Million Dollar Traders TV Show

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From the Million Dollar Traders TV Show – Anton talking to Lex Van Dam on the phone

After he took a year off travelling the world, Kreil returned to London in June 2008 to film the BBC TV show Million Dollar Traders. He was recruited to be the manager of the group of 8 retail traders that were given $1,000,000 to trade with. The idea of the show came from an ex-colleague of Anton’s from Goldman Sachs, Lex Van Dam, who at the time had moved from being the head of Goldman Sachs Proprietary Strategies (GSPS), to Europe’s largest Hedge Fund GLG Partners and then set up his own firm Hampstead Capital. It’s interesting to note that Lex Van Dam after having worked at Goldman Sachs and two hedge funds thought of Kreil to be the boss of the show. It’s obvious that Lex Van Dam having spent years in the market picked Kreil because he knew he would get the job done and held him in high regard as a trader. The show being produced by the BBC also means that Kreil’s background as a Professional Trader must have been of great interest to the BBC otherwise he would not have been selected for the show and been selected as the boss of the trading office.

 

The Million Dollar Traders show was filmed over a 12-week period in London during summer of 2008, just before the market totally collapsed when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and then the Bernie Madoff scandal hit the news sending financial markets into a tailspin. There were many moments during the show where Anton Kreil’s contributions give us an insight into how he thinks. Most notably was when the news came out that the U.S. Government announced that they were prepared to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The headline to any one-dimensional thinking trader would at first sound positive for financial markets. Not to Kreil. He stated on camera that because they have said they had guaranteed the debt that the U.S. Government was actually admitting that they needed saving and implying that the crisis was therefore far worse than the markets had expected. He was dead right.

The traits here of a successful trader can be seen clearly. Instead of taking the news at face value, Kreil's analytical mind thinks at another level immediately figuring out what the news actually means. This is Kreil displaying clearly the ability to think outside the box. Instead of thinking that the news was bullish for markets and to buy, he sees it as the opposite and to sell. Really this is genius thinking and shows how a good trader can always be one or two steps ahead of the market if they think outside the box.

 

There were many instances in the show where Anton displayed other important characteristics required of successful traders. In one episode when the retired army soldier got a trade wrong Anton told him to cut it and he did. It was done unemotionally, and they moved straight on to the next trade idea without looking back. Anton congratulated him for doing the right thing. In another instance the retired IBM manager refused to cut a trade and Anton went ballistic on camera and shouted at him. Discipline is obviously very important to Anton in trading and is a crucial part to being successful at it consistently. It is discipline to know when you are wrong and to do something about it. Get out of the position. This is clearly something that Anton applies right across his entire life. Leaving Liverpool as a kid (cut it), leaving Goldman Sachs (take profits / cut it), leaving the investment banking Industry (take profits / cut it).

 

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Kreil’s objectivity and ability to read situations leads him to a conclusion of what to do in the situation, both in trading and in life. In any situation he is in, again both in trading or in real life, Kreil seems to at some point come to a conclusion and takes action. He either cuts and moves on or takes profit and moves on. He is disciplined. This is a very important trait to have as a successful trader and is an extension of objectivity and having no emotion in decisions. The cut or the take profits is the end result, the actionable part of that trait. 

 

The Million Dollar Traders Show also showed us a ruthless side of Anton’s character. He can really be brutal if he needs to be in the commercial setting. In the final episode of the show four of the contestants did a mass walk out in protest of one of the contestants being fired and how they were being treated in the show. In truth they just couldn’t handle the pressure and they were very obviously not up to the job. During the protest and walkout Lex Van Dam turned to Anton and said “I think they are going to leave the office.” To which Anton replied “leave them, I want to see what they do naturally, if they walk they walk.” What did he mean by this? Why didn’t he interject? Well firstly it was pretty obvious he was trying to stop Lex Van Dam interjecting. Secondly by seeing what they did without any intervention, Kreil was allowing them to make their own minds up as to whether they were quitters or winners. He gave all of the contestants multiple opportunities to prove themselves as traders during the show yet they still walked out in protest. They essentially threw in the towel and that told Kreil all he needed to know. Who was left? An economics student, a single mum and an ex-soldier. Kreil knew it and he even said it on camera, that who was left in the office were his winners. He was happy about that result. 

 

This does show a slightly darker and manipulative side to Kreil. He could have interjected and saved the office from chaos. The traders who were protesting may have stayed. But what would the upside have been? He would have been left with 3 winners and 4 losers moaning in the office all the time. That would have been a total distraction to everyone else in the office. This darker side of Kreil to us normies seems a bit over the top sometimes but when you sit back and think about it, sometimes in business and especially in financial markets, you have to have a kill switch in place and do what’s right for the trading team. Kreil possesses the ability to hit the kill switch. This is an important trait to acquire if anyone wants to be successful long term as a trader in the financial markets. In times of chaos, the person with the ability to hit the kill switch sets the foundation for order to follow the chaos.          

 

So what happened in the end on the Million Dollar Traders show? Well the 3 contestants that were left turned the negative situation around in the final episode and managed to make money so that the desk was only down 1% over a 12-week period when the Hedge Fund Return Index (HFRI) was down 4%. They outperformed professional hedge fund managers. They even outperformed Lex Van Dam’s fund during that time. So, what did the show achieve? Well it showed that not everyone can learn how to trade. There were a lot of issues with contestants in the show getting way to emotional, not understanding what was going on, making crazy decisions etc. This was obviously down to a lack of experience but also down to a lack of natural ability / affinity to trade financial markets. The show left us with the message that this was totally OK and that some people are just not cut out for it. However, the show also did display that normies can learn to trade successfully if they learn the right information, they process it and apply it. Two of the contestants made money and one was flat over the 12 weeks. The rest of the group were down but Anton moved the money around so the winners in the group got more capital and they negated the losses of the others.   

Again, we can take several traits displayed by Kreil during his time on the show:

 

  • Think outside the box

  • Always be 1 or 2 steps ahead of the market

  • Take no prisoners

  • Be brutal if you have to be

  • Cut if you have to and you have the opportunity to

  • Save your emotions for outside the office

  • Acquire the ability to hit the kill switch

  • Inside the office we are traders and outside the office we can be whoever we want to be

  • Not everyone can learn how to trade successfully - some people are beyond help

  • BUT normal everyday people can learn how to trade financial markets successfully if they learn the right information and apply themselves.