This blog is part of our Women in Trading series, where we chat to successful female traders from around the globe.
This week, we speak to Mandi Rafsendjani, who has been an active trader in the financial markets for over a decade. You can follow Mandi on Twitter here.
Mandi runs High Performance Trading, a trading psychology and peak performance training company which offers specialist coaching and training services to independent traders, proprietary trading groups, brokerages and trading education providers.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
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Women in Trading: Mandi Rafsendjani
Could you tell me a bit about how you began trading - and what interested you about it in the first place?
I got into trading by chance. I am originally from Germany and after living in Hong Kong for five years, I moved to Australia in 1998. I wasn’t allowed to work because I had to wait for my work visa to get granted. My life in Hong Kong was exciting and demanding, as I had my own business exporting Computer Hardware to Germany. So not being able to do anything after I arrived in Australia was very hard. Then by chance I saw this flyer titled ‘A Night of Success’ - it was a free seminar. It was there that I discovered the personal development and wealth creation industry - before that time I had no clue it even existed.
In 2001 I went to my first paid seminar which was called the wealth accelerator, and I took my partner. It was a three day seminar, where we learned how to create wealth using the three streams of income: property, shares, and business. I was completely not interested in the shares part because I never saw myself as someone who would be interested in the first place – or even able to trade. What happened was the speaker of the event said, well, this is what you can do to invest, to become rich, or you can give us your money and we can do it for you. It seemed too good to be true, and it was. Luckily, I only gave him $10,000 - thank God - but there were people who sold their property and gave him $500,000. Of course, the guy went overseas to the US and disappeared with all the money.
It was awful - but it protected me from making worse mistakes, and it also seems like fate now, as it led me to the wonderful world of trading. The organiser of the event was very apologetic and he said, I can’t give you your money back but what I can do is offer you another seminar for free. And at the time attending seminars was still quite expensive - the only seminar that was left for that year was an options trading seminar. I thought, rather than not go to any seminar at all, I’d better attend this trading seminar.
The Options Trading Educator made trading sound so easy during the weekend seminar, even though he did say several times that the hard part is being disciplined. I said to them: I’m German - we Germans invented discipline! Little did I know it wasn’t really going to be like that. But once the trading bug got me, I knew that was all I wanted to do. So that's how I got hooked on trading!
What was your experience like trading as a woman when you were first starting out?
That’s a really good question, and I’m glad you said how it was when I was starting out because the world is changing. In the last five years it has been very different - women are being taken into consideration much more than they were when I started. If we look at training there were no female role models that I can think of - all the people teaching trading were male.
Men do tend to think a little differently to women - and if we think of women as being a little bit more emotional than men (again, I'm generalising here) then trading education wasn't really catered to the way a woman thinks. When I say how a woman thinks, it’s not because it’s genetic but because we have been taught to think and feel in a certain way. Also, women were still occupying the traditional roles of taking care of the children - and there was no role model around to show how to juggle trading and motherhood. But at the time, it didn’t impact me too much - I only notice now in hindsight.
However if we look at it in terms of trading professionally, prop firms were a very male dominated world. I had the impression that women weren’t welcome - I worked for a broker in 2009 for example. I was one of two women in the company of fifty brokers. The Christmas party came and I wasn’t invited - and I found out after that I wasn’t invited because they went on a boat tour and there was apparently a lot of cocaine involved, and topless waitresses. That’s the way the world was then - it’s the boys’ locker room talk, and women aren’t welcome in that world.
So do you think that has changed a lot now then?
Completely. There are so many really good female traders who are fully accepted in the trading world. There is also an interesting new trend emerging with the whole COVID-19 situation, especially during lockdown. Many more women start to trade now because there’s nothing else to do! What I’ve also begun to notice is that in Germany women aged 60 - 65, who are close to retirement (some of them are friends with my mum!) have started to get into trading as well. I’ve never seen that before. And I know companies like IG Markets have started really promoting women; there has been a trend. It’s completely changed in the last five to ten years.
Is there any advice you would give to other women looking to start a career in trading?
I would say go for it! Take your financial future into your own hands. Every career path has its own challenges, and even with all the ups and downs, trading is still the best job in the world. Because your failures or successes are not dependent on anyone else: you are totally in control of your own destiny, which means if you choose to be, you’re unstoppable.
Secondly, think about the key traits of successful people. For example, what makes Linda Raschke one of the best traders in the world? It’s her uncanny ability to think logically and strategically.
Which takes me to the next piece of advice I’d give to other women: the fastest way to achieve your goals and live your dream is to model those who have already achieved it. Take charge of your life and realise that there’s always an hour of the day to take care of your dreams and your future. What I see a lot with women - is that when they have children or family everyone else comes first, and they don’t take care of themselves. And suddenly it’s too late.
Psychology is a big part of this - how do you think traders can begin to overcome the psychological demands of trading when they first start out?
Greed and fear are a generalisation of a whole range of emotions and behaviours that we all experience in trading. There are five main behaviour patterns that seem to be a challenge for every trader:
- Letting losses run too far
- Not letting profits run and taking them too early
- Seeing a perfectly good set up but hesitating to get into a trade
- Going on tilt, which means trading too much and making a big loss for the day
- Putting on positions that are too big in the attempt to recover previous losses and making it even worse
The question to ask is: what is the root cause of those behavioural patterns? What causes a trader to be afraid to take a loss? To fear missing out? To be afraid of making mistakes?
The question many traders ask is, how do we know if a trader has problems with their mindset or if they have to improve their trading methodology? It’s simple: you can test yourself. Make a commitment to put a stop loss at 0.5% of your capital. If you can’t resist the urge to move your stop loss, then you have a mindset problem and you need to work with a mindset coach, because there is no skill involved to exit your trade at a predetermined stop.
So, when I see a trader behaving a certain way - let’s say not taking a loss - I look at every emotion and behaviour, which has been learnt at some stage. 40% of all behaviour is genetic, and 60% is learned - which is good news, because if we’ve learned something, we can unlearn it to learn a better pattern of behaviour.
What, in your opinion, are the essential elements of a good trading plan?
In order to succeed in trading, we constantly need to work on our mental and emotional strengths as well as our ability to read the price action in the markets.
We need to start with a solid preparation for the trading day: make sure that you’re mentally and physically prepared. I myself always start my morning with a breathing exercise from Wim Hof, because research has shown that when our brain is oxygenated that we make much better decisions. I do a fifteen minute yoga sequence, because a nimble mind is in a nimble body.
Next you need to have a trading plan where we outline when to enter, how to manage the trade, how to manage ourselves in the trade, and when to exit the trade. A common mistake I see with traders is that their entries and exits are not clearly defined enough and it leaves too much room for interpretation, which leaves the trader prone to making mistakes.
Then to conclude the trading day, a post-mortem is essential: what are my statistics, and what do they tell me in terms of what do I need to improve? How can I do better tomorrow?
As a trader, out of love and passion for the markets, we strive for excellence, are lifelong learners and have the resilience and the mindset to overcome challenges and setbacks like a champion. Trading is the best job in the world.
You can follow Mandi on Twitter here.