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Chicago trader finds success

Staff writer

Kelcy Voth, formerly of Goessel, became interested in the stock market when he was 13-years-old. His interest led him to a career as a commodities trader in Chicago, Ill., and he thrives on the challenge, the excitement, and the freedom every day on the job brings him.

“The markets are always changing, so my strategies and trading style need to be flexible,” Voth said. “It’s exciting because anything can happen at any time. Every day is different.”

Voth trades futures contracts mostly on energy commodities — crude oil, heating, oil, and gasoline. He occasionally trades grains and precious metals.

“As a speculator, my job is to provide liquidity to the markets so that others can buy and sell more easily,” he said. “I’m willing to take either side of trades throughout the day. On the other hand, a farmer who is hedging his crop will only take the sell (short) side as protection against a decline in prices. I do this while also trying to turn a profit.”

Voth said self-discipline was one of the keys to turning a profit as a trader.

“Self-discipline is necessary. My parents taught me self-discipline,” he said. “Things can turn ugly in a hurry if you let your emotions take control and lose focus.”

Along with maintaining focus, patience is an important value for a successful trader.

“Some days are slow,” Voth said. “There aren’t very many good opportunities, so it is a waiting game.

Voth explained that as a futures contracts trader, he looks to buy (or sell) a certain commodity of specific quantity and quality at a date in the future.

“If you sell a contract without buying it first (known as shorting), you agree to take delivery of the commodity,” he said. “Most futures are offset, meaning if you bought it, you sell it, and if you sold it, you buy it back before the contract expires.”

He said his business background as a student at Bethel College in North Newton helped in his chosen career.

“The statistics class I took at Bethel has proven to be one of the most useful,” he said. “When I got started, I spent a lot of time analyzing and applying statistical models to price data.”

While in college, Voth spent the summer of his junior year as an intern for a trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in the cattle pit.

“That internship got me interested in commodities,” he said. “I returned the following summer and worked for a clearing firm (Iowa Grain Company) on the floor, answering phones and running orders. I moved to the Chicago Board of Trade building (off the floor) and started trading electronically for the same company.”

Voth graduated from Goessel High School in 1999, and from Bethel College in 2003. He and wife, Kelly, were married in 2009. She is a registered nurse, back in school working to become a nurse practitioner. She has always been a big supporter of Voth’s career.

Voth now works in the CBOT building in an office with several friends. They each trade on their own accounts.

Voth said others looking to start trading need to look for stable investments and a consistent profit.

“Don’t go for the home run,” he said. “Consistency is important.”

Voth also said there was no guarantee of income in the trading profession.

“Sometimes it would be nice to have a steady paycheck,” he said. “This is one of the few jobs in which going to work could be worse than staying home.”

Despite that drawback, Voth said it was important for all people to be aware of fluctuations on the stock market.

“Kansas farmers are not sheltered from market movements and global trade flows,” he said. “The agricultural futures markets in Chicago are watched and traded by agricultural producers and processors from around the world. Farmers must pay attention to global supply and demand (Chicago futures) as well as regional supply and demand (basis) to understand the price per bushel they receive in their local market.

Voth also said fluctuations in diesel, heating oil, and natural gas prices were good indicators of costs that affect the profitability of farmers and other agricultural industrialists.

“I’m not sure why I started trading,” he said. “It’s just something that’s always interested me, something I’ve always enjoyed.”

Last modified March 15, 2012

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