Friday, October 9, 2015

Humble Student lives

I want to thank everyone who participated in the poll about the future of Humble Student of the Markets (see Humble Student turns 8 in Nov, time to retire?). It is gratifying to see that my writing has gathered such a following over the years. Thank you to each and one of you.

About half of the people who answered the survey, which is admitted a biased sample, said that they would pay for my writing. Based on the feedback that I got, I will be turning this blog into a pay-site, which I will detail later in this post.

A personal journey
First, I want to recount the personal journey that I underwent to write this blog and how I got to the point today. The story began in early 2007 when I left Merrill Lynch in New York to return to Vancouver, where I grew up. This was the parting email that I wrote friends and colleagues, entitled "am REALLY IS leaving to spend more time with his family":
After close to 30 years of being involved with the marketsI have decided to take early retirement and move to Vancouver with my family.
I went on to quote Todd Harrison of Minyanville:
Others have expressed my sentiments better than me:
I'm not going to say that success is insignificant, we know that's not true, but I can tell you, from experience, that if you look for happiness in a bank account, you're missing the bigger trade.
I have no immediate plans other than taking my daughter to school and helping her with her homework. We plan on moving in the summer when school is out and will be in the NY area until then.
I could claim that I was prescient and saw financial storm clouds gathering in early 2007, but the truth was, I was just lucky in my timing. We moved back to Vancouver and I settled into a daily routine. The first few weeks and months were relaxing. I will always be grateful for the last eight years, when my routine changed to getting up in the morning to make my daughter breakfast and school lunch. Then I would watch the markets (stock market opens at 6:30 am on the west coast and closes at 1:00 pm) over the day. Few people who work on Wall Street can experience that kind of father-daughter bonding. No amount of money can replace being present during that key period of our children`s formative years. I have never regretted making the decision to leave Merrill and slow down the pace of my life.

Nevertheless, I still had a passion for the markets. I found that I had all these opinions and comments to get out, but no one to talk to. Thus Humble Student of the Markets was born, mainly as a vehicle for me to talk out loud.

It was also very difficult to shake a lifetime of habits. I was used to be part of a team writing an extensive weekend market commentary. The lead analyst (and friend) of the team was Mary Ann Bartels. While everyone on Wall Street is hyper-competitive, I felt a special responsibility as we were walking in the footsteps of the legendary Bob Farrell. Even though our focus was technical analysis, our analysis was technical analysis with a quantitative flavor. For example, I pioneered techniques to reverse engineer the real-time exposures of hedge funds.

Thus the weekly market commentary was born and evolved. It grew and acquired a degree of following that I never expected.

Days turned into months and months turned into years. The tipping point for me was early September, when we took a brief trip to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and to re-visit the site of our wedding (see A geek's view of love and marriage). I found that I was on a laptop in the middle of nowhere posting on my blog.

Why? Is this blog that I was writing, which began as a simple hobby, taking over my life and taking time away from my family? I made the decision back in 2007 to slow down and spend more time with my family and now I was back at it again?

I had to rationalize the decision to continue spend time blogging, both to myself and my family. It was a fork in the road. The expressions of support that I received allowed me to turn my writing and analysis into a business venture gave me the focus to both keep writing and justify the use of my time to my wife and daughter.

I am listening
Many readers took the time to either comment on the blog post or took the time to write me emails. I heard one key message over and over again. What you valued the most about my analysis is the eclectic left and right brained multi-disciplinary approach to market analysis.

One of the best compliments that I received from another investment professional came from Bill Luby, of VIX and More, who wrote the following comment when I blogged on the policy costs of Spain's recent stellar economic performance:

Yet another excellent piece of analysis. I could have attached this comment to many other posts, but this one in particular caught my attention.

I want to reiterate that I appreciate all the wide-ranging issues that appear on this blog and the best part about it is that, unlike many other writers, I never know what to expect from you next.

