In 2008 hedge fund manager Lex van Dam and his associate and former Goldman Sachs trader Anton Kreil embarked on an audacious experiment, they recruited eight everyday people with no trading experience and sought to turn them into professional traders in just eight weeks. The group would day trade with $1 million of van Dam’s own money and the whole experiment would be filmed and then aired in the three part series Million Dollar Traders (2009).
It proved a riskier experiment than initially envisaged due to the onset of the financial crisis, the markets were very volatile. Just three of the twelve traders remained at the end of the filming, due to sackings and a mass walkout. The viewer is left with the sense that had the markets not been in a state of turmoil there may have been a job offer or two from van Dam’s own hedge fund at the end of filming.
But where are the contestants now? Finding out isn’t particularly easy as the official cast list for the programme only mentioned their first names, but with a little digging it has been possible to find out at least a little information about what each participant has been up to in the 8 or 9 years that have followed filming.
Cleo Folkes was 26 at the time of filming and a trained veterinarian, she was tipped to be a huge success by van Dam and Kreil after aptitude testing, but the reality was far different and she proved indecisive and afraid to commit to trades – if you don’t open any positions you can’t make any profit. She was eventually sacked for poor performance and because Anton Kreil believed her inability to cope with the pressure was causing a distraction to the other contestants. The sacking resulted in several of the other contestants walking out on the show.
Folkes already came from money with her 300 year old family business holding around £100m in real estate assets in the UK and South Africa, as well as involvement in various other markets, her father Constantine Folkes has a estimated personal wealth of £125 million and at the age of 28 was the youngest chairman of a quoted company. Cleopatra Folkes now serves as Deputy Chairman of that business, Folkes Holdings, dividing her time between London and Cape Town. She can be found tweeting at @cleofolkes.
Mike Tovell was 36 at the time of filming, he was a retired Army officer who had seen active service in Northern Ireland, Sierre Leone, and Afganistan. In the show Mike was one of the only three contenders to finish the show and was the second best performer, considered one of the stars of the eight. Mike wanted to pursue a career in trading but he ultimately didn’t follow that path.
His linkedin profile show stints in Business Development, Sales, and Project Management. He now lists himself as the Managing Director of a business called Oudna, a company search shows that it is a relatively new business and that he is the sole director. No further information can be found about that business online at the time of writing. He can be found on twitter @Mike_Tovell
Amit Jobanputra was a 30 year old shop keeper who had previously dabbled in trading whilst a student but lost his student loans in the process. He had wanted to be a trader since his childhood and saw this as his last opportunity to get into the industry. Unfortunately he blew it again when he walked out in a tantrum after Cleo Folkes was sacked, although perhaps he saw the mass walkout as an opportunity to put himself out of his misery – he wasn’t making any money.
His sparse linkedin profile states that he has been the CEO of a company called ParcelHappy.com since 2014, although there is currently no website showing and therefore it appears that he is the CEO of nobody and operating from his spare room where he may or may not be building something which will revolutionize the parcel industry. He almost certainly isn’t. We can’t find him on twitter.
Simon Brew was the oldest contestant, then 63. He hoped to learn how to trade his own in order to provide an additional retirement income. Unfortunately he didn’t have a natural aptitude for trading and struggled with his decision making under pressure, he was the first of the eight candidates to quit (or was he asked to leave? I can’t remember now).
It looks as if Simon Brew is now a Conservative party councillor for the Purley Ward in Surrey, where he won with 2248 votes in the 2014 Croydon council elections, he didn’t stand in 2010 so it looks like his first foray into politics (tweets @simon_brew). Not much more information can be found, he will be around 71/72 years of age now so presumably he is enjoying his semi-retirement! Lets all hope he isn’t trading.
Emile Coleman was the scouse cage fight promotor who would turn up wearing sports clothes, he wanted to show that he wasn’t just brawn but also had some brains. Unfortunately for Emile he didn’t really show that at all, he took positions on impulse in brands that he liked to purchase from personally like Nike and Adidas instead of giving any sort of thought. He walked out when Cleo Folkes was sacked.
Surprisingly perhaps, although we wouldn’t say it to his face, Coleman seems to have built a tidy little technology business which provides software to sports coaches (Globallcoach.com). No idea whether he is making any serious wonga of course, but it looks like an impressive attempt at a business with some degree of adoption within the football industry. He can be found on twitter @emilecoleman as well as on linkedin.
Caroline Taysom already had a hugely impressive CV, having built and then sold a gourmet food business for a seven figure sum. The divorced mother of twins was 36 at the time of filming and wanted to try something new. She was a revelation on the show, managing to make a profit despite the financial crisis and outperforming any of the other contenders. One was left wondering whether she would actually have been offered a permanent role with Lex van Dam had trading conditions not been so difficult at the time.
She went on to become the owner and managing director of the luxury gift company Aspen and Brown, and is now the owner of an award winning Deli in Somerset. She can be found on linkedin. We can’t find her on twitter, she’s just too classy for that.
Ohioma Imoukhuede (Ohi)
Ohi (full real name Ohioma Imoukhuede) was the youngest of the contestants at just 20 years of age, he was still studying for a degree in Maths and Economics at the London School of Economics at the time of filming. The LSE is of course a favourite hunting ground for the big investment banks, its where you go if you want a career in ‘the city’. Ohi was keen to become a professional trader, and although his performance wasn’t excellent he did at least stick it out until the end. So did Ohi land a job at Goldman Sachs and make his millions?
It doesn’t look like it, according to his linkedin he interned at a couple of marketing companies and then completed a second degree in Marketing at the University of Exeter. His most recent job was for a local authority in London where he worked as a ‘Senior Income Recovery Officer’, which effectively translates into ensuring that social housing tenants pay their rent and leaseholders pay their service charges. He can be found on twitter @ohiomai.
Sam Duby, 30 at the time of filming, was the environmentalist who wanted to see if he could trade profitably whilst only betting on the share price of companies that he percieved to be ethical. He is unhappy at some of the trading decisions made by other members of the group, the decison to bet on the stock of arms dealers for example. Ultimately he wasn’t successful with his methadoloy, although whether that he because he just wasn’t very good at trading is anybodies guess. Duby walked out with several other members when Cleo Folkes was fired, although his experiement did add an element of interest regardless.
It is good to see that Sam Duby has stuck by his principles, he is the co-founder and CTO of a Manchester based company called SteamaCo which is involved in producing software which assists off-the grid communities in Africa and beyond with clean energy provision. The business has won a few awards, you can find out more on its website. He has a twitter account @supermaximus, although it doesn’t look to be very active.
Lex van Dam
Lex van Dam is still a hedge fund manager at Hampstead Capital LLP in London, the same position he held at the time of filming. He capitalised on the success of the show by launching the Lex Van Dam Trading Academy in 2010, a business which offers online trading courses. He tweets from @lexvandam.
Anton Kreil also used the exposure to launch his own training business, the Institute of Trading and Portfolio Management which offers online trading courses with telephone mentoring from various professional traders, as well as some residential courses which adopt a similar format to the Million Dollar Traders show (but presumably without the sackings and walkouts). He tweets regularly from @antonkreil
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