News & Analysis
News & Analysis

Margin Call Podcast – S1 E1: Vee Leung Phan of Track Record Asia

20 January 2019 By GO Markets


Vee Leung Phan (@TrackRecordAsia) is the Founder of TrackRecord Asia and former Head of Trading across multiple divisions for Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley. Vee made his way into the industry by chance, after realising there was no real opportunity back home during the 1997 Asia Financial Crisis. Fast forward 13+ years and Vee had co-founded a hedge fund, run multiple divisions for both Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, and co-founded a machine learning tech startup.

TrackRecord Asia is a financial training academy for trading teams in banks and professional traders – designed to teach you the frameworks learnt in his days across first-class institutions.

In this episode we’ll cover:

  1. Singapore and Vee’s childhood in Kuala Lumpur
  2. Uni life in Manchester and how he got into trading
  3. Lessons learnt from his mother
  4. Career path and insight into the industry
  5. Vee’s trading training framework
  6. The biggest mistake in the business.


Jordan Michaelides: Margin Call is the podcast that gives you behind the scenes access to ups and downs of working in the Forex CFD industry. We interview the people that keep the show on the road, giving you insight into what makes the industry tick. The series is guest hosted by myself, Jordan Michaelides, and produced by the team at Neuralle Media. To learn more, visit go or take a look at the Go Market suite of products at

Disclaimer: Go Markets is a derivatives broker and Jordan Michaelides is the managing director of Neuralle Media. All opinions expressed by Jordan and podcast guests are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Go Markets, an AFSL license holder. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for financial decisions nor as an indication of future performance. Clients of go markets may hold positions in the derivatives mentioned. A financial services guide and product disclosure statement for our products are available at the website.

Jordan Michaelides: In this episode we spoke with Vee Leung Phan. Vee is the founder of track record HR and former head of trading across multiple divisions for Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley. Vee made his way into the industry by chance after realizing there was no real opportunity back home during the ‘97 Asian financial crisis. Fast forward 13 plus years and Vee has co- founded a hedge fund, he’s run multiple divisions for both Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley as well as cofounded a machine learning tech startup in Singapore.

Track record Asia is a financial trading academy for trading teams and banks, and professional traders alike. It is designed to teach you the frameworks learnt in his days across first class institutions that we cover in this episode today. Vee is a great guy with a wealth of experience across the industry. This is a brilliant episode where we cover Singapore and his childhood in Kuala Lumpur, University life in Manchester and how he actually got into trading, lessons learned from his mother, career path, his trading training framework from Track Record Asia, and things like biggest mistakes in this business.

Now, we have a special competition for you guys as well: Three listeners to this episode can win a free copy of Vee’s recommended trading book which is called ‘The Next Perfect Trade’, and that will be autographed by the author Alex Gurvich as well.

Participants will need to provide their feedback on his episode via , all submitted entries will also receive a free 12 week access to Track Record Asia’s weekly risk call recordings and the week ahead marker report, so, a nice little prize there for you if you’re willing to give it a go. If you enjoy this episode, do subscribe on your podcast app and share with your friends. With all that said, thanks so much for listening. Let’s get into the episode with Vee Leung Phan.

Vee, thank you very much for joining us on what I think is a very early morning in Singapore for you. First question for you, and probably the most important one is, what frustrates you the most about living in Singapore?

Vee Leung Phan: In Singapore, the most frustrating thing to say about it is the weather. It’s unreasonably hot, sometimes hot and humid. I think with better weather Singapore would be the perfect place on earth.

Jordan Michaelides: I was going to say what’s it like today? What’s the weather like?

Vee Leung Phan: It’s usually either hot or raining. It’s not raining, so it’s probably hot out there.

Jordan Michaelides: Interesting. Now you didn’t grow up in Singapore, I think, from memory, you spent your formative years in or just around the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. I’m curious as to what sort of your earliest memory of your own childhood?

Vee Leung Phan: That’s an interesting question. Yeah, I grew up in a small town outside off Kuala Lumpur, my earliest memory is really fuzzy, it’s literally fuzzy because I had really bad eyesight when I was really young, but nobody knew this. So, I was just going around thinking that that is normal for me to not be able to see clearly. I found out when I was about 10 years old that my eyesight was really bad because the teachers then started to realize I couldn’t really repeat anything on the board until I got really close to the front, and strangely enough even though my whole family is short sighted I was the only one who’s sight issue was not discovered because my mother kept thinking that because I could memorize most of the things I did see that my eyesight was good because I knew what was going on, but actually I couldn’t see much. It was really strange.

