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​Yes, Give it to me

How to Get a Proprietary Trading Job — A Complete Guide 

 April 1, 2015

By  Rayner

Last Updated on

proprietary trading floor

You love trading.

Your dream job is to be a proprietary trader.

But reality sinks in.

You realized that getting proprietary trading jobs isn’t easy. You’ve tried but just can’t seem to get a single interview.

Or perhaps..

You’ve been to a few interviews only to be rejected.

Now you’re wondering:

What does it take to get a job in proprietary trading?

Don’t worry. Because in this post, I’ll share with you exactly what it takes to get a job in proprietary trading.

If you’re interested in being a proprietary trader, you’d want to read every single word of this post.

What is proprietary trading?

Proprietary trading is when a bank, firm or other any financial institution trades on its own account rather than on behalf of a customer.

The instruments traded can be anything from options, futures, currencies, derivatives etc.

Proprietary trading involves risking the firm’s capital, thus any profits or losses are borne entirely by the firm.

It is a highly sought-after job as traders don’t need to cough up with any capital, receives professional training from seasoned traders, and still get a share of profits if he makes money.

No surprise to see many fresh graduates applying for such a role, me included.

But the interesting aspect about trading is that your IQ has little to do with successful trading. I have seen traders who made millions with an O levels education, and traders who failed even with a masters degree.

The fact is:

Proprietary trading firms aren’t looking to hire candidates with the best educational background or the highest IQ.

So what are they looking for?

Proprietary trading jobs, what is required?

1. Passion

Just like anything else in life, if you have no passion in what you’re doing, you will not give your 100%.

The same goes for trading. You must have a passion for it in order to succeed.

So what is a passion for trading?

It is not reading a few books on trading and thinking you got it.

Neither is it going to forums looking for the best trading strategy. These are hobbies and hobbies cost money.

Instead…

Passion is devoting countless hours each day, weeks, months and even years to improve yourself. To get better and better each day, yet staying humble all the way.

You will be reading hundreds of trading books, spending infinite hours watching trading videos, and having a trading journal to record down your progress as a trader.

Does it sound like hard work?

This is the passion for trading.

2. Prove it

When you’re interviewing for a proprietary trading job, you must convince the interviewer about your passion for trading, and your ability to persevere.

How can you prove it?

The best way is to start trading on your own retail account. By showing the interviewer your own trading records, it tells them you are passionate about trading and actually walk the talk.

This will make you stand out from the thousands of applicants you are competing with.

Even if you’re a losing trader, it doesn’t matter.

Because it tells them you are accepting your current status (a losing trader), and want to improve your trading by joining a proprietary trading firm.

Here’s how to really stand out:

Bring along your trading journal and charts during the interview. Then use them to explain the thought process of your trades.

If you’ve done any backtests, bring the results along to show that you’re working hard to find an edge in the markets. That’ll impress your interviewers.

But wait.

Passion alone is not enough. Read on to find out what else is required.

3. Grit

Grit_Picture

Studies have shown that Grit plays an important factor as well.

But what is grit?

Grit is the ability to keep moving forward even when the shit hits the fence.

Most traders will quit and stay away from trading after blowing up a few trading accounts.

But those with grit will constantly reflect their actions and seek to better themselves, which separates the winners from the losers.

I’ve spent close to 4 years learning how to trade, yet I wasn’t profitable.

It was depressing as I knew so much about trading but can’t turn my knowledge into profits.

Many times I felt that profitable trading is an illusion but never once did I considered giving up. There was always something in me that pushed me forward, and today I realized it is none other than grit.

I want you to read this book, Pit Bull: Lessons from Wall Street’s Champion Day Trader.

It’s about a trader called Martin Schwartz, who lost money for 9 straight years before making millions consistently.

4. Minimal liabilities during your learning curve

Here’s the kicker:

You want to have little liabilities and commitment as possible.

Best you are not married with kids, have no outstanding loans or any form of financial liabilities.

Why?

Most proprietary trading firms operate on the basis of giving traders a basic allowance, and a profit sharing scheme.

