Females don't often feature in the top league of financial traders but that has never stopped high-flier Tracee Wong.
Ms Wong, 24, revelled in her classes in Nanyang Technological University and has used that grounding to forge an impressive career in the financial world.
"I studied banking and finance, and there was a module on investments which piqued my interest," says Ms Wong, now a trading associate at a soft-commodities firm.
She saved up throughout her university days and, armed with her savings and her first pay cheque, signed up for a trading account, eager to hone her skills.
A combination of technical and fundamental analysis helped her make it to the top eight traders in a recent competition by Saxo Capital Markets - and she stood out as the only woman in the contest.
It was the first time the annual competition was held in the region for Asia-Pacific residents.
Ms Wong says: "My colleague and I wanted to challenge each other, to see who would emerge the better trader, and I decided it was an opportunity to trade in different asset classes that I've never tried before.
"Usually I trade stocks and foreign exchange, but for the competition I traded soft commodities such as gold, crude oil and foreign exchange pairs."
Ms Wong, who believes that taking part in competitions is one way to sharpen trading skills, says it helped in the Saxo Capital Markets contest that trades were published in real time so participants could figure out one another's strategy.
She describes herself as a risk-taker when it comes to trading. She finds the process exhilarating, especially when identifying the right trend a stock or trade is moving in.
Ms Wong started out with only small amounts of money so she could get comfortable as she practised trading and learnt discipline and to overcome her emotions.
"You have to have a strong heart in trading. If you make a loss, you can't keep holding on to the stock.
"It was after I put in a few trades and back-tested the strategies, then I realised that if I didn't cut my losses when I did, the trend would have gone against me even further, and it would have been a bigger loss."
Trading also means Ms Wong could be buying and selling more than one stock at any given time. So even if she loses money on one, she has to move on and focus on the others that can give better returns.
"When it comes to trading, it's just another digit to me. If I just follow my strategy and have discipline, I know I'll be fine in the long run."
Q Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?
A I came from a middle-income family. My mum was in human resources and my dad used to be in operations. They are now retired.
They would tell me to save and the usual things parents tell their kids. I have one younger brother, who is 21.
When I was younger, my parents would have Teletext on the television during leisure time, and not cartoons for me. Even when I asked, they did not switch channels.
I would watch the colours change from red to green and so on. Even though I didn't know what was happening then, it seemed exciting.
Q How did you get interested in investing?
A From a young age, I wasn't interested in anything else except business and finance.
I took on a short internship before university, working in a treasury role. It was a place where I had a window into the world of finance, because treasury roles deal with foreign exchange, and I'd be looking at the exchange rates and the charts, which further ignited my interest.
In university, I was interested in stocks first because I'd studied price-earnings ratios. I didn't trade and was studying the charts and back-testing strategies, as I wanted to build my capital first.
The first time I opened a trading account - with a bank, and it had low commission - was when I got my first pay cheque in 2013, and I started with US$10,000 (S$13,600).
Q Describe your strategy.
A My trading strategy is a combination of both fundamental and technical analysis before entering a trade.
To choose my base pool of stocks, I look at price-earnings ratios, and news of the stock that may affect the share price, for instance.
For the price-earnings ratio, it depends on the sector the stock is in, and I compare it with the industry's average price-earnings ratio.
That ratio for a fundamentally sound stock shouldn't vary too much from the industry average.
Then I'll look for entry points using technical analysis, through any technical indicators, potential breakouts, or candlestick (candlestick charts show information on the opening and closing prices, and the trend within each trading period) and chart patterns.
Technical indicators that I use include the moving average convergence divergence, relative strength index, stochastics (a gauge of momentum), the average true range (to measure volatility), and the Elliott Wave, which identifies price movements.
To know which indicator works best for an instrument I'm trading, I'll back-test the indicator, which means to try it on a previous specific timeframe for that instrument.
I can fine-tune it by using different numbers for moving averages, for instance.
People usually use the moving average of five and 20 days, but I can choose to shorten the time period for forex, for instance, or a longer time period, depending on my trading time horizon.
But I use different indicators for different instruments.
For instance, the pharmaceutical industry was doing quite well some time ago. I studied the pharmaceutical companies and there were some stocks that were more liquid than others, so I picked those.
After that, I looked at the price-earnings ratio and the dividend payout. After making sure it was a sound, strong company, I used technical analysis to look for entry points.
My trading style is trend-following, where I do not exit a trade until it moves against my position so that I ride the wave until it hits my stop-loss limit, or when there is a trailing stop-loss limit.
It suits me because I prefer to ride the wave, and I don't have to worry about catching the peak or bottom of the stock. I was influenced by my first company, an investment firm, which used trend-following.
Q What's in your portfolio?
A I trade on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq.
I've grown my portfolio to about US$50,000 now, and 50 per cent is for trading stocks and 50 per cent for forex.
From 2013 to 2014, I traded only Singapore stocks because of the comparably lower volatility, and I did not use leverage. The annual yield was 3 to 5 per cent.
I previously traded stocks such as Osim International, UMS Holdings and Centurion Corp. I traded those using technical analysis, with no fundamental analysis.
After trying out the Singapore market, I wanted to move on to something more liquid, so from 2014 to this year, I traded only United States stocks and earned an annual yield of 10 to 15 per cent. US stocks I've traded include Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Visa and Tesla.
I started trading forex pairs at the end of last year, and for the year to date, the yield is 9 per cent.
If I'm overseas for a longer period of time, I usually liquidate all my positions.
Q What's the most extravagant thing you have done?
A It will be visiting Greece and some European cities for two weeks later this year. I've set aside $4,000.
Q What are your immediate investment plans?
A I am aiming to get a monthly yield of 3 per cent, and will be setting aside US$10,000 each year from now to grow my trading capital.
Within three years, I also plan to back-test and incorporate options strategies into stocks and forex.
I choose options because I know the basics and how they work, but I've not put my knowledge to use in practice yet.
Q How are you planning for retirement?
A I'll probably build a portfolio that has more dividend-paying stocks, with a higher level of capital protection, but I haven't thought about this in depth yet.
Q Home is now...
A A four-room flat in the east.
Worst and best bets
Q. What has been your biggest investing mistake?
A. Not following the trading rules I'd set for myself.
In 2014, when I was still trading stocks on the Singapore Exchange, I bought UMS. Soon after, it had a stock split of 1.25 to 1.
I did not follow my trading rules to take profit then, and the stock price dropped. The amount lost wasn't huge, but I should have had discipline, and that's a lesson learnt.
Q. And what has been your best investment move?
A. Trading Global Payments this year from March to April, based on a long position. I made a return of about 25 per cent.
When I studied the chart and candlestick patterns, I saw that the stock was somewhere near the support line, and I was entering the trade for a breakout (in price).
It was more of technical analysis when deciding to enter a trade for this stock.
After making sure that it was a sound stock, I entered the trade expecting a breakout pattern, which happened soon after. It was trading around a certain range, and broke out of a particular resistance level.
I felt like I'd achieved something because it was the first time I'd identified such movement with such accuracy, and with a good return.
This article was first published on September 25, 2016.
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