Sunday, 11 October 2015

Not always plane sailing

14:25 Posted by The Thalesians (@thalesians) No comments

Travelling is rarely about the journey. People generally don't fly across the Atlantic to endure hours up in the sky cramped in a seat for the sake of it. It's all about getting to your destination and the time you spend there. Yet, the journey bit is the inevitable part of the whole travelling experience.

I've been travelling over the past two weeks for work. It's taken me to the Federal Reserve Board to present my research in Washington DC, Bloomberg TV in New York, as well as to a number of funds on the East Coast, a Thalesians talk in New York, Quantopian in Boston, an innovative startup helping retail traders create trading models with Python, as well as to the WBS Training Fixed Income conference in Paris. It's been challenging, at times questions I was asked about my research, I couldn't answer. However, it's definitely been a good learning experience and I definitely go away with loads of ideas for future research after meeting so many other market participants. During the downtime, I've also been lucky enough to meet a lot of friends and folks from finance Twitter along the way, via quite a few burger joints, which has been great!

It has got me thinking more broadly about the whole notion of travelling for work. I've been on planes, I've been trains, I've been in cars, during the last two weeks. At times the journeys have actually been fun, when trains have taken me through scenic landscapes. At other times, somewhat frustrating, being diverted to random airports in mid flight, when all I've wanted to do was get back home. Has it all been worth it? I think so. All the tweeting, emails and phone calls you can do, will never make up for a face to face meeting to present your work.

On a phone call, you'll never notice the sudden waning of interest from the audience as you mistakenly labour over a point which they find irrelevant. By contrast in real life, you can quickly shift focus to something your audience finds more interesting. Tweeting can be fraught with misunderstanding, in particular if you've never met in real life. True, it's easy to miscommunicate face to face, but there are so many more clues in body language versus 140 characters alone. As for emails, the more verbose they become, strangely the less meaning that can be deciphered from them, given the amount of emails we all have to deal with.

In real life, it also far easier for clients to tell you what they really think about what you present. Getting honest feedback is probably one of the most valuable things you can ever receive in your work. When you make mistakes, sometimes you'll only notice when other people point it out to you!
Yes, it can be tiring, it can be frustrating, it can be disorientating, but travelling for work really can be one of the best ways to get exposure for what your work and for learning about what you can improve. If you're organised you can pack as many meetings as you can on a trip, to get the most benefit for hopefully, the least amount of time spend on a journey. Travelling for hours on a plane, for just a single meeting, might not be the best use of your time, and might mean you have to make more return trips to meet other clients.

Social media and other forms of electronic communication are of course important and can help to reduce your travelling, but I do think they more compliment rather than replace meeting all clients in real life. Although, despite what I've written here, here's to hoping that the next time I travel it'll be for a holiday rather than for work!

Like my writing? Have a look at my book Trading Thalesians - What the ancient world can teach us about trading today is on Palgrave Macmillan. You can order the book on Amazon. Drop me a message if you're interested in me writing something for you or creating a systematic trading strategy for you! Please also come to our regular finance talks in London, New York, Budapest, Prague, Frankfurt, Zurich & San Francisco - join our group for more details here (Thalesians calendar below)

14 Oct - New York - Dan Pirjol - Can one price Eurodollar futures in Black-Derman-Toy? (Thalesians/IAQF)
21 Oct - London - Robert Carver - Lessons from systematic trading
25 Nov - London - Panel - Macro Markets Discussion
26 Nov - Zurich - Thomas Schmelzer - Portfolio Optimization, Regression and Conic Programming


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