Also, trading has a steep learning curve, which can take a trader anywhere from 6 to 18 months to be consistently profitable.

The bottom line is this:

You will be living on a shoestring budget for a period of time, until you are consistently profitable. Thus it makes sense to reduce or have no liabilities at all.

Most proprietary trading firms will look for this factor, and this explains why they tend to hire fresh graduates below 30 years old.

Here’s another thing you should know..

5. Quick with numbers is a good thing

The trading approach of most proprietary trading firms is scalping, arbitraging or day trading.

Because you’re trading on lower time frames, you need to think fast and act fast.

So how do they test you?

Math.

During the interviews, they’d ask you mathematical questions (48 * 67), or solve some statistical puzzle (Monty Hall).

Some take it one step further by requiring you to pass a math test before granting an interview.

You can consider doing mathematical speed test a few weeks prior to your interview to improve your mental calculation.

Commonly asked interview questions

I’ve been through a number of interviews at different proprietary trading firms.

And here are some commonly asked questions:

  • Why do you want to be a trader?
  • Can you survive without a fixed pay?
  • How long are you willing to give yourself?
  • What trading books have you read?
  • What is your trading approach to the markets?
  • How much money do you want to make?
  • Where did you learn how to trade?
  • Solve the Monty Hall problem
  • What is 32 * 32?

Next…

I’ll share with you a powerful tip on how to land a job in proprietary trading.

Tell a story

whatsyourstory

At every interview, I convince them of my passion, grit and minimal liabilities.

How?

I share my story with the interviewer when I’m a child till present.

And the story is as follows.


My Early Days

In my early school days, I had no interest in studies and only cared for playing counter-strike.

No surprise I only passed 2 subjects in secondary 3, and my parents had to beg my principal to allow me to proceed onto secondary 4.

During secondary 4 it was my O levels and miraculously I scored 20 points which allowed me to study at a local polytechnic.

I went to Temasek Polytechnic to study info-communications, which was one of the few choices available to me, given my mediocre results.

At this point, I was still playing computer games and simply did the bare minimum that’s required.

After 3 years, I graduated with a diploma in info-communications.

Army Days

I was required to serve the army after graduation.

I was enlisted into the 1st Commando Battalion, and it was possibly the best thing that happens to me when I was 19 years old.

From being mediocre all my life to being placed in an elite fighting unit, I was in for a culture shock.

Birds of a feather flock together. It’s true while you’re in the army, especially in 1st Commando Battalion.

Core values like courage disciplined and fighting spirit are drilled into each and every one of us.

Slowly but surely.

It changed my outlook on life and to strive for nothing but the best.

An incident I will never forget was the ’72km Road March’.

We were expected to complete it within 24 hours. It was painful, to say the least, after the 30km mark, every step forward is like stepping on shattered glass.

We were marching in the middle of the night, yet I wasn’t even sleepy. Because every step I walked sent a sharp jolt of pain towards my nervous system.

Giving up wasn’t an option, and the only way forward is to make every step count.

After what seemed like forever.

I made it to the finishing point and was definitely an experience I will never forget.

This incident then taught me one thing, there is no such thing as impossible, only not done yet.

During this period, I started reading books on trading and investments. This sparked my interest in the financial markets and helped me decide which course to enroll for my degree.

University Days

After serving in the army, I took up a degree in banking & finance with the University of London.

Since being a Commando taught me to strive for nothing but the best, I was determined to attain a 1st Class Honors, no matter what it takes.

In my 1st year of studies, a Forex broker came to my school and organized a trading competition. Me being curious, I took part in it and not surprisingly busted my trading account within 2 days.

This was the official start towards my trading endeavor and made me certain I wanted a career in proprietary trading.

My biggest take was this:

1. If I did poorly for my exams, I would ask myself what went wrong?

2. If I did well in my exams, I would ask myself how can I improve further?

With these 2 powerful questions, I attained my First Class Honors and was set on being a proprietary trader no matter what it took.