Jordan Michaelides: Did you get that fixed? Did you kick classes or did you eventually…

Vee Leung Phan: Yeah, I got glasses when I was 10 years old. I’m not sure how you guys score this but it was 400 for me. That’s huge, because most people start around 50 to a hundred.

Jordan Michaelides: Really…

Vee Leung Phan: Yeah. I eventually deteriorated to about a thousand, which is almost legally blind, so I’d had corrective glasses which are really thick, so I was one of those little kids with really thick glasses.

Vee Leung Phan: *chuckles* I can imagine that, how cliché’. That’s hilarious. When you were growing up was there anything in particular that you thought you were going to be as an adult, like a particular job?

Vee Leung Phan: Oh, yes. I was a very determined to be Spiderman, until I realized that wasn’t realistic, so, then I thought I’ll become a scientist because that’s what Peter Parker was. I was very set on being a scientist. As I grew older, I realized that being in Malaysia if you’re a scientist you probably end up researching about different strains of rice, rubber trees or palm trees, so I thought that’s not realistic, I’m not going to make any money from that, so, then I decided to settle on being an engineer and that’s what I studied in school. At university I did a degree in electronic engineering.

Jordan Michaelides: That’s right, yeah. You mentioned the university of Manchester, the Institute Of Science and Technology. You did a Bachelors Of Electronic Engineering, I think this was around the peak of the Asian financial crisis, right? Why go to Manchester, out of interest?

Vee Leung Phan: Why go to Manchester? I applied for Cambridge, they rejected me *laughs*. I wanted to go to Oxford or Cambridge, I decided to go to Cambridge because there was no test required during the selection process, I was quite lazy. They rejected me, so then, the best engineering school in the UK at a time, and probably still is, is the Imperial College Of London. They gave me a deferred entry, so I would go the next year and I thought, wow, this is silly, I don’t want that. So then I went to the next best, which was actually a very distant next best, which is the University of Manchester.

Jordan Michaelides: Interesting. I find it so funny that you mentioned that mentality, that Asian mentality, of not wanting to, I guess, waste your time and defer. I remember I had that as a kid, my family’s Greek so it’s sort of like a similar mentality that you get in those Southern European families where you just want to make money, and, I find it curious because, this was the peak of 97 when you graduated I think, or around that time, it seemed, at least in a few of your biographies, that there was a mention of no real job opportunities back home and you sort of stumbled your way into working for what was Chase Manhattan, now JP Morgan Chase, as you wanted to get in from a computer science perspective, but, eventually it seems you were working on the FX trading side. I’m curious, when you got into that bank, what were the elements that excited you enough to continue going on with trading, FX commodities and so forth? I’m just wondering what was going through your head at the time?

Vee Leung Phan: Well, I’d just finished school. I had no money at all, and they offered me a job and provided training, so I thought, that’s great, it pays way more than what I would have made as an engineer. At the time it was the peak of the NASDAQ boom. I applied for IT, I wanted to be in the IT department but they said they had no IT jobs but how about trading they asked. I said I had no clue what trading was, but that guy said, just give it a shot. I said, okay, whatever, I’ll just give it a shot and see what happens.

I went through all the tests, all the interviews, and truly I had no idea what I was in for. I told them as much at the beginning but said I have no clue what trading is, but I will learn if you are willing to teach me. I think they probably liked that because most of the people that were going there were from finance backgrounds, finance majors, maybe had PhDs and everybody seems to think they have figured out everything about what trading was. So, I went in with and open mind and I stayed because the money was good and I was being paid to learn for three month. There was a classroom-based training, so I was going to classes and after that it was just hanging out with different trading desks to see what they do. That was quite good for me, I thought it was quite cool given that all I had to do was turn up and learn and they’re paying me for it.

Jordan Michaelides: Happy days. I’m curious how you perceive yourself personality wise. I mean, my experience in the industry is you get two types of people generally, the type that just love the excitement of the trade, you know, the market environment, the pressure involved in it. And then you get the other types who are very calm, cool, and collected no matter what is going on. I’m curious as to how you see yourself. What sort of mentality do you sit within when it comes to trading the market?

Vee Leung Phan: Good question. I would like to think of myself as calm and collected, like James Bond, but probably that’s not true. In fact I’m quite animated at work, some people think it’s kind of strange that I’m always commenting on something, and, in fact, that’s why I got many opportunities at the early stage of my career, because I was observing every single market even if it really had nothing to do with me, you know, I’d be making comments that this thing is higher, this thing is moving. I was basically, I guess, the loud speaker for Bloomberg news, right? So, I was in a days where headlines were kind of difficult to find, I would be commenting on every single headline that came out and why markets were moving. That’s why I got quite a lot attention as a junior trader because, I was with this kid, right, and people thought he seems to be seems to be aware of what’s happening all around the world, but I was literally reading every single headline that comes out.

