Systematic trading stuff

I spent 7 years working for AHL, a large systematic hedge fund (earlier in my career I also spent about 18 months trading exotic rate options for an investment bank, Barclays Capital). My first job was to develop and manage a systematic mult-asset global macro trading strategy. Subsequently I managed a multi billion dollar portfolio of fixed income strategies (futures, swaps, bonds and credit derivatives). See the 'about' page for more.

Since leaving the hedge fund industry I have written a live systematic trading system written in python and using the interactive brokers C++ API interfaced through swigiby, which I have traded my own money with since April 2014. The system trades nearly 40 futures markets with an average holding period of several weeks, and has a mainly trend following character.

I post regular updates on my trading at elitetrader. My trading account is also visible on fundseeder (TA4483751). I'm currently (August 2017) ranked in the top 10 out of all traders, and in the top 3 for technical and futures traders.

I have written a book on systematic trading:

You can also get my open source python backtesting and futures trading system from github.

Here is my best attempt at grouping my numerous blog posts on systematic trading. Some posts may be repeated under different categories.



Occasional articles on my own trading system

Trading performance: year one 

Trading performance: Year two

Trading performance: year three

Writing a simple execution algo

Why I don't like short end german bonds anymore 

Simulating my futures system  

A tale of two positions

Obligatory Brexit Post (Will I be okay?)

Obligatory Brexit ex-Post (Yes)

Occasional general articles on systematic trading

Why black box hedge funds should have lazy risk managers

Why you shouldn't employ too many geniuses

 Seven deadly sins of trading

Head to head: Technical vs Fundamental trading systems 

Why you need two systems to run automated trading strategies 

Should billionaires and bricklayers have the same investments? 

Can a small retail trader beat a large fund?

Humans or computers - which make better traders? 

Diversification and small account size

Developing a new trading rule - breakout

Capital correction

Can you eat geometric returns?

Reflections on QuantCon 2017

Some more trading rules

Series: Using random data to design trading systems

Introducing random data

Random data: Trading the equity curve

Random data: Optimising portfolio weights the right way (TBC)

Series: Systematic risk management

Systematic Risk Management



Series:Python code used in the book


Python code for the trading rules in the book

Python code for optimisation (one period and bootstrapping), and producing different sample periods

Python code for optimising in the presence of costs with pysystemtrade

Series: How to get interactive brokers native python API working

Getting historic data

Getting streamed market data

Series: How to get python and interactive brokers API interacting via swigby 101

(Deprecated: I suggest using the native python API instead - see the above series of posts)

Start here

Getting historic, snapshotted prices

Getting real time streaming prices

Placing orders and receiving fills

Getting positions and accounting information 

Series: A guide to the nuts and bolts of implementing a systematic futures trading system


Data capture

Futures rolling 

Deciding positions 



Checks and balances

Series: Pysystemtrade - my open source python backtesting engine

Original motivating post

Estimating forecast scalars

Instruments weights, correlations, and diversification multipliers

Optimising in the presence of costs

Developing a new trading rule - breakout

Capital correction


Other articles on systematic trading technology

My technology stack

Things I wish interactive brokers would do with their API software

Writing a simple execution algo

Using sqllite to store data

Using python to calculate your UK tax liability for trading profits

My open source python system

Docker and automated trading systems


  1. hi Rob, are your systems available for purchase , subscription? Thanks, Robin

    1. No, never. There's enough material in my book and on this website to reproduce the trading system I use, for free.

  2. Hi Rob,
    How does your framework handle the inevitable loss of power or internet connection?
    E.g, maybe your framework detects a condition that requires an order to be placed but the power goes out or your internet connection goes down.

    Given the description of the hardware you use to run your system it sounds like the code is NOT hosted in some datacenter but rather executes in an environment (such as your home) where such a situation can (and does) occur.


    1. Hi Robert, Great question. Yes I run my stuff 'at home'.

      There are a number of possible scenarios. In scenario one, I lose my internet connection, but then get it back.

      Some services, eg get account value and get price will fail gracefully (treat what they get the same as a NaN).

      Orders that haven't been submitted will be delayed. Given how slowly I trade, I can live with this.

      More seriously if an order is submitted and I miss a fill then I'll get a break between what I think my position is, and what the broker records say. Right now I lock the position to avoid duplicate trades until I've manually fixed the problem (see

      NOTE - there is room for improvement here. I plan to rewrite this process to periodically check all fills received for the day and update the database; then automatically clear any position locks.

