Adieu Jim Simons

The great mathematician, trader, and philanthropist of Wall Street is gone.

Tags: DeathJim SimonsTrading

Published on 11 May 2024 8 min read

It was in November 2019 when the outbreak of the infamous COVID-19 in China occurred. As I write this, 5 years after the outbreak, it is still unknown how humans in mainland China were initially or previously infected with this virus. The world saw this as "just another human virus." But friend, we were dead wrong once again, as the year 2020 finally saw it rapidly spread all over Asia where it originated from, and to the world touching Europe, America, and (arguably) Africa. This wasn't just "another virus" my friend, it was the virus that forced everyone to maintain social distance, stop any gathering, and stay indoors if we humans as a species were to continue. Eventually, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of this deadly virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and a pandemic.

I had just gotten into the polytechnic two months before the outbreak of COVID-19 and was preparing for exams next year 2020, which would commence in February and end in March. Fortunately, we did manage to finish the exams even when the wave of the virus just blew to Africa and was gaining its momentum before all hell broke loose: schools were closed, churches were closed, all social gatherings were canceled and if any was found to be done, it was a "sin" and a punishable offense by the government. Till further notice from the government, I was going to stay at home all day, my fantasy dream of "school life" was dead before my own eyes.

This was a good time (in hindsight) for me, as I had all the time to think clearly. I needed to make the most of this "free time". I had been introduced to forex trading by a friend before leaving for school and was doing it infrequently while in school, with little to no success. After continual losses in my trading account when I got home, I concluded I needed another side hustle to complement this trading thing. So I made the web search "How to make money online?".

From my search, "making money from home" particularly piqued my interest. All I had to do was write "code" and then sell the product of the code for cool cash. As a computer science undergrad, you would have thought I knew "coding", but that wasn't true. I had tried learning C programming language but couldn't read past the first page of the C programming language book as I couldn't comprehend it, my first failed attempt. Isn't this going to be a second failed attempt? I asked myself. A thought came to my mind about applying coding to trading. Enter the world of algorithmic trading.

Finally, I found a passion for learning coding. All I now had to do was to immerse myself in coding, then create a robot to trade for me and make me all the millions while I travel the world discussing philosophy. This couldn't be a second failed attempt, I thought. I was using MetaTrader 5 as my trading platform and they had a programming language called MQL5, a C++-based language for creating trading robots and indicators for MetaTrader 5. All I needed to do to start using MQL5 was to learn C++.

I picked up the books C++ For Dummies, The C++ Programming Language, and Expert Advisor Programming for MetaTrader 5. After reading them, and thinking I knew enough to start building the robots, I entered into algorithmic trading using MQL5. To cut a long story short, I found out I didn't understand C++ and eventually MQL5, built shitty robots that lost money in demo trading and hence would too in live trading, and didn't know enough maths to build good algorithmic trading robots. A couple of months later, I had given up the idea of coding, and it was a second failed attempt.

Things on the COVID-19 side were getting worse, as the death count was (allegedly) increasing in my beloved country Nigeria as reported by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and the government was putting more laws in place to create further social distance. It finally dawned on me that for the next one and possibly two years, I wasn't going back to school. Indeed, I needed to develop a skill and make my live more useful now. I decided to go back to algorithmic trading, with the idea that I needed to learn it from those who were already doing it successfully.

If only I had taken the time to learn from the masters in the game, I wouldn't have failed. My failure was my fault, I said. So who could be the master in this game? I asked. After much web searching, it was no one other than the one and only JIM SIMONS. Finally, I had someone to look up to as a success in the field, to push me through the hard times, and to remember each time I wanted to quit this coding thing. I needed to know more about this man.

I read all the articles, and books written about him. I watched all YouTube videos about him, listened to all his talks, and even followed his activity on the Simons Foundation. Whenever I met people who thought algorithmic trading was a "scam", I would share his story with them. Unfortunately, his trading secrets and hedge funds were very secretive. He didn't give any clue about how he went about it. After all, this was a zero-sum game: the money you make is lost by someone, and you keep winning when the other guy doesn't know what you know. My findings about him were enough for me to get the motivation to go back into coding. Although I wasn't doing MQL5 or algorithmic trading this time, I decided I wanted to be a data scientist, so it was the Python programming language.

Sadly for me, it was at this same time that the government called for the resumption of schools, after one year of staying home. I got to school, forgot everything about coding and trading, and just lived my life. But the thought of a man called Jim Simons, who broke Wall Street couldn't leave my mind.

A year later, I graduated from the polytechnic and was to stay at home for a year before going to the university. This one year was a time I needed to use wisely, as I was all at home doing nothing; once again it was a time to think clearly. Jim Simons was back again in the picture. I graduated not knowing anything about coding, and this was a good time to learn it before leaving for the university.

Long story short, I went on learning Python, and built cool stuff with it, my first successful attempt to learn coding. Following the industry news, I decided the Julia programming language was to replace Python for data science, went into the programming language, immersed myself in it, built cool projects, and eventually became a member of the programming language. I also went into web development, and eventually mobile development. As I write this, I focus mainly on building websites and mobile applications (sadly not algorithmic trading or data science). All this was possible because of that initial spark from the story of Jim Simons.

On May 10, 2024, it was announced by the Simons Foundation, that the great mathematician of Wall Street, Jim Simons, a man I so dearly admire, is dead. He died at the (old) age of 86. As of the time of writing this, there has been no reason reported for his death. Though he shunned publicity, there are still articles and videos of rare interviews you can find about him out there. Indeed he truly loved maths. This was my piece, detailing how the coding I have found to love doing today was largely inspired not by a fellow programmer, but by a mathematician, who thought there was some sense to the randomness in Wall Street, and this thought paid off. Though I didn't have a head for mathematics like him, my life was (and is) driven by curiosity, just like he did. Someday I might come back into the quant trading world. Who knows.

The great mathematician is gone. The great Wall Street trader is gone. The great philanthropist is gone. The one who co-developed the Chern-Simon forms is gone. The one who broke codes for the NSA is gone. The most successful hedge fund manager is gone. The greatest investor on Wall Street is gone. The man who solved the market is gone. The one who broke Wall Street is gone. The world's smartest billionaire is gone. The one who co-founded the Simons Foundation is gone. The one who founded Math for America is gone. The one who established the Flatiron Institute is gone. The one who made lots of money from Wall Street and gave it all back is gone. Jim Simons is gone. But his legacy remains!