TopstepTrader is a financial technology firm based in Chicago, it was founded in 2012 by Michael Patak, who is a successful floor trader and his past suggests that he has been through a lot to get to this point.
Patak came to Chicago looking for a career in trading but had no knowledge of trading and soon he ended up losing all of his savings in ill placed deals.
After losing a lot of money and struggling to make profit Patak realized that if he wanted to make something out of trading for himself then he would have to change his approach to day trading. He learned the techniques and strategies of trading and over time developed his own strategies to trade successfully.
After a lot of pitfalls, Patak finally got his trading strategies working for him and this is when he realized that a lot of traders start off like him, with little or no knowledge about the realities of day trading and thus end up losing a considerable amount of savings and many do not have the will to start up again after failing at first.
With the aim of making day trading easier for others, Michael Patak founded his TopstepTrader firm to help traders and provide them with a mechanism that they could follow to make profit without losing a fortune.
Thus, it can be said that the foundation of TopstepTrader rests upon the experience of Michael Patak, the experience that he gained by losing his fortune and later through simulated trading evaluations.
TopstepTrader has for the last three years been regularly included in the top 5000 list of America’s fastest growing private companies. It has also been recognized as one of the 101 best and brightest by Crain’s Chicago Business and named in the Top 40 global propriety trading firms by Futures magazine.
The official website of Topstep Trader states their mission statement as “To provide a safe experience so traders can professionalize their passion.” And their vision is “To be where the world goes to safely engage in and profit from the financial markets.”
Who is it for?
Top step trader is for anyone who wishes to earn money through day trading, as simple as that.
They make no distinctions and their message is clear that if you can exhibit the qualities of a good risk conscious trader than they will provide you with the opportunities to trade and make money.
TopstepTrader offers performance coaching classes for aspiring traders, the coaching classes are meant to provide the traders with all the pre requisite knowledge required to learn real time trading.
They offer weekly lessons on every Wednesday. Top step trader has got 3 performance coaches, whose profiles have been briefly mentioned below
- John Hoagland comes with 34 years of futures trading experience, with 20 years of trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and 10 years of screen trading. Hoagland has helped multitudes of traders who have joined Top Step trader in the last five years; he brings passion, expertise and exposure of almost 34 years which the traders can benefit from. Hoagland specializes in market profile, technical analysis, auction theory, volume and order flow.
- Mick Leronimo brings almost 15 years of trading experience with five years of working in the Chicago Board of Trade and almost nine years of futures trading individually and helping firms devise trading strategies. Leronimo specializes in technical analysis and advises traders at top step trading in their funding accounts.
- Danny Hodgman brings almost eleven years of trading experience to the team. He worked at the Chicago Board of Trade from 2007 till 2011, managed his own futures trade and after a brief stint in the Marine Corps, resumed trading and joined Top Step Trader as a performance coach working with traders and helping them build up the discipline required to trade flawlessly.
These three performance coaches form the team of coaches responsible for instructing traders with the pre requisites required to bring their knowledge and skill level up to the level where they can trade in a simulated environment.
Apart from weekly sessions, TopstepTrader also offers one on one sessions. For a monthly cost of $190, the personalized one on one coaching lessons can be purchased. The official website states the following benefits of personalized coaching lessons.
- Free monthly trading combine rest.
- In depth half an hour personalized lesson with your coach.
- One-on-one help defining and implementing a strategy, and holding yourself accountable.
- Continuous direct private chat with your coach from 8:30 AM CT to 3 PM CT daily.
- A daily meeting including screen sharing, verbal Q&A and a real-time market analysis from 9:30 to 10:30 AM CT
The weekly and personalized trading are helpful for new traders and especially those with no or very little knowledge and experience of trading however it must be said that compared to other day trading academies the coaching offered at TopstepTrader seems less rigorous.
The experience and expertise of the coaches is also somewhat mediocre, this doesn’t mean that they are not good but they do not bring a wholesome set of skills and experience to the team.
Their expertise is limited and does not have a lot of exposure as compared to some of the coaches in other academies.
Perhaps for this reason, top step trader compensates this lack of experience and exposure by having live sessions and a vibrant community that is ever ready to help new traders.
Live Chat Sessions
The live sessions allow traders associated with Top step trading to come together and discuss real time trading strategies, this means that top step trading has cultivated a supportive community from all over the world, a community that fosters healthy growth and learning from shared experience. Thus, the new traders can not only learn from their coaches but also from their peers.