This tells the interviewer I am determined to succeed, being a nobody in school to attaining my 1st Class Honors. Also, it shows my passion for trading since I am trading my own account.


I love to share a story because it engages the interviewers and give them an idea of my character. If you want to learn more, you can read this post here.

Frequently asked questions

#1: How did you go about looking for these prop trading companies? Were there internships or did you just dive straight in?

I pretty much looked at job portals every day for new job opportunities and vacancies.

I also searched Google for prop trading companies with physical addresses in Singapore and went down to their doors to personally submit my resume to them.

#2: Did you have to pay monthly desk fees at the prop firm or did they cover all expenses for you?

Yes, you’ll have to pay monthly desk fees at the prop firms.

During the probation period, they’ll cover those fees for you. But after the probation period when you’re trading for them full-time, you’re expected to cover your own desk fees.

#3: How competitive is it inside the firm? Will you be asked to leave if you struggle to make profit consistently?

Yes, proprietary trading is extremely competitive. But it’s not between you and your colleagues. It’s pretty much a competition between you and yourself, to become the best trader that you can be.

You’ll want to be a consistently profitable trader so that you can take a piece of the paycheck every quarter or every month.

Generally, most firms would likely give you some leeway, maybe 3 to 6 months to become profitable. If after 6 months or a year and you’re still bleeding every month, you’ll most likely be asked to leave. But of course, it’s still up to the firms’ discretion.

Conclusion

And there you have it!

My step by step guide on how I got a job as a proprietary trader.

I hope this helps!

  • Hi Rayner,

    What a great story, it express true value of determination of doing something to achieve something great.I think I have very limited chance to get a job in proprietary firm, only think I have is my trading history with my own money, hope they might consider to see my passion and 100% committed to trading with unconditional love for trading. My trading history clearly shows my utmost grit and passion, it shows my slow progress after lost all the money but never quit and now progressing in good pace.

  • Hey Kam,

    I’ve seen you come a long way my friend. But if you want it bad enough, go for it!

    Glad to know you are progressing well now, keep me updated buddy 🙂

    Rayner

    • I am truly grateful to you and I am glad that I have managed to found out about you and as I said before you are one of those people who really want to help others. I have learned so much from you and more importantly learned what not to learn/ what to avoid.

      Always wait for your post and video. Many thanks for what you do.

      • Thank you Kam, truly appreciate your heartfelt words.

        I’m glad that it’s helping your trading and i can’t wait to see you become consistently profitable.

        Rock on Kam!

        Rayner

  • Hi Rayner,

    You have a very impressive background, like the classic ‘rags to riches’ although it’s in terms of studies for your case. I can almost see myself treading your footsteps! I was playing CS and all but I got luckier on O levels and did well enough to graduate with a diploma with merit in Banking and Finance. Currently I’m also in 1st CDO Bn and will be walking my 72km journey as well in 2 months time! I do hope to land into a prop trading job to really give me that intense training and environment to really learn and absorb from the best!

    I don’t know how I will do in Uni, but I’m already looking forward to it and like yourself, I’ve been reading voraciously on investing and trading strategies, and have been investing/trading with my personal live account.

    Would you consider further elaborating on the life of a prop trader in subsequent posts? Eg. What are the sacrifices you had to make, best moments, worst moments, etc. I would love to read and understand more about this career path! Hope to hear from you!

    • Haha I just came back from ATEC in Taiwan and those mountains really taught me a thing or two about mental strength!

      I’ve checked the link out! Thanks for taking time to create these kind of posts for interested readers like me! Just a quick question, how did you go about looking for these prop trading companies? Were there internships or did you just dive straight in?

      • Wow Taiwan is great. The weather was really cooling the last time I was there.

        As for your question, I simply dive straight in. Some firms would put you on probation anywhere from 6-12 months before deciding whether to keep you.

        Rayner

  • Rayner, great life story bro

    Have a few questions about prop trading for you hope you can answer:

    1) Do you think they are picky in choosing their candidates for employment? Even if you are one thats haven’t shown a profitable track record but shown great deal of love & passion for trading, will they consider?

