When Joel Rubano—walking into the office with a thick sheaf buckled into a 4 inch binder—sat down with me on the couch, I knew I’d met someone special. The binder, by the way, was the full draft of his since published Trader Construction Kit. Joel does not come across as traders are portrayed in numerous movies, most recently The Big Short. I also had vague association to the younger Michael Douglas in the earlier of the Wall Street movies, at the mention of trading stocks and bonds.
Joel’s real self is smart, hardworking, sparkling, and generous; meeting him, you realize you ought not to generalize about what traders do and who they are. The book is a case in point. Its purpose is to inform the general reader and the budding student of finance of the processes a trader accesses in making decisions: the types of judgement calls that arise, and the myriad sorts of analyses you must have at your fingertips to move decisively. The point of the book is not only to demystify trading but also, using a phantom product designed to act in every way like a real one, to instruct you in what to do, were you to consider the profession.
I am full of healthy skepticism. Joel impressed me. Even for an editor—and I rarely deal outside of the subjective realm of theory—I found the wealth of knowledge and the anecdotes of the workplace riveting. An example of a surprising detail: traders, who have three screens and glance from one to the other, display the weather on one. Meteorology has a large impact on their strategic moves. Other anecdotes offered an insider’s view of the typical trader, the individual who thrives on risk.
To me, Joel personified the best of both knowledge and edginess, the love of the game and the willingness to always put oneself to the test. I couldn’t detect an iota of callousness. Really, all knowledge based in experience brings with it fascination. And traders aren’t professionals the public finds easy access to. We hear about stocks rising, and dipping and rebounding, but we don’t really know split second decisions, the keenness of mind, and grinding work schedule positioning the trader for successful judgment calls. Joels’ first person willingness to share the array of situations a trader confronts; and, moreover—his books’ mission—the sharing of how these are best managed in the pressure of the moment, by drawing from an array of methodologies, stuns us. The author’s actions script is as coaxing to those considering the field professionally, as they are broadly intriguing.
In an email interview, Joel Rubano summarizes the essence of Trader Construction Kit, and his purpose in writing it, as follows: the book “was written in response to requests for information from a succession of junior colleagues during my career, all of whom were looking for practical resources to learn how markets worked and how to develop the skills necessary to trade professionally.” Therefore, the book itself implicitly addresses those receptive to a road map, alongside those curious about the “fierce … lure of money and everything it brings” (Trader Construction Kit). Unlike their counterparts in law and medicine, professional traders receive no prior formal training. “A novice trader is expected to do battle with the best (and worst) that the market can offer in a zero sum game.”
Rubano’s beautifully written book fills the void: “There was a definite gap in the available resources.” Why? “Finance books tended to be either theoretical, math-heavy texts or experiential memoirs,” Rubano reflects. Trader Construction Kit may adopt a “fictional commodity” to display the real thing through virtual reality. However, this book brings the reader up against actual challenges meticulously; it takes you into a nonfiction world, using its case studies to equip you with a toolkit of methodological responses. In case you thought trading was entirely impulse-driven, think again: Some chapter headers: “Understanding Volatility,” “Spread Trading Strategies,” “Trading Mechanics,” and “Pricing and Hedging Structured Transactions.” In the course of the reading, the would-be trader is suited up for the job, having digested serious information, heightened by levity to make enjoyable reading, even for those of us who may never trust ourselves to gauge the odds.
Students of finance, master or bachelor, and curious book store browsers alike are confronted with the very contingencies faced by a player in this field, while gaining access to best strategies when each pops up, armed with the overall know-how in the real trading world necessary to face them open-eyed.
As an author, Rubano presents his qualifications with humility. “I am a fairly workaday, blue-collar risk taker.” But the meat and potatoes are filet mignon, rarefied and sauced. Here’s a taste: “I have bought and sold power, coal, oil, and natural gas on an institutional scale and dealt in financial swaps, over the counter forwards, exchange-traded futures, and physically delivered options.”
For good reason, the “trading techniques … I employ have been refined by years of practical experimentation.” Taken in its totality, Trader Construction Kit “[provides] a stable, robust methodology.” In case you make a wide berth around the heavily theoretical, “Everything in Trader Construction Kit is practical information, the majority of which I learned the hard way, on the job,” shares Rubano. The book’s readers, then, are lucky heirs to a guide who has lived by every contingency he writes about.
And as for the copy-editing and proofreading, layout and production of the book—well that’s where we’ve come in! “Fortunately, I found CambridgeEditors,” Rubano says graciously, and commends by name the editors he has worked with here, Rachel Siegel and Daniel McMurtry: “I could not have completed Trader Construction Kit without them.”
In the market for a book on this subject? If so, “one of the main advantages of Trader Construction Kit is the comprehensive approach to the material. The book steps through the process traders employ…” I have responded to the book as I do to a gulp of Fiji water. A taste of the real world is good for the soul of even the most dust-caked and arcane of academic editors!
—Dr. Harte Weiner, Founder and Lead Editor