Keep 'em coming!
Many are experts in their own silos of market analysis. Bill Luby is well versed in the nuances of the option market. Others are far better chartists than I am. What you appreciate about my analysis is my mutli-faceted approach, which can be found in a couple examples of posts written in the last week:
Less valued, for example, were my technical analysis and tactical market calls.

Based on these comments, the focus of future posts will shift in the following way:
  • The weekly market comments will continue, as they seem to be the prime attraction.
  • More commentaries from my inner investor, such as on topics of investment policy, investment process and quantitative analysis. That is to say, the blog will have a greater strategic, rather than tactical focus.
  • Fewer commentaries from my inner trader and tactical market calls. When I do trading suggestions, I will be also focus on when they should closed, which is something I haven`t done in the past.
I did also receive a small number of comments to the effect that they would happily pay for trading recommendations, either on my service or on various online platforms. I decided against that course for several reasons. First and foremost, I agree with Charles Kirk when wrote that shadow trading doesn't help investors and traders learn and grow. I would therefore be doing a disservice to my readers by offering such a service:
If you engage in shadow trading, you must recognize and understand that there are some significant problems in doing so. For one thing, most of us can’t find someone who trades in a manner that also matches our own strategy, personality and goals. This results in inconsistent trading at best as we fight against or only selectively follow some recommended trades. And, even if we can find a good match, then we often just pick up the same bad habits and faulty process of those who we try to copy on top of our own weaknesses. You already have enough weaknesses right now that you certainly don’t need to add on top of those you already have.

Most importantly, the process of shadow trading itself can often retard if not serve as a major obstacle to what you really need to do to become truly successful in the markets. For many, it is ok to do this to some minor extent especially those just getting started and have no idea what they need to do to learn, but to really get where you need to go,you’ll need to venture out on your own.
Moreover, that kind of service is highly labor intensive and would take time away from  my core competence of a left and right brained approach to market analysis. As well, the going rate for similar trading advisory services seems to be about $100 per month, which is well beyond the budget of many readers. (For the tactically inclined, consider this list of people to follow - and they're free.)

Details of the new site
Based on the feedback that I received, the preliminary pricing schedule will be four access levels:
  1. Annual subscription: An annual subscription for $199 (all amounts are in USD).
  2. Monthly subscription: Monthly subscriptions for $20.
  3. Daily pass: Get a one-day pass for $5.
  4. Free: All content will be available to the public two weeks after posting. Anyone can subscribe to get email notifications of free content as they are released.
I believe that the pricing to be quite reasonable. Subscriptions to the WSJ or FT is over $300 a year. Investor's Business Daily is considerably higher. The basic level Value Line subscription is $199.

I am currently aiming for a December launch and will have further details as they develop. I will be migrating to a new website, but I will keep this site and its archives active for anyone who is interested in the old posts.

If you are interested in subscribing and haven't taken part in the poll, please do so as I will be offering an early bird discount coupon for anyone indicating an interest right now. I will leave the poll open until midnight, Sunday October 11, 2015 (Pacific Time).

Thank you for your support in keeping Humble Student of the Markets alive.

If you have any further comments, please email me at cam at hbhinvestments dot com.


Alki G said...

Yay! Glad you are staying. I'll be signing up.

Best wishes


Anonymous said...


I have been following you on "Twitter" from some time now. The service you are about to start is on the "cheap" side. Not to deter you from charging more but ... perception of a less expensive price is something negative.

In any case, keep up the good work.
Many thanks,
Athens Hreece

Knight-trader said...

Seems to be a bargain - free was great while it lasted. I appreciate the expertise and work you put in.

Art Chen said...

Hi Cam,

Your service sounds interesting as I am in my 70's and trying to get away from follwoing the market on a daily basis. Are you going to continue to have links to all the other blogs on the side of your site?

Still thinking?

Lve your story about retiring early.

Art Chen

Dries De Clercq said...

You are one of those few knowledgeable and trustworthy sources for market insight. I only discovered you recently. You must have helped a lot of people through all these years. It's quite an achievement. Are you sure that you'll make more profit with those prices instead of lower ones?