The live chat also includes a daily Squawk radio broadcast that is hosted by a trader with over 25 years of experience, this is an interactive show where listeners can gain market insights, latest trends and updates about the market to help them devise better trading strategies.
Video Library and Blog
In addition to performance coaches and live chat sessions, TopstepTrader has got a vast library full of tutorials and video lessons covering the full spectrum of topics related to day trading, these video lessons are particularly helpful for traders who already have some experience of trading and want to hone their skills and top up their knowledge and expertise.
The tutorials also help the traders with tips and tricks on how to get started with Top Step Trader, there is also a blog that like the video library covers a broad spectrum of topics and market analysis to help keep the traders their knowledge about the market up to date.
TopstepTrader offers real time simulated trading to make sure that the traders can learn the ins and outs of day trading without losing real money. Trading combine is a real time simulated trading account that allows traders to trade in real time, traders can choose between different plans or contract sizes as shown in the image taken from the official website of TopstepTrader
The performance in the simulated environment is evaluated in two phases. In the first phase traders must exhibit sound technical knowledge of trading and must make a profit within the set parameters without hitting the loss parameters. Failure to follow the criteria will bar the traders from progressing to the next stage.
The second phase requires traders to exhibit the ability to manage risks in addition to maintaining profit and avoiding the loss parameters. Failure to do so will relegate them back to step one where they will have to show their ability to hold profits all over again in order to advance to step two.
The image shown below is also taken from the official website and it shows the detailed parameters required to be followed in order to pass both steps. It can be clearly seen that step 1 tests the ability to make profit and step 2 tests the ability to manage risks as well as make profit.
Once the traders have passed both steps, they will be cleared to receive their funded account. Funded account requires traders to follow all of the parameters that have been defined above, while doing so the traders will be allowed to trade in real time using the funds available in the funded account.
Traders can use the in house TopstepTrader trading platform to trade without any charges or commission or fees but the functionality of this platform is limited as compared to other platforms available in the market.
The official website also offers other trading platforms such as Ninja Trader and Trade Station but these come with per contract commission charges.
However from a traders point of view the cost is not that much when you look at the variety of functionality options that become available with these trading platforms.
Top Step Traders only allows trading of CME group futures at the simulation stage and in addition to CME futures they also allow Eurex products but these are only available at the funded capital stage with additional charges.
Topstep Trader has been up and running since 2012 but the number of funded traders they have reached is approximately 1500, this shows that very few traders actually make it through the two step process.
Many traders get relegated from their funding account if they fail to stay within the loss parameters.
This is so far seen as the greatest criticism as people think that it is unfair to relegate someone from the funded account one they have shown proficiency by successfully clearing the two steps.
However this is also reflects the reality of day trading, that it is not easy and if the traders can follow the set parameters then they will be allowed to use the funded capital accounts.
The company is after all giving their own funds to the traders to trade with, so their terms have to be followed regardless of this many people consider these terms to be too harsh.
TopstepTrader maintains their stance that these terms are required to create discipline among the traders and a sense of caution because trading requires vigilance and strategies that need to be flawless in order to make profit every time.
Another criticism is that the limits are somewhat misleading for example the maximum draw down limit for $50000 plan is $2000 this means that if the trader loses more than $2000 during trading they will be automatically pulled out from trading because the parameter for loss stands broken. Thus at any given time one cannot incur a loss of more than the draw down amount.
Apart from these criticisms there are some concerning comments by people found on online platforms and these complaints revolve around the inefficiency of customer care department regarding refunds.
Many people have complained that they subscribed to the wrong plan by mistake and they never got any refund from TopstepTrader..
Top Step Trader is a fintech company and not like other day trading academies, therefore people who choose TopstepTrader choose them because of their funded capital accounts and the access to futures market.
The terms and conditions put forth by Topstep Trader are quite clear which means that you as a trader need to be at the top of your trading game in order to make continuous profits without hitting the loss parameters.
In this regard, the terms are stringent but they offer what they advertise. The company loses out on the fact that it does not offer a solid learning environment but then they never claim to be an academy, instead they claim to be a fintech company and should be seen as such.
Where other day trading academies teach trading strategies and are more strategy focused.
The unique selling point of Topstep traders is their funded capital that can be accessed through the two step process that tests the ability of traders to trade successfully.
The two step process is as real as it gets. It gives the traders a real time assessment of their ability to trade by taking out the “luck” factor and allowing the traders to trade using their skills alone.
It would therefore be prudent to say that this company is for those traders who are confident in their strategy and trading capabilities.