Last Updated on 14 October, 2021 by Samuelsson

William Eckhardt is an American investor, commodities and futures trader, and fund manager. He began investing in 1974 after he finished his four years of doctoral research at the University of Chicago in mathematical logic.

However, he never completed the Ph.D. program in mathematics, admitting that he left graduate school for the trading pit after an unexpected change in thesis advisors. Although he left academia prematurely, William had published several papers in academic journals.

William spent his early trading years on the floor. He eventually abandoned this activity-filled arena for a more analytical approach — system-based trading. For over a decade, he recorded success trading his own account, primarily based on the Signals he got from the models he developed but supplemented by his own market judgment.

His account grew by an average of 62% for over five years, ranging from a 7% loss in 1989 to an incredible 234% gain in 1987. Since 1978, he averaged better than 60% per year in his own trading, with 1989 as the only losing year.

In describing his trading approach, William explained:

“Basically, I would buy when weak hands were selling and sell when they were buying. In retrospect, I’m not sure that my strategy had anything to do with my success. If you assume that the true theoretical price is somewhere between the bid and the offer, then if you buy on the bid, you’re buying the market for a little Less than it’s worth. Similarly, if you sell on the offer, you’re selling it for a little more than it’s worth. Consequently, on balance, my trades had a positive expected return, regardless of my strategy. That fact alone could very well have represented 100% of my success.”

He found the Eckhardt Trading Company (“ETC”) in 1991 as an alternative investment management firm — specialized in trading global financial futures and commodities. The firm managed over $1 billion in managed accounts, domestic and offshore products. The firm’s clients include corporate, private, institutional investors, and funds of funds.

In 1993, his article “Probability Theory and the Doomsday Argument” was published in the Philosophical Mind journal. The follow-up article “A Shooting-Room view of Doomsday” was also published in the same journal in 1997.

He believed that the correct application of statistics and mathematical models was a key concept for successful trading. But, he highlighted the problems in using these concepts, saying that “the analysis of commodity markets is prone to pitfalls in statistical inference, and if one uses these tools without having a good foundational understanding, it’s easy to get in trouble.”

Before he founded ETC, William was also involved in the Turtle Trading Experiment, organized by his partner and friend, Richard Dennis. The objective of the experiment was to judge a philosophical disagreement between the two partners — that is, to determine if the skills of a successful trader could be reduced to a set of rules. The experiment was a huge success. Novice traders ended up making $100 million. Williams, who believed that trading couldn’t be taught, lost his bet to Dennis.


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