Matt Choi is a professional trader as well as the founder and chief strategist at trading education company, Certus Trading. He has more than 17 years of trading experience and is the co-author of The Winning Way, a book explaining the mindset required for successful trading.
A Chartered Market Technician (CMT), Matt Choi has traded stocks, exchange-traded funds, options, commodities, futures and currency. Before devoting himself full-time to the markets, Matt turned around a distressed car dealership and sold it for multi 7-figures. He holds an MBA from McMaster University in Hamilton.
Matt’s experience and knowledge was accumulated after years of trading his own money, and not always with stellar results. Having been through the self-taught approach, he knows first-hand the common mistakes of the typical trader and has developed profitable strategies as well as a winning mindset he says can beat the markets.
Matt Choi enjoyed the new-found freedom that his trading success brought and he wanted to share his knowledge with other traders so that they could experience something similar. Certus Trading offers practical trading education that can achieve consistent winning results. The programs emphasize strategies that work across multiple asset classes. Certus Trading is designed to help traders develop a plan that is not only suited to their trading personality but will also help them achieve consistent profits.
Q: What led you to get into trading? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Matt Choi: My grandfather was a stock broker and investor back in Hong Kong. When I was 10 years old, I was in Grade 4 and I was done with school most days by noon. My parents worked long hours, so my grandfather took care of me in the afternoons. He had to go to the Hong Kong Stock exchange twice a week to settle his transactions, and he allowed me to tag along. Remember there was no internet back in the days, so he had to make the trip to the exchange.
The bus ride to and from the exchange was 45 minutes one-way, and it was during this time that my grandfather taught me about the markets and his investing philosophy. His research was thorough, and over the years he accumulated millions of high-dividend bank stocks and communication stocks. These stocks became multi-billion dollar companies, in turn their stocks multiplied 100 folds with multiple splits along the way. My grandfather worked hard and smart to build his wealth, and his influence when I was a kid was what got me interested in the markets later in life.
By the time I started trading, the markets had changed and my grandfather’s buy-and-hold approach no longer worked. So my biggest struggle was to find a style of trading that is consistently profitable, and more importantly, sustainable long term. I put a lot of time and effort into trading. When I had a corporate job, I would study the markets at night – I even tried day trading Hong Kong stocks, or night trading I should say since I am in Canada. I became pretty good at day trading, but I was super exhausted every day from constantly watching the screen.
So I decided to change to swing trading for my own sake. But it wasn’t easy because there was just so much noise in the markets that it was very difficult to focus. I remember being constantly bombarded with news, rumors, earnings reports, politics, economic policies – and the problem is a lot of times all the information are conflicting. Talk about confusion – I remember it was like deer-in-headlights.
That was around the time when I met my late mentor, George Fontanills. Long story short, I spent a couple of years trading with him. He taught me everything about trading, gave me a set of strategies that I still use today, and most importantly, he shaped my mind to think like a trader. He taught me technical patterns and how to be a contrarian and follow the big money instead of being the herd. Those two years with George – I was super focused and it really took me from zero to hero. Without him I wouldn’t have the trading success that I enjoy today.
Q: You ran a successful car dealership, now you run a successful trading education company. What is the secret to your success?
Matt Choi: The key is to dive into the deep end and master your trade, pun intended. Let’s start with the car dealership. To be honest, the car business was pretty straightforward. I’ve always been a process-oriented guy, whether it be sales, marketing, customer service, parts, there is always specific processes to follow. When I first took over the dealership, it was a mess. So I decided to immerse myself into each department and fully understand what my employees are struggling with and what they need to succeed. I spent 6 months selling cars on the floor, and I never told the customers that I am the owner. I wanted to prove to my people that if they follow the process, it will work. Most importantly, over those 6 months I earned their respect and everything was on the upswing from there on. I immersed myself in all the other departments, and facilitated them working together. Eventually I became very hands off because my employees work well together with mutual understanding and respect. This gave me a lot more time to focus on my trading.
The same deep-dive approach applies to trading as well. When I started trading I over-complicated things. I had over 20 indicators on my charts, a gazillion filters, 6 monitors on my desk, 2 super-fast gaming computers, 100 different strategies. It was just way too much and way too confusing. Now, I only use a couple of indicators, I base my trading decision on repetitive patterns that can be automated, and I trade with 1 single laptop. I used to be strapped to my desk when I was trading. Now, I trade when I want and where I want.