    2)How competitive is it inside the firm? Will you be asked to leave if you struggle to make profit consistently?

    3)Do you get your commision in a monthly or yearly basis?

    Thanks
    Tyler

    • Hi Tyler,

      Thank you for your feedback!

      1) yes they will consider, they favor those who a fresh graduate just out of school, with little to no liabilities. Track record is not important, your willingness to learn is.

      2) It depends on the firm, but they usually give you anywhere from 6-12 months. Some lesser, so it really depends.

      3) Usually they pay you every quarter.

      Hope that answer your questions 🙂

      Rayner

  • Rayner…
    I have left job 7 month ago and whatever I earned… Through which I started trading in commodity now the position is …i have lost 90% money last Saturday….i never be in good profit since started trading….
    I want learn trading tips coz I have lost much…now I have only few money.. may be that’s will be eaten by market soon coz I don’t know about market strategy…help me bro…. Pls mail me useful tips from that I can recover my losses…..please

    • Dear mesurry,

      I am not a professional trader but what I can say to you if you allow then please close all your position immediately to save the rest of the money, once you read through all the above mentioned pages provided by Rayner and when you feel that you can open a position with a clear plan then use the real money otherwise practice with a demo account for couple of months at the moment.

      I was in your position for many years, learned it very hard way,still learning.

      Save your capital at any cost.If you don’t have capital you can not trade.

  • What an inspirational story and one that I hope to emulate in my own way. I’m only trading for 7 months and giving myself 5 years to find out if I have what it takes…

    • Thank you Haroun 🙂

      Yes 5 years is definitely more than enough to find out whether it is suitable for you. In the mean time, keep you ‘tuition fees’ small by trading smaller.

      Rayner

  • Hi folks ,

    I’m in a dilemma . Im offerred a technical (IT) job at a european prop trading firm in Singapore. At the same time I have offer from an investment bank for similar role with same base pay.

    Cons of prop
    – long working hours
    – stick ur ass to the chair whole day
    – eat meals only on desks
    – uncertainty of bonus amount

    Pros of Prop
    – less work pressure
    – no corporate ,casual work environment
    – perks like free breakfast and lunch with company events once a while.

    Can any guys suggest whats the best option whether to work at buy side firm or the sell side.

    Also any ideas as to what % of bonus is norm for IT guys wprking for prop firms in singapore.

    Urgent help appreciated in advance.

    – Yemelya

    • Hi Yemelya,

      You have already listed out the pros and cons.

      Ultimately you need to ask yourself what you want. To be a trader and suffer the uncertainty it brings or to have something more certain but may not be what you want to do.

      I’m not in your shoes so there’s only so much I can comment on.

      Rayner

      • Thanks Rayner 🙂

        Im not a trader , im an IT guy. And im curious to know what the usual percentage of bonus looks like in buy side firms….if it can be drastically different than sell side like banks…..if you can advice plz.

        – Yemelya

  • What a great success story Rayner through hard work,commitment and perserverance.you deserve it mate and as always your willing to help others on there journey thank you Rayner.

  • Rayner,

    I know of firms that will allow you to trade the firms capital and give you time, but expect you to pay for the office space, or you pay high fees for training and get limited time, which is even worse.

    Did you have to pay monthly desk fees at the prop firm or did they cover all expenses for you? Was your proprietary experience simply, “Here is some training, some trading capital and some time to be successful” or did it have any expenses that required initial capital or experience/training?

    All the best,
    David.

    • Hi David,

      From where I came from, we needed to cover our expenses like desk fees, TT, CQG, newsfeed etc.

      No capital upfront as they’re deducted from our trading profits.

      Hope that helps!

      Rayner

  • Hey Ryner,

    This post is really very helpful as I was worried that no trading firm would hire me as I am not a profitable trader. Though I am into markets for 4 years. I started with a Trading Firm in India in 2012 and worked there for 7-8 months and after that I got job offer from one of the top brokerage firm in India, Religare Securities Ltd as a Equity Analyst. I worked there for one year and I have to leave the job because of the family issues. I joined my father’s company and till now I am working in it. After leaving Religare, I continued to trade on my personal account but till now I am not into profits, though I am learning well and I think I am maturing as a trader.

