Portfolio Management Art Of War
It’s been a long and hard decade… Having been managing investment portfolios and accounts for the past decade both professionally and personally, me, like an army of other portfolio managers out there, are not only looking for the perfect trading system, but also the perfect way to manage an investment account. Indeed, there are whole bombardments of theories of risk management and portfolio management out there that it is mind boggling. There are risk management concepts that attempt to govern each investment trade and position sizing based on complex probability calculations and there are even concepts that were born in Las Vegas, claiming what high stake poker gamblers do. The problem with these concepts is that they are mainly mathematical concepts that took the human factor out of the game completely. Let’s face it, if you have ever managed a portfolio or an investment account, you will know that it is never as simple or left to chance as a game of poker and it is never as mechanical and emotionless as the mathematical calculations claim. After a decade of thinking along these lines, I realized that these portfolio management concepts are important but there must be something on top of these that must govern the mind that executes these concepts.
This “Meta Program” must be the “Operating System” in the mind of the portfolio manager and rule the way the portfolio manager or trader looks at a portfolio or investment account. With such a “Meta Program” in mind, the portfolio manager will be able assess changes in a portfolio or investment account in the right light and to behave in ways that are appropriate to the prevailing situation. Here I present my personal “Meta Program” called the Portfolio Management Art of War. Every Investor, Trader, Fund Manager or Portfolio Manager is an Emperor or King of his or her own trading Empire. Your Empire exists in a world that is engulfed and consumed in an eternal warfare.
This world is called the Exchange (stock, forex, commodity or whatever exchange you are involved in. The boundaries and resources of your Empire are defined by the size of your Fund. Some Kings have bigger territories and some have smaller ones but all are driven by the common need to survive in the Exchange by expanding their territories and boundaries. As a King, your mandate in the Exchange is to find ways and means to expand your Empire over time. If that cannot be done, you will soon find that you might not be the King of this Empire for very long. In order to expand one’s territory, one must lead one’s Empire into war against the rest of the Exchange. Some Kings are more aggressive and some, more conservative. Regardless of level of aggression, every King’s resources must be committed in various ways into battle against the Exchange. Every winning battle expands the King’s territory and every losing battle loses part of the Empire and the boundaries shrinks.
Some King has a target boundary size but know that as long as you remain a King, you will one day be drawn into battle against the Exchange again. The war in the Exchange is eternal. In order to battle in the Exchange, every King must have a Strategy. Some splits one’s army up into many squads which fights independently and some engages in a total war against the Exchange with the whole Empire leaving only very little backup. Some organizes one’s army into many functional squads, with some squads fighting more aggressively and some squads fighting more conservatively. This Strategy is called the Portfolio Management System that the King chooses to adopt. Each squad then fights using specific Tactics called Trading Systems. How a King chooses his Strategy and Tactic depends largely on the part of the Exchange that a King chooses to fight in. Every part of the Exchange (Forex or commodity or equity etc.) has its own unique characteristics and rules of engagement which the King must be thoroughly familiar with. Every time a King sends forward a squad to do battle in the Exchange by drawing upon his Empire and placing a position in the Exchange, it must always be held in mind that there is no guarantee that you will ever see that brave general that was being sent forth again. If the squad loses, you lose a part of your Empire to the Exchange. Therefore you must take very frequent look at the overall map of your Empire (which should always be pinned up prominently in your war room.) and monitor how far back the Exchange has taken your Empire before thinking about and making your next move. If the squad wins, that general expands your Empire farther into the Exchange. That gives you more resources and more troops to wage your next battle. The King must then decide how these new resources are to be deployed… shall he assign the new troops into his existing squads? Should the King hold the new troops and resources back as backup for future battles? Should the King expand on the number of squads using the new troops? Strategic deployment of these resources could turn the tide of the entire war. Before a King sends a squad forward, he must first assess the capability of the General that is to lead this assault. This is your Research.
If you are highly confident that this General will win the battle, should you give him more troops so that he can claim more territory? If you are slightly less confident of that General, should you cut back on his troop or hold back the assault altogether? Finally, if your Empire has been compromised and the Exchange has claimed a significant portion of it, is it time you consider a change in Strategy and Tactics? Even if the Exchange has claimed a large portion of your Empire, you might still be able to wage a series of battles so successful that you could probably claim the Empire that you started with and maybe even more, like so many famous Kings and Generals in the world. So, even if your Empire has taken a rough hit, it is not time to surrender yet. You are the King. If you give up, the whole Empire falls. With this “Meta Program” in mind, you will be able to apply many of the famous art of war and their centuries of wisdom on top of the modern finance techniques that you have learnt in order to have even more certain survivability for a long time to come. Every King needs a tactical map. I have made one such map which you can use for free in order to have a strategic overview of your Empire and help you keep the metaphor in mind at http://www.mastersoequity.com/metamap.
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