Of course I worked very hard too. I believe in a strong work ethic and it doesn’t mean you have to work 18 hours a day — far from it. What it means is you have to dive deep and understand what you are doing, be a specialist if you will. Most traders trade this and that with zero focus. When I met George, he told me don’t be a jack-of-all-trades, pun-intended. So I started trading only Crude Oil, and mastered it. I know everything there is to know about crude. After being successful trading crude, I applied the same work ethics, principles, and processes to trading other commodities, stock options, and then currencies.
You have to lay a good foundation and build up your knowledge. I’ve met and worked with a lot of traders over the years, and those who have the shiny-object-syndrome never succeed. Those who did extremely well are those who work really smart to understand all nuances with the markets, and they take 100% responsibility for their actions and results.
Q: Why do you think so many entrepreneurs, such as yourself, are attracted to the idea of trading various financial products, such as equities, futures, options, and forex?
Matt Choi: It is usually a combination of a few things that draw people to trading.
The most common one is the potential to make lots of money. Trillions of dollars are being traded every day, and just being able to get a tiny piece of that pie will set us up for life. There is a lot of leverage in the markets and of course it can be a double-edged sword, but if used cautiously with proper risk management, leverage can really spring-board a trader’s success.
Then there is the lifestyle. What other business allows you to work and potentially make a ton of money? What other business allows you to choose how much time you want to spend working each day? What other business allows you the mobility to work from anywhere in the world? I love to travel and see the world with my wife and my son, I want my son to grow up and be a global citizen, be accepting and understand of different cultures and beliefs. I have family overseas that I want to spend time with on a regular basis. What other business allows me to do all that?
And finally it is the challenges trading the markets that draws me to this game. I am competing against millions of traders every single day, and some of them are extremely intelligent. I recognize and accept the fact that I won’t be right 100% of the time, but I just love to compete and play against the best of the best.
Q: You could have continued your winning ways in the markets, but in addition to trading, you opted to start a trading education company. What was the motivation behind that?
Matt Choi: After I went full time as a trader, some of my friends were curious about my trading. They saw how happy I was, how much extra time I was able to spend with my family, how much my wife and I were able to travel, and they wanted that lifestyle too. Of course most of them were tire-kickers and really didn’t have the discipline to trade. But the few who had it in them, I started casually helping them and in a few months they started to make money. I felt really good about helping them, so I thought why not help others too?
So I started charging money for my trading programs, and that helps to weed out the people who are not serious about success. As an entrepreneur, this is also an extra income stream as well. Why not help others succeed and make money at the same time? Not only that, a portion of the money also goes towards charity. And one day, when I don’t feel like trading anymore, I can still help others through Certus Trading. Fast forward to today, I really enjoy getting emails from my students sharing their successes with me. So seeing my students do well gives me the biggest satisfaction for sure.
Q: There is no shortage of courses designed to help traders make money. How do you make Certus Trading’s offerings stand out from the crowd?
Matt Choi: I mentioned earlier that I am a very process-oriented trader, so one thing you can expect from my courses and programs is that they are very methodical. I like to give my students the step-by-step details so they can easily follow. Then, as they become more advanced traders, I show them all the nuances to further enhance their consistency.
I am a swing trader to I teach my students the same. Typically I am in my trades anywhere from a couple of days to a few months. I use software tools to scan for trades systematically, and as such I don’t need to be trading all day. And once I get into trades, I set my stop losses where appropriate and exercise proper risk management. So, if you are looking for day trading, I am not a good mentor for you. However, if your personality is such where you prefer to trade less and take the swings in the markets, then you can me a good fit for my trading style.
I think all successful traders stand out for their own unique reasons. You need to find a mentor who you resonate with. You need to find someone who trades at a similar time frame or speed, someone who trades markets that you are interested in, and even someone who has similar outlooks in life. If those criteria all line up, then chances are it would be a good fit for you and you will be successful.
Q: As an entrepreneur, do you see yourself as role model for younger traders?
Matt Choi: Absolutely. I truly enjoy conversing with younger traders. Kids these days are exposed to so much more information than when I was a kid. Recently I went back to my high school and gave a talk to a Grade 12 class. In a short hour, I shared with them the fundamentals of chart analysis, the symmetry and patterns in the markets, and methods of finding good setups. I was amazed as to how fast the students picked up the concept. In fact, one kid was explaining to me how he shorted cannabis stocks that he deemed over-valued, and another kid is building a strong dividend stock portfolio because he prefers passive income. I was very impressed. I asked myself … what the heck was I doing when I was in Grade 12? So I love giving back by spending time with younger traders and sharing my 2 cents.