The Gateway to Algorithmic and Automated Trading

Passionate about peeking

Published in Automated Trader Magazine Issue 15 Q4 2009

Swirling incense and a lot of passionate peeking this month. Just mind that butterfly!

Not that it's particularly new or anything, but have you noticed the fashion for passion? Restaurants are "passionate about food". Upscale clothing stores are "passionate about style". Your friendly neighbourhood car mechanic is probably "passionate about performance". Or maybe for him - her? - it's wheels. Passionate about wheels. And then no sooner have you joined the queue for one of those coffees with a long English-Italian name, than the wall menu tells you that the long tall skinny college graduates behind the counter are "passionate about coffee". They'd have to be, after a day of it. Imagine the passionate conversations after work.

The other one is that thing politicians do. They can't read, study, think at all, without doing it "very carefully". Have you noticed? "I've received a copy of the report and I'm going to study it very carefully before thinking very carefully what to do about it." The point this month isn't to suggest that over-used adverbs come to mean the opposite of what they're intended to mean, but let's all take a moment to imagine - very carefully, mind - our favourite politician poring over a document, brow furrowed, lips moving silently to spell out every word, magnifying glass steaming up with the sheer mental effort of it. We're certainly getting our vote's worth.

Okay. Back on track. Here at the 'Peek Ahead' column we're passionate about peeking ahead. And as you'd expect, we peek ahead very carefully. We have data feeds plugged into every available screen, algorithms bleeping and whirring, lights going on and off, numbers flashing in every available shade of red, green, blue and, er, yellow, trading engines belching steam as they race around the track we've laid in the reception area, and a little old person of indeterminate - well, just about everything - sitting cross-legged on a cushion in the corner, weeping over a crystal ball. He's passionate about performance too, although he doesn't fix cars. [Regular readers please note: yes, he came back.]

You see, it's important to have mystique in this business. No matter that the actual peeking ahead is done by the young lad with the MBA who gets sent out for the coffee order every morning. Even in these full-disclosure times, the customer deserves the value-add, and perhaps even the feel-good factor, that a little bit of mystery - sorry, mystique - delivers. We were right to hang those purple drapes across the windows, and the swirling clouds of incense are so much part of what we do.

This month's forecast? We have several. First, you will soon meet a tall dark stranger who will make you a hot drink, possibly with froth on top, and then ask you for money. Secondly, you will - albeit fleetingly - consider the environment at least once during your first half-hour at the office tomorrow. Then you will go right ahead and delete the email like you were going to anyway.Who prints emails? And finally, during the interval between now and whenever this column finally goes out of your head, you will notice every time somebody uses the word "recognise".

peek ahead

Nope. We're not doing some kind of tricky hypnosis thing. It's just that we've finally got to the point of this month's column. The word "recognise" means more than just knowing what a thing is. You see a face, you don't think "Aha! A face." No. You think "Mummy!" or "Darling!" or if you're in the office "I hope he's remembered that I wanted skimmed milk in my latte today." To "recognise" is to know what something is and simultaneously to know what its significance is to you.

Out there on the wilder shores of product innovation, there are now people talking about devising "precognition solutions" to handle non-market data alongside the usual news and numbers (skim-readers should notice that 'p'). This is knowing what's going to happen in advance and also what impact it's going to have; note that the USP is not only that forward perpective but also the capacity to handle a wider and "fuzzier" range of data. If that pesky butterfly flaps its wings again, we'll be ready with the storm precautions even before it's settled back down.

Now, we've been thinking about this one very, very carefully. So much so, in fact, that we're passionate about it. And as a special service to our readers, appropriately for a column entitled 'Peek Ahead', we are releasing our own precognition solution ahead of the market. It's round, transparent, and you don't even have to plug it in. For a special bargain price of -

[Sorry. The rest of this month's column has been deleted by the Automated Trader compliance department.]