Central to our Performance Improvement work is the concept of coaching individuals to overcome the challenges, hurdles and obstacles which inhibit them achieving excellence in their performance and helping them to move forward to achieve the potential they have within them. We see our role as acting as catalysts for change in a person: The person being coached already possesses the ability and potential to change and grow, we act to help bring that ability out or speed up the process of change and growth.
The following case studies are based on real coaching assignments with traders inside banks and asset management firms, these might help provide some further insight into our work.
Clients have given us permission to share the following stories as sample case studies. However as we promise confidentially to all clients, we have agreed to amend names keep businesses kept anonymous.
Claude had been trading for around 12 years and though a reliable and regular performer his performance had plateaued in recent years.
We started by obtaining some guidance and feedback from Claude's managers, we also carried out a psychometric assessment to help identify Claude’s particular behavioural working preferences. We then engaged Claude in a series of discussions to review how he approaches his work, to help understand his beliefs on markets and risk, and to identify behavioural traits and tendencies around his trading. Through our early discussions with Claude, it appeared that he was locked inside a certain ‘comfort level’ around his attitude towards risk which affected his behaviour and actions. Any efforts by Claude to move beyond this level were proving problematic. When he did try to do so, he would typically suffer a jump in his anxiety levels, this subsequently led to sub-par decisions and behaviours, which would then be followed by a dip in confidence and a further period of sub-par trading.
The coaching worked with Claude, to help him identify how he could start to ‘stretch’ himself beyond hid current ‘comfort level’ without triggering these self-defeating tendencies. Through the coaching, we identified virtuous patterns which had been part of Claude’s early development, we encouraged Claude to try and put these patterns to work and make them part of his everyday practice. As he did so, his performance started to small improvements, more crucially he started to feel more confident and the self-belief, which had accompanied Claude’s growth in the early part of his career, started to return. By the end of the programme Claude was trading at a significantly higher level, with more comfort and less anxiety, and was now producing a far stronger level of P&L.
Alexander had joined a hedge fund some 18 months earlier, following a highly successful few years on the currency swap desk of a major investment bank.
Although Alexander had produced a positive return at the hedge fund, this had been modest by comparison to expectations. The feeling from the Hedge Fund manager was that though Alexander showed a lot of promise, he had not made a good transition from bank trading desk to hedge fund desk, and was going to need to boost his performance if he was to remain a permanent fixture at the fund.
Through the discussions it became clear that Alexander had overestimated how much he had relied on the money flow, news flow and unconscious information, which filtered down to him through his colleagues at the bank, and which helped him make good judgments and winning decisions. He had also lost the informal support network which he had built up during his time at the bank, and in the very different risk and trading environment at the hedge fund, he had felt a little bit isolated. It was actually a credit to him that he had done as well as he had in the circumstances. However, now he had to find a way of working which would enable him to adapt to the new environment and job, and would give him the structure, which it was apparent he was lacking, in order to succeed in his work at the hedge fund.
The coaching helped Alex to become more aware of how he had previously relied on his prior support network and the situational advantages of his previous job. It also showed him how, cut loose from that support and lacking structure in his work, he was falling victim to poor trading behaviours and sub-optimal trade management. As a consequence, Alexander was failing to sufficiently profit from some excellent trade ideas. Through the coaching Alexander found improvements to how he practiced his trading, and how he managed his risk. In particular we provided Alexander with tools and support with which he could start to develop a more structured approach to his work. This allowed Alexander to better manage his emotions, thus enabling him to become more objective and rational around key trading decisions. As a result, Alexander’s trading performance saw significant improvements, and the following year he was to be one of the most successful Portfolio Managers at the hedge fund.
As well as working on direct trading issues, we also work on non-trading specific issues too.
A very common assignment involves situations where traders have been promoted to managerial positions. The nature of trading and risk, does not necessarily prepare people for management positions, where people are often promoted as a result of strong technical skills.
After a number of years as a successful options trader, Hussein was promoted to run a team of 10 traders in 4 different centres. Hussein possessed very strong technical skills as an options trader, however despite having gone through a management training course, Hussein was out of his depth as a manager. Consequently his trading suffered, the team’s performance started to decline, and the business’s crucial relationship with sales started to deteriorate.
The coaching worked to support Hussein’s development as a manager, raising his awareness of the importance of key functions of his role, making him conscious of the responsibilities now placed on him by both his team, and other managers, as well as the need to think strategically in terms of the business as a whole.
The coaching worked with Hussein to provide the stimulus for him to find a way of working which allowed him to balance his own desire to be an active trader, with his requirement to be a good and effective manager. Whilst this was an assignment which required some heavy lifting, and a longer engagement than most, the outcome has been very positive. Hussein has started to develop a strong set of management and strategic business skills and the relationship with sales is now functioning well again. In addition the team’s performance is back on an even-keel and his own trading is going well once again. He now feels that he is not just a manager but also a leader. Indeed, it has been suggested that Hussein could turn out to be a far more capable manager than the bank had initially hoped for.