Trader Steve Ruffley has nearly two decades’ experience in the finance industry, having worked on—and run—some of the largest and busiest trading floors in Europe, including London. Manchester-born Ruffley is a chief market strategist and head of education at InterTrader, a fund manager, mentor and author of The Ruff Guide To Trading. Now Ruffley’s ready to ply his trade Down Under, but he’s no get-rich-quick- scheme charlatan, and only those already with six-figure salaries need apply.
Ruffley is also brutally honest. And, honestly, brutal. There’s a famous scene in The Sopranos where mob boss Tony Soprano throttles his feckless nephew and heir-apparent with the words, “You don’t gotta love me, but you will respect me,” and it’s reminiscent of the unapologetic attitude that Ruffley has to his work. “Some of his biggest trades, he admits, have been from negative events such as crashes and trading news following the London bombings. “People don’t like traders for that,” he says, “but it’s not political, it’s not personal. I’m just trading the news. It is, he shrugs, what it is.”
Ruffley, 38, moved to Auckland last year with his wife, from Jersey, and is currently building a house for his young family-to-be (their first child is due December) in Papamoa. He stresses his concerted efforts to contribute to the community by employing the likes of a local accountant, video director for his webinars, and website engineer. “When I tell people in New Zealand that I’m a hedge fund manager, the first thing they tell me is how much their house is worth, but so what?” he says. “Everyone here equates their wealth and worth with their house, but they won’t say how much money they earn. It’s like a status symbol. The housing market here will eventually go arse-up—as it will around the rest of the world. People who are all in it ‘together’ are ecstatic when prices are going up, if you’re in the owning club, but not terrified of the possibility of them going down. Without a real correction in the house prices here, people have forgotten the pain any correction causes. I believe a lot of people will be wrong ‘together’.”
Ruffley highlights how wealth is all tied up with the baby boomers leaving few scraps for younger generations who are fast losing hope—and aspirations—of getting on the ladder. “The whole idea of building a long-term portfolio, including property, is dying,” he says. “People aren’t investing for the future, they’re investing for the here and now. That’s why cryptocurrency blew up, everyone wanted a fast way of making money. Future generations just don’t think like the boomers because they won’t see the boom.”
“Future generations just don’t think like the boomers because they won’t see the boom.”
So, what’s the solution?
“The stock markets. Diversify. When you’re talking about investing, you’re talking a minimum of ten years. When you’re talking about trading, which is the opposite, you’re talking instant. It’s a different mentality.”
While everyone in London “has a rough idea what trading is”, Ruffley says he hasn’t met too many people in Aotearoa who do: “They understand investment and buying stocks and shares, but trading is a whole industry in of itself.”
In a nutshell?
“It’s being involved in the markets when they open, taking a position based on fundamental and technical factors to achieve something there and then. It can be a minute, it can be an hour. You’re investing in the movement or the direction of the market and being involved in its liquidity. It’s tough to explain unless you’ve done it. I’ve seen people make hundreds of thousands of pounds in minutes. That’s what’s available. You can’t do that with investing, you have to give it time. Whereas trading, by its very nature, is instant reward.”
“You’re investing in the movement or the direction of the market and being involved in its liquidity.”
“Highly addictive. Once you’ve been a trader, why would you do anything else? The rewards are huge sums of money. It’s like being an intelligent footballer. And there are no real rules. Everything is down to you.”
So, the industry hasn’t changed much since the financial crisis?
“Not really. Crashes are good. I earn money from crashes. When a stock market crashes, correction comes. People lose money, but people will be making money as well. I can’t control that. Things crash because of fear and they go up because of greed.”
“Things crash because of fear and they go up because of greed.”
That’s the jitters?
“Yes, but often the stock market jitters are sensationalised. You see news headlines about the Dow dropping, but so what? It doesn’t really affect the average man on the street anymore. It’s just a way of selling papers.”
What about the current warnings of further global economic instability?
“Things go up and things go down. It’s cyclical. I think what’s arrogant is that central banks around the globe think they can stop a crash. Recessions are engineered, they happen to pay down government debts. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but what do you think happens when people think that the markets are going to correct? They get out, and they pay tax on it and that all goes to the government. So, when they all do it at the same time, that’s a very significant windfall.”
I ask Ruffley about ethical trading opportunities, but he dismisses it as nigh-on fantasy: “I’m a mercenary. I’m out there to be in the markets, to find as much value as I can in as little time as I can. I’m not interested in the backstory. You can’t ethically day trade. You can ethically invest, I guess. You can find out who doesn’t use child labour or whatever, but at the end of the day, they’re all as bent as each other. What’s ethical in business? I’m more of a cynic. I know how the world works, so I’m not selling that kind of stuff.”
Technically, Ruffley’s not selling anything. Not to his clients at least. Though there might be a charge for his software (“developed with some clever guys in California that takes care of 80% of trading”), like a mortgage broker, he takes a cut of the profits from the businesses’ sides. Ruffley’s service is that of a mentor to “build a framework that people wouldn’t otherwise know how to put in place”.
There’s a big psychological slant, too.
“Think about what the average person earns in New Zealand—say, $80,000. Well, could you handle losing that in a day? Some people couldn’t. I know when to enter the market, and when to get out. I can make people better traders in a matter of months. I just know more about it than most people, it’s as simple as that. But people must also be aware that it’s high-risk, so a big part of my job is to manage expectations.”
“I can make people better traders in a matter of months.”
At the expense of friends and a romantic life, for much of his early career, Ruffley dedicated every waking hour to the trading floor. “That’s all I wanted to do,” he says. “It was a very lonely existence and it took me a very long time to get out of that mentality and reintegrate into the world.”
Such experience, he believes, is beneficial to his clients.
“Because trading is so addictive, you have to control that lifestyle aspect. You have to make the markets come to you. I haven’t worked any more than 10 hours a week for a decade That’s what being rich is, not just having money in the bank, but having the time to spend it. It’s something I’ve dedicated my whole life to and I don’ take it lightly. You can trade for an hour a day and in a week earn more than the average person earns all year.”
But Ruffley’s not here for the average person: “If you want to make money with me then you already have to have some—and be able to afford to lose some, too. However, all the guys I mentor are profitable overall. This is my punt to say to New Zealand if you want to learn how to trade, how to make some serious money, then I’m here. Let’s go.”
Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces