Your Host

Nationality: Amerikanski

Vintage: 1971

Haircut: None

Grape: Pinotage

Base of Operations:
Right here in the Sunshine State

Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering (Controls & Communications)
Master of Science, Electrical Engineering (High Frequency Electronics)
Passed all 3 Exams of the Chartered Financial Analyst Program (CFA)

I am an independent contractor. I work mostly from home but often from hotel rooms and resorts when my wife and I are traveling. Half the day I’m a stock analyst for an East Coast money managing firm. The other half I’m an electrical engineer for a West Coast wireless communications firm. In 2011, I gave up the engineering work to make space for a handful of other projects. So far, I’m making an accounting profit but not yet an economic one.

With no formal job title, I’ve been known to introduce myself as a Quantitative Freelancer when trying to impress, and to claim that my engineering, machine learning, statistics, and signal processing skills allow me to basically work in any field I choose since “it’s all just math”. If I sense I haven’t fully dazzled with my brain for hire shtick, I might resort to pushing my eBook, showing off my iPhone apps, arguing that juries should be instructed to simply multiply conditional probabilities, or throwing down some Schwyzerdütsch.

Contractor\’s Cubicle

This is my office most days. A small, but not insignificant, portion of my income goes toward maintaining a proper inventory of nag champa, as a smoldering pyre must be constantly tended to, to throw the mosquitoes off scent. Let’s just hope Sai Baba and the Surgeon General stay on good terms.

I’m all about diversified income streams from multiple part-time gigs, so don’t be surprised to also find me artfully arranging your chirashi deluxe at the sushi shack, piloting your intercontinental 747 into Dubai under sandstorm IFR, or analyzing your cerebrospinal fluid for rare protein biomarkers. I’m telling you man, it’s all just math!

Areas of Expertise (Engineering Version):
For over a decade, I did algorithm development for wireless and wired digital communication systems. My specialty is in designing systems that can still successfully talk to each other when noise is huge, signal power is low, or both. You might be thinking deep-space signals arriving from NASA probes near the Kuiper belt, but it’s actually the black art of power line communications.

Briefly, your house already has electrical wiring that is used to distribute power to multiple outlets in each room. There’s no reason you can’t simultaneously use that same wiring (at different frequencies) as a big LAN to network computers, share internet, and route HD video. There are no holes to drill and wires to run as with ethernet or coax, fewer dead zones than with Wi-Fi, and unless you’re living in an apartment building, neighbors can’t even see your traffic so you have an additional layer of network security on top of encryption.

I specialize in orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) and most areas of the associated physical layer: error correction coding (LDPCs, turbo), differential and coherent modulation, optimal interleaving, frequency offset compensation, channel adaptation, SNR estimation, impulse and RFI mitigation, and just about anything associated with signal processing. I can also talk enough spatial multiplexing, beamforming, and cooperative diversity to pass interview questions about MIMO, though in reality I’ve only just dabbled.

Collision Detection…

Areas of Expertise (Investing Version):
While I’ve certainly passed thousands of hours modeling and testing my own quant strategies by programming Java & Matlab to scrape all sorts of financial data from the web and crunch it in various ways, my paid work has mostly concerned good old fashioned value investing. The person I work for is a non-quant who successfully emulates the Buffett style of looking for franchise businesses selling at or below a fair price. My (selective) readings of Greenwald and Greenblatt have historically made me interested in just about anything with a high EBIT/EV, but my mixed success with this approach is drawing me closer to the Buffett light.

Briefly, most investors overpay for stocks by being too optimistic about future growth. The antidote is to either (1) fish in the severely beaten-down part of the market, looking for companies whose fire sale net assets per share are worth more than the current stock price (2) fish in the broad market, valuing companies based on current earnings only, as it’s ridiculous to think anyone could predict the future! or (3) seek first to understand the various types of competitive advantages, and only invest in companies with durable economic moats as you’ll do quite well from compounding as long as you don’t buy at a blatantly stupid price.

I started my investing career years ago thinking I was at (3). Then I entered that terrifying world called the CFA program, where the more you learn the less you feel you know. It pushed me down to (1). Countless hours of study and a few CFA exams later, I finally clawed my way back to thinking that I could at least attempt (2). But even maintaining current earnings can be tricky for a company with no competitive advantage. What other option is there than to go with (3)?

All Lines Are Open!

To Contact:
I prefer comments to blog posts so that others may benefit from the discussion, but if you want to contact me privately, no problem! Please just prove you’re not a spam-bot by assembling my email address as follows:
Start with the tea: sencha.
Follow that with the vintage: 71.
Follow that with the @ sign.
Finally add gmail.com.