      In an extreme situation if a process fails then the cron job will restart it the next day. The only thing that won't restart is the IB API gateway.

      In scenario two I lose power. The system has to be manually restarted. In the short term this is very similar to a loss of internet.

      In an extreme situation (on holiday) I might lose power for a couple of weeks before being able to restart. When I restart the system will backfill all the daily prices and the required trade will then happen. Given the speed I trade at, I've tested the expected effect of this and I can live with it.

  3. FC wrote this comment, which I accidentally deleted:

    "Hello! I am super excited about your stuff and that you are UK based. Do you have an opinion about these:
    Is the tax advantage worth the development trouble, credit risk and worse bid-ask spread? "

    1. I don't have a problem with spread bets, but it's certainly true that if a future was available on the same terms (same tick size) I'd trade the future.

      Usually that isn't the case. For example you can trade FTSE 100 at £1 a point but the future is £10. So spread bets can be especially useful if you have a smaller account, but the wider spread means you'll need to trade more slowly.

      Fortunately my account is large enough that I can just stick to futures.

      I discuss this problem in my book.

    2. Excellent - I've already ordered your book. Awaiting delivery from publisher.

  4. Hi Rob,I read really great reviews about your book and was adviced by a friend to take a look into it, however, I'm a novice to trading and investing, can you advice me what to read and learn before I start reading your book?

    1. Thats a difficult question as it depends on what level you're at and which direction you want to go in. If you want to trade futures then reading Jack Schwagers books would be a good start.

  5. Hi Rob,
    Great book. I wanted to let you know that we specialize in executing systematic trading strategies for clients in the futures and commodities markets. We support several different platforms including TradeStation, TradingBlox, Mechanica, and provide access to nearly every CFTC approved product around the globe. If you know anyone that needs help with putting their strategies into the market, we can help with execution and reconciliation and do an excellent job (for over 20 years now).

    Please contact me if you would like to learn more about the services we provide.

    Thank you.
    Shane Wisdom

  6. Hi Rob,
    first of all, thanks for writing the book, I found it really detailed and helpful.

    I've noticed a minor bug, in a summary just below Table 37, last item "Trailing stop loss when short" has a bug in math: $30 + (4 * $1.5) = $46


  7. Hi Rob,
    In your book you mention how hard it is to overcome the costs in spread betting. For most EU citizens winnings on spread betting is tax free. Is that part of that calculation? Cheers

    1. No I didn't include tax in the calculation. But spread betting is around 10 times more expensive than say trading futures. Tax would need to be insanely high on futures to make spread betting more competitive.

    2. Ok, yes that is pretty sick. When is the new book coming?

  8. Hi Rob,
    Have you done any covered call writing? It seems like a good fit for a systematic trading system. Cheers

    1. I haven't, but yes short volatility strategies like this are a good thing.

  9. Hi Rob,
    I came across your website while looking for someone who uses python for trading. Thankfully I found you. I would like to thank you for the informations you share with us.
    I am totally interested in your book. However, I have a question about the content. Do you explain a strategy that you use to trade futures or strategies that can be employed? Because I never trade futures and I would like to start to trade by learning step by step from guidelines of your book if that is the case. What should I expect from your book?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi. Yes I explain some basic strategies to trade futures (also ETF's and spread bets). But they assume some familiarity with futures already. Read something like (first four chapters)

      Also there isn't any python in the book.

  10. Hi Rob,

    after reading your book, your blog (here) and your journal (Elitetrader) I decided to give it a try to program a system based on the framework you propose in your book. My question is about the update rate you use during live trading? Your book emphasizes to not trade too much due to the involved costs. On the other hand, from your journal I get the impression that your system runs continuously as time stamps are all around the clock. How often do you refresh/recalculate instrument parameters such as volatility, and account parameters such as volatility target? I was thinking myself to calculate account parameters once per day, preferably on a moment when all instruments are not trading (account value relatively stable). And recalculate instrument parameters once per hour (only when they are trading). Should I sample instrument parameters more often?

    1. It depends on your holding period. Currently I probably update too much (hourly), given a holding period of a couple of weeks or more. I could easily update everything daily, and indeed in the next iteration of my code that is what I plan to do.

    2. Thank you. As my trading rules will be slow do I expect similar holding periods. A daily update rate will probably be fast enough. However, with several exchanges in multiple time zones involved does that lead to the question: "what is end of day?" Maybe I'll decide to take action at the end of the trading day of each involved exchange.