    Along with doing job for around 18 months, I also completed CMT level 2 and appeared for level 3 but could not clear it.

    Now I am well prepared for my comeback into trading. I desperately want to join a Prop trading firm which can help me in brushing and can provide me base for my passion for being a profitable trader.

    Can you suggest me what should be my appropriate step? Can Trading firms consider hiring me ??

    • Hi Ankit,

      I’ve no idea how the hiring process is like in India, so I can’t comment much.

      But try to show them your track records and your trading thought process. That could be something they’re interested to see.

      Rayner

      • Hii Rayner,

        Thanks for your reply. I can understand what you said. Actually I am not looking to work with any Indian prop desk as there are very few of them here and most of them are new who cannot provide the kind of mentoring I need to grill myself.

        Can you suggest me which country I can apply to. I heard singapore has lots of professional Trading firms.

        Thanks and Regards,
        Ankit

  • Hi Rayner

    Any link to where to apply for propietary Trading.

    All thw links i get from google search are just scams

    Thanks

  • Howdy Rayner,
    I stumbled upon your blog by chance and found it very interesting. I enjoy your straight and honest responses and couldn’t agree more with what you advised as i have been a DAT/HFT daytrader/ swingtrader for 15 years, both with U.S. prop firms and private equities. I enjoyed marginal success for the first 7-8 yrs but suffered devastated lossess in 2008 due to ill discipline and greed but has since recovered and retired in2014. Yo right, it’s all grit, passion, read plan and execute,…sticking tight unto a dedicated plan of action….
    Keep it up, Cheers!
    K.C. Kazzman

    • Hi Karine

      You can look at chartnexus, tradingview, or mt4.

      It all depends on your needs and the type of markets you’re trading. But these are free.

  • Hi Rayner, thank you for sharing your experience with us. Do you have any tips on getting an interview in the first place? I’ve been out of school for several years so any on campus recruiting is out of the question..

    • Hi Kenny

      Search for the job portals every week. They don’t offer it frequently so you have to constantly keep a lookout.

      And write stuff on your resume that shows you’re passionate about trading.

  • Hi Rayner, I have an offer from a prop firm but have read so many negative reviews about the firm. I am wondering do all prop firms have negative reviews? Also did you apply for prop firms in Singapore or UK?

  • Hey Rayner,

    I read your blog and boom !! ‘was like ‘wow’. It was really nice hearing a fellow singaporean doing the things that he liked especially in the financial industry and is so consistent in every manner. I’m a singaporean and currently residing in Sydney.

    I’ve been trading for many years and you might have guessed the results. Lost, busting my trading on several occasions and the lists go on and on.

    I’ve learned a lot from your blogs. Please keep up on your good work. You enlighten me 🙂

    If you happen to be sydney, please let me know. Would love to catch up with you on a nice drinking session

    Till then.. take care and happy trading !

  • Hey rayner

    Great read and very inspiring I have learnt a lot from you ever since I got into trading you are such an inspiration , and a great teacher I went from hating trading to loving it .although I still trade off the demo I can see improvement. never heard of proprietary trading before but will check it out thanks.

