and a good process, and those are the things that we want to do, and that we aspire to and that we try to set up and run our business this way. So I would not say that there's a particular firm where I would say, "oh, we look up to them" but there are certainly really good companies out there that have done a great job, and I have a lot of respect for them and we try to obviously continue, and survive, and grow the business at a steady pace.
Niels: Sure. Now you mentioned the entrepreneurial side, and as we both know the entrepreneurial journey is ups and downs, and successes and failures. What would you say has been the biggest failure that you've encountered on your journey, and what did you learn from it?
Karsten: Yeah, on the business side there are so many things that you can do better with hind sight, and it is therefore relatively hard to pick out a failure, and that's why I would like to refrain actually from doing so, also for another reason, because I don't think we should fool ourselves by thinking that things went right because you made the right decision. I do really believe that the element of luck, in terms of building a great business is not to be underestimated. By luck...there's all sorts of things. When you run a business you have to make a lot of decisions under uncertainty. It's because you're doing this, you just cannot claim that just because it went the right way...you can say, "of course I knew that." No, if you would have known it there wouldn't be the need for a big decision. It would have been so obvious. So you have to do things with a lot of uncertainty around you, and coming back to statistics, just because 10 times you've made really the right core decisions, just does not mean that you are like the holy grail. You can be lucky 10 times. 10 times statistically means nothing. Coming to an investor's cycle, if you invest in businesses, then you have invested in 4 businesses and 3 of them made you a fortune, are you an awesome investor? I don't think so, because if somebody does 100 investments and 65 are profitable and overall that's a good return, I would say you probably understand what you are doing. So that's why, coming back to the other thing, do I have some big regrets? Not really, because when you decide things the way you do, given the information and given your moral standards, given what you want to achieve and even if it goes wrong, I don't think that regret should really spoil your life, and at the end of the day what you really have to learn when you run businesses, I think, once you've made the decision you made, you have made it...you stand by it and that is that, and you put it behind you because I think going back and saying, "oh, if I would have done it differently I could be here and here." I think that's really a show stopper, that's going to kill you. You really have to leave it behind you. If there's a lesson to be learned that's important, learn that lesson, otherwise that's it, get on with it.
Niels: Now, you've obviously had a tremendous amount of success, so what inspires you today? What keeps you motivated to keep going?
Karsten: We've been running this now for 10 years, which I have to say feels like a long time. It helps, every once in a while, just to go and see other people, and I've just...like two weeks ago, I went to an entrepreneurial meeting, or get together for my university, and I have to say that it really inspired me a lot, because there were young people who had just graduated building up new businesses, and they were super excited about it, and just the way they talked about it, just the way they presented themselves, and I think you have to really maintain that attitude and that mindset. You definitely want to make sure that you stay entrepreneurial and do not become a manager. I think that's important, in particular, on businesses that require a certain level of creativity. Once you lose that touch, I think it becomes an issue.
Niels: Sure, sure. Now I've only got a couple of questions left for you, Karsten, and this one might be a little bit, well, probably not tricky for you, but, if you could ask a question to the next guest here on Top Traders Unplugged, which most likely will be one of your peers, maybe not in the short term space, but what would you ask them?
Karsten: That really depends on what type of fund it is. If it would be a CTA...if it would be a long term CTA I would really ask them, do you think you can continue, by that I mean the asset classes you've been trading, the way you have been trading them, for the next five years or 10 years, and being comfortable to say that you will make the same amount of money or that you will achieve the similar chart that you've realized in the last 10 years?
Niels: OK, and do you know what you would ask someone in your own, sort of space?
Karsten: Hmm...what would I ask in my own space?...
Niels: If you don't have a question, that's fine. I actually have an extra question I just thought of, and that is, you've been obviously in many, many due diligence meetings, phone calls, what is the question that investors are not asking you that you think they should be asking you?
Karsten: I think they should spend significantly more time in understanding when the money was made and how it was made, because investors will naturally ask a lot about the difficult periods, and they almost take the good periods for granted, but it is really equally important to talk about the good periods as well. Not because we want to promote ourselves, actually quite the contrary, to understand why are you making so much money in that month, is there a downside to what you are doing there and when will that downside kick in? Because of course we go through all the risks and all the negative months seeing whip sawing here and there, and so on and so forth, but sometimes you have to ask yourself, why is this manager putting out a 10% month when the average return of the CTAs was only 1% of that? There must be a reason for it. Why do you think you've captured this? What are you doing there, where everybody else did not seem to be doing that, and most importantly to that question, what's the down side? That is, I think, where investors should put a little more focus on.
Niels: Sure, now, final question Karsten, but it might not be an easy one, could you tell me a fun fact about yourself that people don't usually know about you?
Karsten: A fun factor...
Niels: A fun fact, something that people don't usually know about you?
Karsten: Yeah, I can tell you a fun fact, I can really imitate the Saxonian German accent very well, which of course I would never do in client meetings. It's often not that funny in English, I can kind of do it. I was always thinking that I should one day do it on CNBC, but I'm kind of concerned that maybe the producers may not find it so entertaining and it would be my final show, but it can be hilarious.
Niels: (laugh) You are always welcome to come back here and do it, and we will certainly make it publicly available.
Karsten: (laugh) Thank you so much.
Niels: Before we finish the conversation, perhaps you could tell me where the listeners could best reach out to you and learn more about Amplitude Capital.
Karsten: So it's very easy. You can go to our web site www.ampcap.com and you will find a phone number and an email address, and emails will be read by one of our assistants and then forwarded to Heiko or even to myself, depending on what it's regarding. Or just call the main line at the office and then somebody will help you out.
Niels: Excellent. Well thank you so much, Karsten. It has been a great conversation. I really appreciate your transparency and your willingness to share the insights and views that you have on your own strategy, and your firm, and the industry as a whole, and of course our listeners can find details on our discussion today in the show notes for this episode on TOPTRADERSUNPLUGGED.COM, and I hope we can connect at a later date and hear about all the great things that you do, and maybe even a new product being launched.
Karsten: Thank you so much, Niels.
Ending: That's all for this episode of Top Traders Unplugged. We'd love for you to be a part of our community, so head over to TOPTRADERSUNPLUGGED.COM and let us know what you thought of this episode in the comments section of the show notes. Take action, get involved, and suggest who you would like to see as a future guest on the show, or how you think we can improve. Constructive comments will be rewarded with 30 days of free access to our premium member area, so head over there now, and we'll see you next time on Top Traders Unplugged.
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Date posted: 24 Jul 2014no comments