When Shing Tat Chung was a baby, his parents changed his name on the advice of a fortune teller. The soothsayer warned that the name they had given him at birth had “too much fire”, whatever that means. The new one, which also happens to be his current one, “is supposed to be more balanced and carry a good fortune,” Chung told me.“I will also apparently make lots of money with this name,” he says, laughing. That’s a relief because I recently gave him some of my money. More specifically, I put $200 into an experimental investment fund Chung launched in June. Mind you, this guy is not some stock-picking savant who finished Stanford Business School at the age of 15. Chung is a 25-year-old newly minted graduate in design from the Royal College of Art in London.
Fascinated by superstitions and their wider, yet often overlooked, ramifications for society, Chung decided to start The Superstitious Fund Project. Some people trust Windsor-knotted stock traders and mutual fund managers to grow their money. Others use algorithms designed to respond to various market conditions so that – one hopes – they deliver earnings. Still others buy gold, plunk it in a vault, and pray that it will be worth more on some future date than it is today. How odd is it then, really, to calculate trade decisions by way of astrology and numerology?
The fund works like this: stock trades are carried out by an Automated Trading System (colloquially, a “robot”), which is a computer program that buys, sells or holds stocks based on a set of specifications encoded into the program’s governing algorithm. The code for Chung’s experiment was written by Jim Hunt, who runs a firm called Trading Gurus, and together with Chung they named it “Sid the Superstitious Robot”. (They also decided to make the source code completely transparent and free to download.)