  • Hello Rayner,

    Maybe you can help me find some direction. First off we all owe a lot of appreciation to you and others who are willing to share their experiences and resources to help better ourselves and our trading careers. I’ve been trading for about 14 months now. My introduction to markets wasn’t planned, more of a series of events or fate as I like to think. As a teenager i was always interested in financial markets but life happened and interests pointed elsewhere. 14 months ago when i found out there was a whole other world to it besides the buffet principals and strategies, my interests peaked. Coming from a single mother household and growing up in poverty, I wasn’t exposed to the resources or education that a typical person my age (33) growing up in U.S. may have. Those things may have been available, but I had no sort of mentor-ship or guidance. So when my fate brought me to the markets, I literally had to start from scratch. I started with the basics; business structure, market terms, how to read balance sheets, SEC reports etc. After a few months of watching my money camp out then losing money from broker fees from moving it to other dividend stocks, i found the other side of the market. I started trading some OTC and Nasdaq penny’s and learned quick it was a different game all together. Next step I learned how to properly use charts and order flow to better see what i was getting into. This was a tricky process because I don’t know any traders personally and had to educate myself. A lot of rabbit holes and misinterpretation followed. But I pushed on and kept paying tuitions learning as I went. At some point I realized that when i would watch a video or read something that the topic would be something I had taught myself through reverse engineering or at least identified a week or so before. This is how i would later calibrate my learning curve. So I thought i was ready and funded my first offshore leveraged account. I grew the account 20% in the first 2 weeks then blew up due to greed, bad decision making and steep draw-downs. I was so angry I turned off my phone and just reflected on it and what I did wrong and how to fix it. Giving up didn’t cross my mind. But like most things that are bad, a lot of good came out of it and came up with a “box” strategy that would make profits even if i was wrong. Of course even a back-tested strategy requires human discipline and self control. So i dug into psychology books and videos to beat the framework of a non biased trade mentality into my head. Everything was sinking in and I started thinking I had what it takes and my trades were becoming more and more green. One day I took a big loss on a low float momentum stock from losing my wifi connection while on my way to an appointment for work and decide that was it, I was gonna go at it full time. That’s where the psychology turned against me. I wasn’t ready financially even though I could make double figure percentage gains on small capital, the addition of paying bills changed every aspect of my abilities. I am generally a technical trader that uses market depth order flow and other indicators with as much fundamental influence like offerings and news catalyst to choose and manage my trades, but there is so much more to trading skills or talent. I found myself jumping from trade to trade and watching as EVERY trade I had exited for small losses or stopped out and was too impatient to wait for another entry do exactly the charts or strategy had told me they would do. Then I started to fight the urge to jump trades and ended up holding longer than I should from pulling my stops at the last minute. Basically I was “on tilt” and losing my mind. So 6 months after going full time here I am. Now that I’ve identified causes and effects I have become a consistent trader but time has run out. Funds are exhausted from paying bills while all of this was taking place and I with the little It’s impossible to box or hedge my positions let alone keep the power on. I’ve looked into the prop firms and have all of my 2700 trades from 2018 (equities, options, spreads) printed inside a binder for them to review but I’ve almost convince myself that they will look down on the losing track record. Before anyone bashes me i want to add that I KNOW I was wrong by going at it full time without proper preparation and would never suggest it and hope anyone reading this can learn from my experience. Then again speaking for myself, the lessons i have learned through it in such a short amount of time are “priceless” ironically lol. Please give me some advice or direction on how to move forward. My spirits are still strong and more determined and willing to sacrifice even more than I already have. I don’t put any time limit expectations because I wish to do this for the rest of my life. I feel like a boxer who gets gets excited to go into a bout only to get knocked out every time, but is more excited to go into the next bout than he was in the previous one even though every fight is an exhibition match and not even for the title. Simply because he LOVES TO FIGHT! Anything you or anyone could add will be greatly appreciated and thanks again for providing a place for me to write this in the first place. Godbless!

    • Thank you for sharing, Ron.

      That has to be the longest comment I’ve received on the blog.

      My suggestion is to get a job, save up, and trade the higher timeframes.

      Once you’re consistent and have enough capital, you can always have another shot at doing it full-time.

      But the priority now is survivability.

  • Rayner sir,

    You’ve really showed your passion and commitment towards trading. Thank you for sharing this wonderful journey of yours.
    I’m truly inspired by your words and hoping maybe someday I can too contribute my bit to the trading community just like you.
    Thanks again sir. Keep up the awesome work of yours. And keep sharing.
    Love from India.

  • Thank you Rayner.. Giving us motivation and guiding. honestly speaking I was losing trade almost from one year’s still no progress,get depressed,anger. Now have to rewind again and to start from beginning and do improve Wat was wrong.

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