Schneider Trading Associates is one of the leading proprietary trading firms in London. With a top-class training programme, an in-house psychologist and runners to fetch errands for the traders, it is a unique place to work. Vishala Sri-Pathma spent time with the firm
Schneider Trading Associates (STA) has grown steadily to
being a global trading company and employs more than 500
Sonny Schneider, the group’s founder and chief
executive, first started his career as a back office clerk, but
soon found himself as an APT broker. Schneider then moved into
proprietary trading, which led to the formation of the
Schneider group in 1998. The group’s main aim is
to facilitate electronic screen-based trading of futures,
options and equities for professional traders and corporate
clients, trading both in financial and commodity
Having recently moved into London’s City
district, STA has invested heavily in its new premises, which
immediately appears as an impressive arcade, tailored to the
daily needs of trading.
STA comprises of several professional trading domains that
includes prop traders, CTAs, hedge funds, brokerage operations
and market-making companies. Globally, it has offices in
Singapore, Germany, France, Spain and, more recently,
Martin Broad, STA’s managing director, oversees
what he describes as the "regulatory entity", bringing together
directors within the arcade. Broad formerly worked in a large
independent bank before moving to Schneider. When asked about
the perception that the proprietary trading community is
fiercely competitive, Broad says that, although there is
rivalry to a certain extent, it is a healthy dose of
"I don’t feel that there is necessarily a sense
of rivalry, not one that is mutual at least, but there is an
obvious set of common interests among arcades and so ample
opportunity to bring together several trading groups, to
discuss strategy and means of moving the arcade business
Broad attributes much of STA’s success to its
unique approach to risk. "We consider the limits that are
unsustainable," he says. "We believe in a durable, diverse
income stream, not a concentration of one style or asset class
– that is integral to our growth. It would be
interesting to discuss strategy with other prop firms just to
get a perspective on differing opinions."
Broad acknowledges the importance of technology within prop
trading. He says: "Achieving the right balance between
technology and human capability, the grey box so to speak, is
key. Trading is becoming increasingly automated, but
individuals still bring value and we believe will continue to
This belief leads STA to invest continually in the people
who may move its business forward.
Training is key
The graduate programme at the firm constantly brings in a
steady flow of junior traders. Initially they are put through a
training course, and the survivors go to work on the trading
"I believe you can train successful traders, which our
graduate scheme pays testament to," says Broad. He views the
graduate scheme as an investment return that comes under
STA’s overall umbrella strategy. "Although the
statistics don’t look good for young individuals
that come into trading, we do find that it’s a
good way of scouting out new talent. We look for traders that
are interested in their own development but which we feel we
can gain a long-term return from," he says.
Matt Silvester, who heads up the training courses at STA,
agrees. "We look for a hunger and a drive to succeed," he
Previously a trader, Silvester took up a more varied role as
head trainer, mentoring about 20 students each month. "The
programme has grown significantly, considering we do little
advertising for it. We sift through the CVs, and end up with
around 20 to 25 that we think are suitable for the course,"
STA’s usual candidate is one who sees earning
potential as a key factor early in their career. So, for
example, students that have had a Saturday job, or perhaps have
preciously dabbled in trading. The course is a four-week period
of intensive training, which includes simulated trading and
various aptitude tests.
"There isn’t one given criteria of what we look
for; the traders we have vary to great lengths. A hunger for
money is important and, of course, a desire to succeed. Any
trader will tell you, that you need a passion for the job or
you won’t make any money. We ask for a degree, but
it’s not mandatory. Often we have sons of
ex-traders, or friends of friends, that haven’t
had any formal qualifications but have been brought up with a
knowledge of the industry and ultimately go on to do very
James Worthington, who recently completed the graduate
course and is set to trade oil, says: "When I finished college,
I was looking for a job, so my dad got me in touch with a
friend that used to work for Schneider and recommended I apply.
I did a bit of spread betting beforehand and was quite good at
it. I also wanted a job where I knew I could make a lot of
money, so it seemed like an apt role."
According to Silvester, spread betting, poker and gambling
in general is often a common trait among junior traders that
they look out for when recruiting. "It means
they’re already familiar with risk, and the
management of risk, which is an instinct that can be hard to
teach and train."
Worthington recalls: "While on the course,
we’re observed closely, as often the hardest
aspect is familiarizing yourself with the market and its
fluctuations. The atmosphere was a bit tense, but by the end of
the four weeks, we all pulled together and worked well. It was
challenging, but it’s also just fuelled my desire
to make more money."
The instructors generally know who they want to take on
around the second or third week. After the training, there is a
six-month structured course, which consists of workshop days on
management, mental strength and any other stumbling blocks they
come across, so even if they feel they’re thrown
into the deep end, they’ve still got some form of
guidance they can fall back on.
Spiros Spirou, a senior trader at STA, started six
years ago on the graduate programme. "I wanted to go to one of
the big investment banks initially, so was intrigued when I got
a call about the interview at a trading arcade," he says.
When Spirou started at STA there were just a few associates,
and since, the graduate programme has developed significantly.
Spirou says it is still based on the same core ethics.
"A good trader in my opinion needs to have the ability to
recognize patterns and manage risk effectively. A first-class
degree from Oxbridge doesn’t necessarily guarantee
this," he says.
Spirou and a colleague head up a team of six. They both have
two graduate students each, and are looking to take on
"Bringing new members to the team is quite integral to our
growth. Our strengths lie in our ability to adapt. New traders
encourage this by helping to cultivate new ideas and
strategies," he says.
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