Jordan Michaelides: That’s, that’s so funny. And how you put your name out there through that sort of externalization, I really liked that. When you were growing up with the particular lessons that you hold with you today, maybe it’s a principle, a lesson, maybe it was something that was taught to you directly or indirectly from either of your parents.

Vee Leung Phan: I remember this one time my mother was driving me to school, she was always very suspicious of whether I was taking drugs or not because I was a really small kid and I didn’t seem to be growing at all, I look really thin then, and I was really small compared to my peers. She was always worried that I’d be bullied or I’d join a gang or something like that, succumb to peer pressured to join a gang. She said to me, uh, are you taking any drugs? I said no, we did that come from? She said I just wanted to make sure you know to never do drugs.

Then she says another thing that you need to know is never joined a gang. This was a huge problem in the neighbourhood school I was going to at a time. I wasn’t from a well-to-do family, we didn’t live in the best neighborhood so the schools were not that great. Right. There were gangs dominant at the time and is was either you were in a gang or you were being bullied by the gang, so she was always worried about that. Of course, I was kind of a nerd back then so that was very far from my, for my mind. I mean, who would recruit me into a gang anyway. This is where it gets interesting, she said if you do join, don’t be the henchman, you have to be the boss.

Jordan Michaelides: Wow. I liked that the first assumption was that you were doing drugs and you’re in a gang. That’s so funny.

Vee Leung Phan: Yeah. So, she says if you really need to join, you have to be the boss, you cannot be the henchman. At first this was really weird to me because I was very small kid, how would it be possible for a small kid to become the boss of the gang? She said to me, it really doesn’t matter how big you are in life, it’s all about how you carry yourself. She said you are like a chilli, we have different types of chili and the spiciest is the one that’s the smallest, she says you have to be just like that, you have to be the spiciest.

That’s a lesson my mom taught me. When I was really young, as I mentioned, my eyesight was really bad, so I did really poorly in school, I remember I didn’t really know how to read when I was six years old, and when I went to a school after kindergarten, I only knew 26 words in English from being taught A to Z examples, right? I only knew 26 words and I was really surprised when the boy next to me could spell boy, I was really stunned. I said, Oh wow, this guy’s a genius. How does he know this? When a teacher says, what’s B, I say ball, that was the only thing I knew only thing I knew. He says boy, and I thought, wow, how does he know boy. Then some other people said examples and I thought they were all geniuses.

Then the teachers had a conversation who my mother and told her, your son is a little bit slow, he doesn’t know much. That never deterred my mom, she always managed to convince me that I was doing really well, that as long as you do your best, it’s fine.

I was the worst in the classes in the beginning, until I had better eyesight, then I became a good student. Through it all she never doubted me and never made me feel like I was an idiot. She convinced me that as long as you try you can be the boss. Right. So, I grew up in a bit with sense that I was the chosen one, like I had this invulnerability and I could do anything that I want, I’d go try out for sports which I couldn’t do because the other kids were so much bigger than me, but I thought, I’ve got to try.

Jordan Michaelides: That’s really interesting. So, your mother instilled this initiative to just keep keeping on, which is interesting. She sounds like a great mum.

I’m curious, when I got into the nuts and bolts your career, I mean, I went back and looked at your career and you’ve done a lot. If you look at just what’s on LinkedIn you’ve worked across FX, interest rates, equity markets, multiple cities, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul for a while. I think of your beginnings at JP Morgan, you eventually worked at Deutsche Morgan Stanley, you co-founded a hedge with your old boss from JP Morgan, so there’s a lot going on there and I just wonder, looking back at your career, as both a trader and a manager, what stands out to you is the biggest insight from your time in the industry?

Vee Leung Phan: I traded most of the developed markets and quite a lot of the emerging markets, and in different countries, as you said, and, it was very interesting for me that I could figure out the markets very quickly, regardless of their idiosyncrasies. I think that was because, at the heart of it, every market is still driven by human activity, right? Human instincts, human behaviours, that’s the commonality that runs through every single market, so, it came to a point where in our philosophy at Chase at a time, it really doesn’t matter what your background is. You could be an Asian guy, but you could be parachute into Mexico and figure out the markets within one week to two weeks and then be really good at it after a few months.

