The Misfortune Of Others

In my trading today, I was reminded of the BBC program, Million Dollar Traders, and in particular, the moral dilemma that some of the participants had in benefiting at the expense of others.

As traders, we benefit from others all the time, or at least we do if we are successful. It is, after all, a game of opinions. However, I make the distinction of one opinion winning with the other being wrong compared to benefiting from another's mistake. I benefited from such an event today.

I was trading the QPR v Sheffield Wednesday match. Specifically, the 1-1 correct score. My £100 back bet at 7.80 was not taken before the matched kicked off and the bet was therefore automatically canceled by Betfair. However, I was poised ready with a new one as soon as the market reopened.

Imagine my surprise when £40 of my cash was taken at 22.0! I was so taken aback, it didn't click at first what had happened. As a result, I immediately canceled what was left and traded out for a greened up profit of £73 before commission. In retrospect, I should have waited, but that's a lesson for another day.

The above screen shot was taken ten minutes or so into the game and after I had traded out. Clearly, someone screwed up there and I was able to benefit from it.

So the question is, do I have the same moral dilemma as those participants in the BBC program?

I've always prided myself on being an honest and moral person, yet I have to answer that question with a resounding no. In many respects it's a case of out of sight, out of mind. There's no personal involvement with the other side.

Forgive the analogy as it is hardly on the same level, but the only thing I can think of as I write this is the different feelings service men described during the war. The infantryman has a completely different emotional attachment to killing an enemy soldier in hand to hand combat than a Spitfire pilot does has he shoots down an ME109. Why would that be the case? They are both killing another human being. It can only be that the fighter pilot is 'killing' an airplane - detached from the personal contact the soldier feels.

So, getting back to the point, do we, as traders have to have the same moral detachment? Do we need to be lacking somewhat in moral fibre in order to be comfortable in gaining at the expense of others? Some of the participants in the Million Dollar Traders program certainly felt so and as a result, couldn't hack it. What do you think?

Sorry, that was starting to get a bit heavy there. Despite the philosophical issues raised above, today was actually a very good day. Indeed, it was my best yet. Although I lost £9 on another football match, the resulting £58 added to the £53 I made from the greyhounds made it an excellent day. I even managed a few pounds scalping the horse markets in the afternoon giving me a new daily record of £116.


Rob The Builder said...

That same guy may have had a lucky break during the day to even things up - you'll never know.

Anonymous said...

I am sure at some point you will make an error and no one will be thinking about giving you your loses back. You have to take advantage of these chances when they come along.

All we are doing when trading is offering a 'service', no different to anyother business. If people don't want to 'buy' our service they don't have to. The same as in all other businesses.

So no don't feel guilty!

PhilipH said...

Guilt? Certainly not - with the proviso that it is YOUR money you are risking. If a trader or gambler is using money that will deprive somebody else if s/he makes a loss then there should be loads of guilt.

When I have a bet or a trade it is only with money I can afford to lose and when occasionally I have a win (like yesterday with Niche Market in the Irish National) I am elated. I feel no guilt at depriving a bookie or another bod on the exchanges of a few quid.

There can be NO guilt in your case Alistair. You trade to make a living, or to enhance your income. The people who SHOULD have a real guilt complex are those who gamble with investor's money on the stock market or forex or banking! There are plenty of rogue traders out there still, and those who traded in the so-called toxic assets ought to be slung in jail for there actions! Instead they got bonuses. That's my take on it, & I don't apologise for it.

Cheers, Phil

Alistair said...

My sentiments exactly. I feel no guilt in benefiting from someone else's mistake. Next week it may well be me that screws up.