skills physical commodity trading

The 4 most valuable skills for physical commodity traders

Being a commodity trader doesn’t require any specific formation. Of course, you may not get a job without a diploma, sure, but school IS NOT the place that will make you a great commodity trader. You need specifc soft skills!

All-star commodity traders that I know have those 4 soft skills:

How can you sell/buy if people don’t return your calls?  How can you gather data if nobody wants to talk to you? Who can you call in case everything goes south?

Remember we are talking about physical products, with buyers and sellers on both ends. If people hate talking to you because you make them feel a certain way, you are not going to get far.

High Sociable skills will help you being more likable and building a bulletproof network, which is the only way to access to life time deals.

Obnoxious traders do exist. But they are more falling-stars than rising-stars. A person with such attitude completely relay on his company “name” or market position to close deals. This is a dangerous position to be, especially when this kind of behaviour appears after a couple of “good” years where the trader “rode” an easy market.

Be Healthy !

I dunno if being healthy could be in the “soft” skills family, but what I know : you need to stay healthy if you want to thrive in the industry. Travelling is exciting but could be sooooo exhausting.

Below a heavy week drawn from real life example

  • Monday – Morning breakfast with a CEO in Zug, Switzerland – 4 hours’ drive to the office
  • Tuesday – Take a plane to Karachi, Pakistan
  • Wednesday – 6 hours’ drive to visit the client facility
  • Thursday – 6 hours’ drive retour to Karachi – Dinner with clients
  • Friday – Return to Geneva, Switzerland – Take a plane to London, UK
  • Saturday – Take a plane back to Geneva, hit the office

The issue is not the state of tiredness that you will hit after a week like this but the wrong decisions you may take due to this state. Be healthy to stay sharp in any situation!

I put analytic in a soft skill, because I do not mean analytic in a mathematical way. For sure, you need to be OK in math to be trader. But a far greater skill is to connect the dots.

  • Gathering data
  • Make data speaks
  • Cutting through the noise
  • Recognize trends

By data I mean everything you can capture when you hit the ground. Suspicious slow stockpiles turnover, early new incomers, shift on the consumer taste, trucking companies sold to an unknown buyer, etc… You have to adapt to any market situation BEFORE it’s reflected in the numbers. To get that knowledge you must speak with the producers, processors, clients, shipping people, every counterparty has a piece of the forever changing puzzle.

Be mentally strong !

You need to avoid external factors clouding your judgement. You must keep mental clarity even when you heat a huge stress peak. I know it’s difficult to imagine when you have never been in that position, but a career/company could be ended by a couple of bad decisions taken under a high level of stress.

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Damien W.

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