On Friday, former Deutsche Bank commodities trader David Liew pleaded guilty to spoofing precious metal futures as wells as front-running customer orders. While the CFTC case documents include the usual tidbits of spicy and incriminating chats from the scene of the crime – “i can hunt with u,” he tells a trader at another firm – the real story is Liew's online trail of illuminating and at-times poignant career advice.
According to what appears to be Liew's personal Wordpress site, the former trader has long enjoyed the avocation of personal memoir. Though his blog has since been taken down, we can still peruse what we assume to be Liew's ruminations thanks to Google Cache.
As we learn from the Wordpress, Liew made a major life change in 2012. Like the best minds of his generation, he quit his finance job to become a tech entrepreneur. In this July 2012 post, he describes how and why:
I was (and still am) in my third year out of University and making a very comfortable living as a trader at Deutsche Bank. Here in Singapore (sadly), a sort of toxic culture has been brewing that your “success” is deemed by your salary. Yes, I was getting a 6 digit annual salary, yes I was in the top % of wage earners of my age group (I’m turning 27 this year). A lot of people have labelled me “crazy” to “throw all I had away”, to which I would reply “This is my life, not yours. But thanks and good luck to you too”.
Was I successful? I didn’t feel that way, for a few simple reasons:
1. I hit a plateau in my learning
2. I did not feel like I was building something meaningful enough
3. I was becoming someone who I was not (especially in terms of becoming greedy and impersonal)
4. I was uncomfortable with some of the things I witnessed/experienced.
Liew doesn't elaborate on the discomfiting things he witnessed/experienced while slinging palladium futures, so readers will have to employ their imaginations here. Liew goes on:
My turning point was a faithful day in July 2011, where I had a week of getting angry at my boss, my colleagues, my clients, and ultimately, myself. With no disrespect, that was the day where I felt I had “enough” (in all sense of that word). I started to piece together business ideas to groom on the side and do the “play it safe” route and exit when your other revenues are smooth. Unfortunately, that day never came. I decided to give myself a time-based marker instead, of Feburary 2012, to make the jump, or forever hold me peace. It might work for others, but as for myself, I was the sort of guy who had to be “all-in” to really do what I set out wanting to do.
So, I plucked up the courage and left on the day I planned to. I was facing marriage, a house mortgage and a promotion, but the words of Richard Branson “Screw it, just do it”, helped me over the edge.
Liew might have left Deutsche Bank, but clearly his time at Deutsche Bank hasn't left him. And that's not just because of the whole pleading-guilty-to-breaking-securities-laws unpleasantness. Liew's six-figure DB salary also gave him a the life-altering taste of being rich, as we learn from a Quora profile identified in an innocuous Business Insider post from 2016 as belonging to one David Liew:
Is getting rich worth it?
It changed the way I looked at life, and it might change yours too.
In another post, however, Liew describes the drawbacks of making it rain so hard:
I pursued a finance career after university only to leave after 3 years feeling empty.
But feeling empty and beefing his bosses wasn't what drove Liew to quit Deutsche Bank and pursue the Silicon Valley dream. It was Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement address, known for the line “Stay hungry, stay foolish”:
My tipping point came after I watched this: [video]
A week later I quit my cushy corporate job, explored myself more deeply, co-founded a startup, failed, felt miserable, watched this video again, picked myself up and am now back to pushing ahead.
That was 2013.
If there's any consolation in all of this, it's that Liew said deuces to the financial world well before the long arm of the CFTC came and extracted a guilty plea over a bit of spoofing that he did a lifetime ago. We hope that Liew will be able to move on. As the man himself wrote:
I wish you good luck. Time only moves forward, and so should we.