Of course, at the time, in the London trading room, the Asian guy typically was the IT guy. I always felt that maybe it was a bit difficult for me, but my boss, who I later co-founded the hedge fund with, he ran the Scandinavian interest rate desk at that time, I guess I was the first guy originally from Asia to be trading in the Scandinavian markets. At the time it was still an emerging market, almost all my colleagues were all blonde with blue eyes. For some of them the first time they saw me eating ramen they thought it was very strange stuff *laughs*.

Jordan Michaelides: And this is in the ‘80s, was it?

Vee Leung Phan: This was in 1997.

Jordan Michaelides: Interesting. If I think of how much London has changed, even just in the last seven years when it comes to Asian food, it’s quite amazing. You could see that eating that it would sort of open a whole new world, you know?

Vee Leung Phan: I think they were really just not adventurous. They’re always having a salad or a sandwich. It was just a new experience for them.

Jordan Michaelides: So you think the biggest insight then, from your time was that in the industry, is that companies are essentially able to build up a person with a certain type of framework or certain type of mindset or principles and that allows that person to jump into any market and do as they please. Do you think that’s accurate?

Vee Leung Phan: Yes. So, the commonalities of different markets are similar in a sense? Of course, the products are very different, it’s actually easier for an interest rate trader to trade FX, than for an FX trader to trade interest rates because there are so many more dimensions in interest rates. But besides that, if you’re a trader in Singapore and go to Hong Kong, it should only take a very take a very short period of time before you can learn how to trade that market. Some markets are more difficult than others if the news is in the local language, so you have a slightly slower reaction time, but generally we want people to get to that kind of level of expertise which, like you said, is basically a framework, you learn a set of principles to trading.

Jordan Michaelides: That sort of brings me to what you’re doing now, which is both Track Record and Shentilium. In Singapore, and after your career within the industry, you had a few years off, taking a sabbatical, you now essentially run these two firms and, form memory, I think Track Record is more about financial training, like a financial trading Academy, which essentially conducts training for trading teams and banks as well as training programs for retail traders. I found that really interesting because now that you’ve spoken about that concept of of parachuting someone into a certain market, no matter what, that you’re sort of taking that same mentality and teaching people and saying, hey, it doesn’t really matter what market you’re in, so long as you find follow these guidelines and principles, you will genuinely be able to work your way into a market as long as you’re passionate about it. I’m curious then, what are your general principles, how do you sort of generally teach people about this sort of stuff in your programs? What are some of the general principles that come from that?

Vee Leung Phan: After I left finance, after I left Morgan Stanley, I did all the usual stuff like travel, learning things I wanted to learn, doing things I wanted to do to do, but I also spent a lot of time thinking about if I was given the opportunity to talk to my younger self, how would I teach him? How can I teach him to be a better person, a better trader? That’s how I came up with the trading framework. I call it a framework because it’s not like a set of rules, it’s a set of principles where you can adjust based on your own personality and how you can become a proficient trader.

You mentioned it’s interesting to you that our philosophy at the time was that we have to reach a level of proficiency where we can be parachuted into any market, in case some people go on vacation or there is a crisis, we will to be able to trade different markets in a very short period of time. One of the most common questions I get when I talk to people about my training program is, they love to ask, especially from the retail sector, are you teaching FX or are you teaching interest rates? They don’t talk about interest rates they always say FX, commodities or equities, and they are very confused when I say my trading methods are agnostic, it really doesn’t matter what markets you trade, as long as you follow these principles you will be successful over long periods of time.

It’s very different from the trading providers that are commonly out there, especially for the retail sector, where they focus on the product, which I think is kind of a waste of time in the age of Google where you can just go online and learn all the product knowledge that you want for free, I don’t believe in teaching people stuff that they can get online and charging a fee for it. If they’re not teaching product knowledge then it’s usually something that’s very specific, they give it a cool name, call it their patented whatever, or the 3 principle management method, all these esoteric names of trading methods, and I think this is what captures the interest of retail traders because they always think that there’s a secret to the trading that professionals know which they’re not telling us.

It’s like the Holy grill and this guy on the internet is going to reveal it to me. It’s a silver bullet, a secret method, and they are only sharing with you because they like you so much or because they’ve already made so much money that now they just want to share because Wall Street is taking advantage of Main Street and now they want to give something back, but only a limited amount of time, so call us now, you’ll be one of the few people they want to teach. People believe this, I find that kind of strange.

