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Better Know A Trader: Peter Milman, Independent Trader

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Sponsored by Chicago Board Options Exchange
An independent trader with Schonfeld and Co., Peter Milman agreed to be the first subject of DealBreaker’s new Better Know A Banker feature. We will run one of these a week. If you think you’d make a good subject, or want to nominate someone else, please email us at tips (at) dealbreaker (dot) com (subject line: “Better Know A Banker”). Here Peter talks about what he does, how he got started and the best way to learn the skills of a successful trader.
In Bonfire of the Vanities, Sherman McCoy attempts to explain to his four-year-old daughter what he does for a living. How would you explain to a four-year-old what you do?
Hmmmm. I work on wall street, investing in different companies on a daily basis, buying and selling shares of the company.

How did you get your first job in finance?

After graduating business school, I wanted to trade the markets, and I was lucky enough to get a loan from my brother who was employed in the finance field as a trader.

If you were starting out in your career now, where would you want to work?

I would want to work at a top hedge fund, having unlimited capital to work with and access to the best information on the street.

What is your favorite career accomplishment/best trade ever?

April 4th, 2000. Best day of all time. [Editorial note: One of the busiest trading days in Wall Street history, when the the NASDAQ crashed 574-points or 13.5 percent and then made an almost total recovery.]
Who are your heroes or role models, fictional or real?
Role model? My dad, he's hysterical.
What is the most important quality a trader should have?
It's many qualities put together. But if I had to put down just one: focus.
What is the worst character fault for a trader?
Stubborness, being opinionated and arrogance.
Tell us about the lowest of low points, the time you thought should just give it all up and take a simpler, easier job?
2004 was a bad year for me. I had to relearn to trade. My style was not working and I needed to say no to my old style and start again with new ideas. It was changing styles that was the hardest for me.
What job would you have taken?
If I quit I would look to work for a hedge fund or a big brokerage on the street.
What's your 'exit strategy'—how long until you retire or move on?
Good question. Sometimes I feel like I want to move on asap, but I'm learning to trade only when markets are moving, with volume, otherwise stay away. I've been able to survive these markets and I believe that at some point they will turn around for the better, and I will be right on 'em.
What is your motto?
It's never too expensive to buy and never to cheap to sell.
Whose teachings are more useful in your business—Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Jesus Christ or Marquis de Sade? (Feel free to nominate another choice.)
You have to teach yourself through trial and error.