Anne Whitby FSTA kicks off our series of interviews with leading technical analysts. As part of our social media programme, and in an effort to help and educate budding professional and amateur chartists, this series aims at giving a light-hearted peek into the work routines and life, likes and dislikes, of people well known in the industry. What technical analysis means to them, how they got involved, balancing life and work in 24 hour markets – the things that really matter.
Aping the format in national newspapers which over the years have done ‘a day in the life of’, ‘if they could see me now’, and ‘my coat of arms would be’, our aims are more modest. We will focus on the analysis side of their lives, but obviously educational background, business conditions, and age all have a role to play.
We hope you enjoy the pieces and that you will put forward names of your heroes and heroines for inclusion. Death need not be a barrier! Literary research, friends, and family might be willing to contribute.
Anne Whitby FSTA
I was rather nervous approaching Anne with this project (she is someone I respect and I therefore feared rejection – which had been the case with another potential interviewee who preferred to hide his light under a bushel), she kicked off by saying, ’I’d be willing, but I don’t think my answers would be particularly useful and/or relevant for today’s younger members’. Just like her, the self-effacing techie that she is.
She immediately launched into: ‘Bear in mind that I started in 1972 (and has been a member of the society ever since, holding a handful of committee positions) and it was a whole different world.’ Yes, that is precisely one of the many reasons we invited you to talk to us!
So to our questions – and her answers which were superbly brief, witty, and to the point. I later twisted her arm to pad them out a tad.
Q: Who or what introduced you to technical analysis?
A: ‘An ad in the Telegraph.’ How interesting that good, innovative employment opportunities were advertised in mainstream media – which is probably not the case today. She then added, ‘to be exact, the Telegraph advert asked for “an extremely bright girl” – irresistible, no? – which would be W-A-Y out of line today!’ Yes, Anne, and as you hint, makes today’s job market is a duller place – with which I’m sure many members will agree with.
Q: Where and how did you study?
A: ‘I haven’t ever really “studied” TA. I went to work with David Fuller at Chart Analysis on Bishopsgate where we had to draw our own charts before we could analyse them. The first thing was always updating paper charts!’ Her next comment will no doubt stick in the throats of younger members: ‘While I don’t think people would get away with not studying today, I’d guess quite a lot of the “senior” members of the STA didn’t do much, i.e. not just me’.
So I Googled her and here is what it says:
Anne Whitby has a degree in Economics and Economic History from the University of York. She has spent her professional life in the City (of London) as a Technical Analyst, working both in research companies and an investment bank, CSFB. She is a past Chairman of the Society of Technical Analysts and has considerable experience of conducting seminars, writing, and appearing on business television as a commentator on financial markets. She was Managing Director of Chart Analysis for many years and is a well-known analyst and pundit with a thorough understanding of the currency, derivative and stock markets.
Another one in hiding!
Q: What is/are your essential methods? Who is your hero?
A: ‘Very basic methods and my heroine would probably be Bronwen Wood’, she of the STA memorial award fame. Digging further she tells me, ‘what I call “basic” is support and resistance, trends and the way the instrument is trading – is it accelerating/losing momentum, has the consistency of a trend changed, in what way is a trading range developing and where is it in relation to other congestion areas, to assess whether it is more likely a top/bottom or a continuation pattern. And I like to look at longer-term monthly charts to see where we are in the big picture. For indicators I usually stick with RSI and slow stochastic and my main interest in these is divergence almost more than absolute levels.’
Q: What are the best/worst aspects of this work? Please give us a brief outline of a typical working day.
A: ‘Requires a lot of thought – best is when you get markets spot on correct, worst when you get them WRONG!’
Her working day has changed over the years and she was ‘involved in different sorts of research provision. As to my day-to-day, while some of my 4Cast work was full time, some part-time, some intraday, some 2-3 months plus view (which I much prefer doing), the actual structure of a day would be the same. When I was doing intraday I had to do a lot of markets in a specific order every day, (plus some rather longer term, about a month, background comments). When it was medium-term views I had a specific set of markets each month (I did them over two days, once a month), but the order of writing was my choice.’
‘Basically in all cases it was: look at a number of charts of whatever, decide my view, write a comment, prepare electronic charts to go with the comment, put them all together in a logical sequence, transmit. The length of time to produce each comment obviously partly depended on the time frame (medium terms were much longer comments and had more charts, intradays ‘pithy’) and significantly how long it took to decide my view! Some charts as you know just ‘speak’ and you know straight away, but others are a little more ambiguous.’
Q: Do you regret your career choice? Did you have a Plan B and what was it?
A: ‘No regrets, didn’t really choose anyway but fell into it. Plan B if it didn’t work was probably the next accident. We ARE talking 1970’s and careers for women were generally a lot less considered’. Also let’s not forget that in 1970 only 8.4 per cent of the population went into further education – and women were an even bigger minority.
Q: What’s the best advice you were given and what would you say to someone starting out today?
A: ‘I can’t remember who gave me this advice, or maybe it was distilled from various comments, but it was that I should always look at a chart objectively, and never try to fit the chart to any pet theory I’d derived from wherever. I think that will always hold true. The other piece of advice is that when you get it wrong, (and you will sometimes), try and work out why you reached the wrong conclusion. There should be lessons to be learnt there. Markets being markets, however, and sometimes perverse, you may not be able to work out why. In that case, move on, as they say…’
Q: Which areas of further research might you be interested in or suggest others should look into?
A: ‘This is very much not my expertise…’
Q: Which two books would you recommend?
A: ‘I’ve only read right through a couple of books. David Fuller didn’t encourage it – “do it, not read about it” was his maxim. Of course there were a lot less books about TA in the 70’s anyway. Only one on point & figure that one of my father’s colleagues had to get from the US for me!’ Called ‘Study Helps in Point & Figure Technique’ by Alexander Wheelan first published 1947 she now would not now recommend it except as an historical text. She then adds, ‘at first I was using exclusively P&F; now I look at all sorts of charts.’
Q: Please comment about things we have missed; your feelings and worries about the subject.
A: Clever to the end she says, ‘it was all a lot of fun – serious, but fun. I have a few worries. I feel that TA still seems to be regarded with some suspicion by many on the fundamental side. However, the “Behavioural Finance” label seems to be much more acceptable. And where better to observe behaviour than in charts? In fact David Fuller has always described his work as Behavioural Technical Analysis (and I analyse in a similar way), and Michael Smyrk has given lectures on Market Psychology for many years, possibly proving that there is nothing new under the sun…… So I think we need to push that element – well the name anyway – to increase acceptance.’
Here I must say I concur with her wholeheartedly about other disciplines cannibalising technical analysis – being a Social Psychology graduate with thirty-plus years working as a technical analyst with economists – the gloves may come off.