So, my trading framework is based on a set of principles where I believe that the training process is simple, but it is not easy, and it’s not easy because most of the things that you want to do, that you are your engineered by your DNA to do, and your human instincts, your human tendencies are really bad for trading. You tend to be greedy, you tend to be fearful, you tend run with the mob, rush with the crowd into different things. That’s all instinct that served us well in the Savannah when humans we’re evolving, but it’s not good at all for trading. This is what my framework does, it gives you a set of principals, a set off methods that you can use to stop yourself from blowing it up.

Jordan Michaelides: Yeah, it’s just preventing that. I remember when I first got into the industry, when I was a lot younger, I lost a lot of money trading oil futures and that was sort of the moment where I took a step back and realized that it’s all about protecting that downsize. I read a brilliant book about this, it’s called ‘What I learned losing $1 million’. It’s by an old CME exchange executive and how he lost, basically his whole life, how he destroyed his life. It’s very, very fascinating, it’s one of those things that people are so often looking at the upside, but very rarely looking at the downside, which sort of brings me to the thought, you know, of the people you see, whether they’re in the banking industry or they’re retail traders, what do you think is the biggest mistake or waste of time that people make in this business?

Vee Leung Phan: I guess the biggest mistakes that lead to eventual financial ruin is vanity. Again, it’s a very human instinct, they allow success to go to their head, this happens for retail traders and professional traders, they start drinking their own kool-aid they think they’ve figured it out. That’s why most traders go through periods of a success and then an extremely bad result. They start to make money, they become more casual in their risk management, they start to take a lot more risk and blow their bank roll. That’s the case with every successful trading story that you here, all the guys who are really successful in trading have long successful careers that that spans a number of years, not a flash in the pan or catching a bubble.

When asked for the secret to their success, they will always credit it to a similar incident where they nearly lost everything or they did lose everything and then they realized that the most important thing is to stay in the game. When you start to get over confident, your ego gets in the way, you start to believe that you’re the best ever, that you’ve figured it all out. As I look back upon the years on my career I find that the times that I lost the most money was always after a period of success.

Jordan Michaelides: That’s very interesting. Now, we’re already running out of time, I’m going to have to try and convince you to come back on for another episode because there’s a lot here I wanted to cover on the market itself, cryptocurrencies and technical analysis, but I’m going to have to finish off with some short, fast questions for you. What does your morning routine currently look like?

Vee Leung Phan: I wake up and check the news from overnight. That’s quite easy now because we have a forum for this and I’ll just read through the forum and see exactly what’s going on in the markets

Jordan Michaelides: And what about in the evening? How do you sort of decompress at night? What do you get up to typically?

Vee Leung Phan: To decompress, I have dinner with my friends, I like to read a bit or maybe watch a movie, nothing special, there’s no secret routine.

I do try a bit of meditation now and then, when I’m going to go to sleep. Just 5 or 10 minute of medication. It helps.

Jordan Michaelides: And if you had to give the book to the audience, if you had to choose one book for Christmas time this year, something that’s been the most influential on you, what would that book be?

Vee Leung Phan:          If we are talking about trading, my favorite trading book is called The Next Perfect Trade, it’s by a friend of mine I worked with at JP Morgan New York, he was a kind of a legend on the floor is one of the most successful traders that I’ve worked with. He’s put down his thoughts on how to find the next perfect trade

I’ve been witness to the real deals, seen the way he’s conducted his trading. There are a lot of books out there that are written a friend and people who profess to know what trading is, and there are some real good books about trading, but quite often it concentrates on the life of the trader. This book talks about the process of trading, it’s a good book to have if you’re talking about trading. In fact, at Track Record we have a few autographed copies that we would they have to share with members of the audience who write in with any thoughts or questions they have about this podcast.

Jordan Michaelides: So that’s by Alex Gurevich , is it?

Vee Leung Phan: Yes, correct.

Jordan Michaelides: I’m going to have to check that book out. Last question for you, what has been the best purchase that’s had the most positive impact or something that affects your life in a big way? That’s under $200 USD.

Vee Leung Phan: I guess that would be an internet connection? *laughs*

Jordan Michaelides: *laughs* I like that. Now, where can people find you on social media? On other websites and whatnot.

Vee Leung Phan: They can check out our website , my email address is there, they can email with comments or questions.

Jordan Michaelides: And for social media, on Twitter and Instagram it’s TrackRecordAsia. Vee, thank you so much for doing this. It’s been a pleasure having you on. Like I said, it’d be great if we can twist your arm to come back on because there’s still a lot I want to cover. Thank you for getting up early and doing this with us.

Vee Leung Phan: No problem at all, it’s been great, thank you. Thanks for having me. I’d love to come back.

Jordan Michaelides: Awesome.

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