  11. Hi Rob, I think I noticed an error in your new Carry calculation worksheet ( Cell G22 has: "=IF(AND(C22<>0,F22<>0,C22-F22),C22-F22,G21)". I think you should delete the third element in the "And" function.

    1. Fixed. Thanks a lot

      Interesting how Excel casts into logical type.

    2. Glad to help, thanks for all your advice in response to all my posts. I have been paper-trading your "Chapter 15" system for a few days now. Could you please confirm the following with regard to your carry strategy: On November 4th, the closing price of Dec 2016 Eurodollar was 99.075, and the closing price of Jan 2017 Eurodollar was 99.070. Therefore the trading signal would be long. So, I should be long the Jan 2017 contract, correct? What if the spread was significantly higher on the Jan 2017 contract. Would it be okay to go long the Dec 2016 contract? Would there be any reason to look at the Jan vs Feb 2017 contract, or should we always be looking at the closest two contracts in determining the forecast? Thanks.

    3. Which contract you should trade I discuss more here: . How to measure carry I discuss more in the appendices of my book.

  12. Hi Rob, in your book you mention that is preferable to measure carry on equity futures by using the spot price. Yet, in your python system, for EUROSTX, you use the further contract (which is not held) versus the nearer contract (which, of necessity, must be held). A second question, if I may: you mention in your book that you target 37.5% annual volatility in your own futures system, but fundseeder reports your annual volatility at about 8%. Do you know why? Thanks.

    1. a) It's preferable to use spot, but I don't personally do it because of the hassle of getting sychronised data.

      b) I can't remember exactly what I said in my book but I target 25%. But the fundseeder figures is lower because I have set a higher notional account value. More here

  13. Hi Rob,
    I've just started live trading your chapter 15 system using you terriffic pysystemtrade code. So far, so good. In the meantime, I was interested in a recent article that described a very profitable yet simple system: If sp500 price is above 200 sma, invest it at 3x leverage; otherwise, invest in Tbills. They got a 27% CAGR, but with a max drawdown of 92%, over a very long backtest. That got me thinking about adding a stoploss feature. So, I have been backtesting a similar system with 4x leverage, but a 4% stoploss that is reset daily. I must be doing something wrong on my backtest, as I am seeing around 50% CAGR with only about a 50% max drawdown. This was backtested on the emini back to its start in 1997. I then bumped up the leverage to 10X, with a 1% stoploss, and I am seeing some crazy returns, with not unreasonable drawdowns. I am assuming a trading cost of $17 per contract. Any idea where a novice like me is going wrong? Thanks.

    1. A few things:

      a) it's not unknown to find relatively simple things that deliver a high SR on a single market. You don't know if the original authors found that by luck (this was the first thing they tested) or by testing lots of variations first. In eithier case it's dangerous to assume this SR is reproducible
      b) your backtest now contains futher 'implicit' fitting (trying different stoploss variations) which probably means your sharpe ratio is overstated due to overfitting
      c) as a long only system your returns are overstated because past equity returns and t-bill returns are likely to much lower in future (mainly due to lower inflation)
      d) because the realisable SR is probably a lot less than you think, running it with high leverage is extremely dangerous
      e) these kinds of systems (stocks or T-bills) are toxic with leverage because they have low average risk, but high peak risk. A market shock when you are 100% in equities and 10 times leverage will kill you before you can get out of your position.
      f) With a 1% stoploss you're going to be trading almost every day with a very short holding period. You need intraday data and you need to test the effect of delaying your fills for an hour... up to a day or even several days (think October 87 or September 2001). You also need to make sure your trading costs are spot on. What % of your account are you paying in costs annually?

      A pure test of this would be to run it on lots of markets, testing different SMA variations, testing different stoplosses, and allocating amongst these variations out of sample using price history that has realistic, and being conservative with fill times. You'd get a much lower SR.

      The basic idea of your system probably isn't crazy, but running it at 10x leverage IS crazy. Have another read of my book because there are many mistakes you're potentially making which I talk about at length in the book.

    2. Thanks for your comprehensive reply, Rob. I guess my main mistake was in assuming that my stoplosses would get filled fairly quickly with an acceptable amount of slippage. I didn't realize that they could be delayed several hours or days.

      Let's go back to the less outrageous system which is 4x leveraged. Let's assume another October 1987. Would my 4% stoploss be filled at close to 4%, or is that a naive assumption?

    3. It's safest to assume you'd have been filled at the low for the day - down around 22%.