Category Archives: shares

Not games related… I was being interviewed at rezzed for some BBC business thing about games & money etc, and they asked what I did with the profits and I mentioned trading the markets, and they asked if my success at making games translated to beating the market, and I had to confess that the data suggests that it does. Which is kinda weird and unlikely I guess.

Background: I used to work for a big trading IT company (like Reuters) on the UK stock market. I wasn’t a trader, but I was IT support. I stared at market dealing software all day. This was YEARS ago. I also studied at the London School of Economics, so I’m vaguely business / markets focused since late teens I guess.

I read a great book by this guy:

Nassim Taleb

Who was a trader, and basically points out how many people who think they are beating the market are just delusional, and idiots who mistake luck for skill. He also has a very interesting methodology for evaluating success. His system is essentially to calculate the downside risk into the upside calculation. So if you make (for example) a game about ducks who go skiing, and it makes a return on investment of 500%, that does not really mean you have made a return of 500%. You need to calculate in the risk. if it was 95% likely to flop, then the decision was a stupid one, even though the upside is 5x, the downside is greater, so your decision was dumb, and you should be fired, despite making a fortune.

We never think that way. Mark zuckerberg is a genius because he turned down billions of dollars for his company and is now worth much more. How clever! But we hear about Zuck, not all those people who were offered billions, turned it down, and then ended up flipping burgers five years later. We automatically discount them. Nassim doesn’t.

Anyway… this is all background to me illustrating that somehow, weirdly, I am doing well on the stock market. Not amazingly dotcom-well, but better than keeping the money in the bank. Right now, depositing the money in a bank in the UK will get you *maybe* 2% if you lock it away. Inflation is around that anyway, so you gain nothing.

My shares, since 2013 have earned me an annualized profit of 9.16%. Pretty fucking good.

How am I doing that?

Leonardo Dicaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street

Firstly, I try to minimize charges. Some people buy £1,000 of shares. Pointless. You probably pay £15 to deal, so £30 to buy and sell (plus stamp duty and spread). I never buy or sell less than £5k, preferably £10k, rendering the dealing charge pretty trivial. (I invest enough, and trade often enough to get a lower trading cost, which is pretty handy. This opens up smaller price-swings to being worthwhile to trade against.)

Secondly I only buy and sell companies making a profit. it’s not that I don’t think get big fast works, its that I’ll let you gamble on it, not me. Thirdly, I keep an eye on the spread between buy and sell, and factor it in. This means I buy more large companies than small (which have lower liquidity and higher spreads). Spreads can really kill your profits. Fourthly, I set stop losses (I never used to…and have finally learned my lesson). The minute I buy I set a stop loss order. No more watching shares slide down…and down…and down.

In terms of choosing shares I’m pretty experimental. I’ve bought and sold UK equities, foreign listed equities, Italian Government debt and Kazakhstan copper mining. I’ve bought commodity tracking ETFs, and also leveraged and short ones. I’ve bought corporate bonds, and done quite nicely from them. I’ve also invested in investment funds for a more conservative long term growth strategy. When it comes to equities, I look for profit, preferably consistently growing over several years, and a relatively low Price to Earnings ratio. I also like a decent dividend, especially if profits are growing and the dividend cover is high, making me think dividend growth is imminent and thus the price will rise soon.

This all sounds very sensible, but its actually pretty much nonsense because despite my return (annualized) being 9.16%, the FTSE100 (Uk market) has grown by 7.26% in that time anyway, meaning I am only just beating a simple market tracking fund!

Still… I love looking at numbers and spreadsheets and doing calculations and also taking risks and business decisions, so this is my World of Warcraft, the game I keep coming back to and trying to win at. At least my hobby doesn’t cost me money.

Yet.