15 thoughts on “About”

  1. Hello sir, please can you kindly recommend books for someone considering putting in for the CFA exam? Thanks.

  2. Thanks for writing Jide. Unfortunately there’s not much to recommend as when you register for a CFA exam they send you 6 large textbooks that contain everything you need to know. Some college finance courses cover the same material, but I studied engineering in college so I wouldn’t know what particular texts would be similar to what the CFA Institute gives you.

    Hope that helps,

  3. Just curious…if you want to make a living as a trader, or potentially move into finance professionally (as a trader), why do the CFA program? The CFA is designed primarily for would be fundamental analysts (credit and equity) and institutional portfolio managers. The CFA curriculum doesn’t lend itself particularly well to algorithmic trading, especially short term momentum strategies based on chart analysis (hence the limited discussion of technical analysis in the curriculum).

    If it’s a personal challenge, OK, I get it. Otherwise, I have to wonder why you’d put yourself through the ringer. I ask the same question to would be investment bankers sitting for the exams too. All the effort but 99% of bankers and traders don’t have, or care, about the CFA.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to write Jorge.

    When I first started the CFA program I really didn’t know what I’d be learning in terms of charting, fundamental analysis, algorithmic trading, etc. All I knew was that the program was respected in the investment community, I could do it from home in my free time, and it seemed like the easiest path to getting a more well-rounded investing education without having to go back to college.

    That was what got me initially interested, and then when everyone I talked to elaborated on how hard and challenging the program is, my ego smelled blood in the water and I had signed up for Level 1 before I knew what hit me. 🙂

  5. Hey, that’s great. You’re an engineer wanting to have a CFA. I am a Chemical Physicist with a CFA. But I did mine long time ago, got my CFA in 2002, when the exams were much easier.
    But sadly, CFA is not useful to me, especially that now I am sitting as board member of few government-linked companies (or sovereign-wealth fund as they like to call it) involved in airlines, electricity, car-manufacturing, airports, postal services and hospitals. (sounds like a neo-central planning government model, eh. Not sure how this is different from the Soviet communist model)
    But CFA did escalate my career to where I am today, without which I would have to wait until I am 50-something.

  6. Just stumbled across your website today and it’s been quite informative so far 🙂 Thanks for writing.
    Was really really scared about attempting the CFA being a Chem engg by training and just 22 to compound that fact.
    However reading your posts have inspired me to take it up if for nothing else then to challenge myself for it and see how far I can go. Come from a community completely absorbed in the stock market and business worlds and hope this helps. Any insight if it will?
    And the bookmark has been added to my quick read list 😀
    Wish you best of luck for the level 3 exam 😀

  7. Hello there.
    I’ve found your site through the searching of matlab algorithms to access stock data. Loved your scripts, they’re being very useful to me.
    I’ve identified myself a little bit with your persona, I’m also engineer and master(Control systems though), from brazil, and now i’m quitting everything i was doing to jump in the world of portfolio optimization and assets pricing.
    Just wanted to say that your site is great. I’ll keep visiting it…
    and I completely agree, it’s all math….

  8. Hi im majoring in economics, and I got the idea today to attempt to make a program to analyze stock data to look for trends. So i googled the topic “stock analysis program” and found out that you and many others have beat me to it. I was wondering if you could share any advice?

  9. Just cleared all three levels of the CFA exams and deciding what to do with the new “achievement” and how to monetize it. How do you decide that it was time to leave engineering and concentrate fully in finance? Similar to you, I have advanced degrees in engineering but I am still undecided if I want to leave engineering behind.

  10. congrats su. you’re one of the 20% who stuck it out and saw it through.

    i don’t think you need to leave engineering behind if you don’t want to. i probably would have carried on consulting part time as an engineer and part time as an equities analyst indefinitely but the engineering company i was consulting for got acquired and acquiring company said i had to either become a full time employee or stop consulting, so i chose to give it up and just continue with the finance.

    it certainly felt at the time like i was closing the engineering chapter of my life but that hasn’t really been true. i still spend a lot of time modeling and exploring ideas as well as doing programming, both for myself and for the occasional paying client. i just haven’t sought out another ongoing engineering gig as with no kids, no debt, a little investing income, my consulting, my wife’s work, and living cheaply in a college town, it hasn’t been necessary.

    i really love math and statistics and could easily imagine taking on new engineering work that sounded exciting and wouldn’t require me to give up the finance gig. hope that helps.

  11. Hi,
    Do you know of matlab routines capable of downloading data from stock markets othe then the USA ones ?

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