Attempting to find out a bit more about Trader Monthly before delving into the February/March issue, I put on my reporter hat (a teal fedora) and sent a query to a friend in the banking business. He passed it along to one of his trader buddies, who sent back the following response: "I read it and I absolutely love it. It is a complete joke, but it makes me laugh."
The problem? Giggles doesn't seem to be the response Trader Monthly aims to elicit. Alternately high-minded and consumption-happy, the fledgling pub for traders of all stripes may be considerably farther along than one might expect from a title with only a few issues under its belt.
But until the magazine resolves its identity crisis - does it want to be Maxim For Traders or Fortune's whip-smart cousin? - there's a good chance it will continue to spur schizo reactions like the one above.
Where the current Trader Monthly falls short is in its "High/Low" features. Supposed deeeeeeep thinker Simon Brown comes across as incredibly shallow, while the story on cat bond trader John DeCaro somehow renders dull the management of catastrophic risk associated with natural disasters.
The "Celebrity Trader" piece featuring First Amendment poster boy Larry Flynt is an eye-opener (actual quote: "people have been eating oats for 100 years"), but there's nothing in "My Worst Trade" or even the "Card Shark" column by World Series of Poker legend Johnny Chan that comes across as more than ego-driven prattle. For a mag that aims to enlighten as well as entertain, Trader Monthly is decidedly short on actionable tips.
Except, that is, in its splashy cover story on bonuses. Maybe it's me, but isn't it folly to tell people who practically breathe dollars and cents how to spend their money? It's not like the mag identifies any new categories of conspicuous consumption (platinum pillows! beluga doormats!). Also, the cover's boast of an "exclusive" on what the top trading firms pay in bonuses seems misleading; the actual single-page item offers little more than off-the-record speculation.
What Trader Monthly does well is the lighter stuff: a spread on ice golfing, a neatly angular look at the Rolls-Royce Phantom, short blurbs on favorite charities, and astronomically caloric meals. Better still is the mag-closing "Ask the Dream Doctor" piece, in which the fetchingly tousled Lauren Lawrence analyzes a trifecta of semi-work-related dreams. It's a smart idea executed smartly.
Also, the publication looks terrific. It boasts splashes of color on each page and a liberal dose of illustration (check out the elegant image that accompanies the feature on electronic trader Paul Rotter).
The photos work especially well: rather than the usual stodgy-old-guy-in-suit pix, the mag puts DeCaro in boots and has him wade into the ocean, and shoots still-active 95-year-old trader Michael Pascuma in a way that graphically captures his status as a living monument.
On the mailbox page, a reader's wife takes Trader Monthly to task for chronicling "liquor, hot women, cars, watches, and other superficial things." While these elements are certainly sporadically present in the February/March issue, the overall product is considerably more sober-minded. I think that's a mistake: the magazine does business/lifestyle very, very well, and there's really no other publication that attempts the same feat. It's worth watching Trader Monthly to see if it evolves in that direction.