Roland Priborsky is a financial market professional and team leader with over two decades of experience. He is a Certified EUREX Trader looking back on a career which started at the German Stock Exchange in Düsseldorf and Frankfurt, where he acted as high-volume execution trader for Lang & Schwarz Wertpapierhandel AG, a local equity broker and market maker. He later worked for elite institutions like London-based Man Group, one of the biggest alternative investment operators and clearing brokers in the world, where he directly reported to the board of Directors and the Gelber Group from Chicago, an important financial market participant and member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
In 2013, Roland decided to realise his own ideas and became independent. While trading his family’s money, he started sourcing and expanding his business network in order to identify interested partners and service providers to institutionalise his activities and, shortly after, he initiated the process of formation and licensing of AET Advanced Engineered Trading (IM) Ltd.
Roland speaks fluently six languages and dedicates most of his spare time to researching the financial markets and analyzing new trading technologies.
AET Advanced Engineered Trading (IM) Ltd. is a boutique investment management company with a strong technological sophistication, specialised in the field of proprietary direct market access trading of exchange-traded financial derivatives and commodities. AET is not conducting any investment management activities for third parties other than for one institutional business partner who secured exclusivity against full capacity with the company in spring 2018.
Mr Priborsky, earlier this year, you were awarded CEO Today’s European Business Award, and you have been featured in our European Business Awards 2019 magazine with an interview. Thank you for taking the time to do this follow-up for our monthly edition. In our first meeting, we focused on your work as CIO of AET. This time, we would like to elaborate on the reasons for your success on a more personal level.
How did you get involved with the financial markets at the beginning of your career?
That’s actually a very legitimate question, as I was born in Germany and my family belonged to the normal mid-class and had no connections to the financial world. Therefore, the probability I would end up in Frankfurt, London, New York and Zürich was close to zero. But as much cliché as it might sound, here is the story:
When I was young, I practiced three different sports on a competitive level and hated school. I was the captain of the high school football and tennis team, I liked to hang around with beautiful girls and I wanted to become an astronaut. At that time, apart from a special talent in numbers, nothing whatsoever indicated that one day I would be part of the most interesting world of finance. And then there was the day when I saw a documentary about George Soros and how he runs his business, and I immediately decided that this was what I wanted to do in the future. Obviously, in my situation—no money, no connections, no special knowledge—it was easier said than done. But after my studies, I immediately decided to join a company which was acting directly at the stock exchange. I managed to get a job at a local specialist and went through an internal flash education program, which by the way, was tougher than a military boot camp and the vast majority of aspirants didn’t make it. Once completed, I started executing high volume trades for institutional clients. That was the beginning of it all.
Is there any advice you can give to young people today how to best improve their chances to be successful in their careers in the financial sector?
First of all, young people have to understand that learning does not finish with the successful completion of their studies. It is a highly competitive world we are living in and if you don‘t study and learn in an autodidactic manner continuously, you will lose ground against your competitors.
A second important thing is the ability to filter important information from useless noise. At work, you should focus on prioritising correctly and not losing time with less important information or tasks. You have to be able to say no to your friends and family if you have more important things to do, like educating yourself, reading an important article or processing valuable information. Apart from all the effort to optimise your chances to have a successful career, the influence of coincidence should never be underestimated. Luck many times decides a human‘s future, which means that people who didn‘t make it are not necessarily worse or less talented than others who became successful.
You mentioned your focus on sports when you were a teenager. Did your sport activities on a competitive level have any influence on your future professional life?
Indeed they had. Sports, especially team sports, on a high-performance level are a great basis for the formation of a balanced and strong character. You learn how to fight, you learn how to sacrifice, you learn how to win and most importantly you learn how to lose. Understanding that losing is part of the whole concept of competition is crucial.
There are two components which make losing so important. Firstly, losing means there was at least one wrong decision taken. If possible, you should learn out of such mistakes and improve your actions. Secondly, if you lose more than you win continuously, you will end up unhappy in life and bankrupt if acting as an economic subject. So learning what losing means, that it inevitably will happen and how to control the size and impact of it is decisive. All this you get when practicing sports and, therefore, I would recommend to everybody to engage in as many sports activities as possible, especially when young. Not just for fun, but for the sake of competition.
There are many stories about traders losing or winning huge amounts of money in literally a couple of hours. How big is the pressure that a trader has to be able to withstand?
Actually, the best trade is the one that is slightly boring. Then you probably have the right size and the right direction. The more of such trades you execute, the less mental stress you have to go through. Sometimes, however, things are a little bit more complicated and you end up having a too big or too small position relative to the circumstances. That is when a trade has to be managed and such a situation can cause a considerable level of stress. All in all, the level of stress depends on the money management applied. If it is tight and you hold no overnight positions avoiding event risk, then the mental stress level is not massive.
What do you do to maintain a good work / life balance?
Today I work a little bit less than in former times, but more efficiently. Short term trading as opposed to investing means sitting in front of screens for most of the day. So, you inevitably need some contrast program in your spare time, mostly for your brain. Ideally, your life is organised in a way where you do not get stressed out too much when off work. Your partner, family and friends should understand that.
I like to watch sports, walking through the mountains, swimming and skiing in my free time. Other traders do completely different things, some even have a professionally organised program for their spare time including sports with personal trainers, yoga classes, special relaxation courses or even hypnosis in order to relax physically and mentally.