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Topstep's Nick Dolby (Social Media and Community Coordinator) - Ask me Anything (AMA)

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  #1281 (permalink)
 Topstep  Topstep is an official Site Sponsor
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bobwest View Post
Hi @Topstep,

This would be very, very, very good.

I have held my peace about this incident when it came up again, because it was old, as you had said, and it was before your time here, and the trader in question had decided to drop it and had moved on.

But, during the several weeks before that happened, the thread was often one of the most-read of the day. The situation that the user laid out was deeply troubling to many who read about it, and @Topstep kept absolutely silent about it, even though many members, myself included, invited them to address the situation and tagged the Topstep username with the "@" symbol, which sends an email to the account with a notification that Topstep had been mentioned, with a copy of the post. People were essentially pounding on the @Topstep door asking the company to come in and give their side of it... and there was nothing. The absence of a response was troubling.

I went back and counted three posts I made tagging Topstep about it, and many others did the same. Either no one was monitoring the company account at that time, or no one at the company cared enough about this issue to simply respond and give their side of it.

For example, here is a post I made early on responding to another member, whose post I am first quoting. There was no response to either post, nor to any other post in that thread:





This is still a big deal, because the incident still gets mentioned from time to time, and there's still nothing from the company explaining their side of it.

I hope that when you come back with whatever others at the company have told you about the situation, it's not just with some corporate fog, but with something of substance. I am sure that people on this forum are -- or should be -- perfectly willing to make allowances for the fact that people, and companies, make mistakes. It is also possible that there was no mistake, and that the company was correct. If the company feels they were justified, it would be only right to at least explain why. Or perhaps the only mistake was that they didn't tell their side of it. Or perhaps they felt they had to respect "individual privacy," as you mentioned.

But there needs to be an explanation of some sort. Ignoring it has not helped the company at all.

My view is that @Topstep has contributed positively in giving traders who are interested an avenue to learning their craft, and I have said so many times. I feel the company has simply made a mistake in letting this situation be ignored, and I do not think it should be taken out of proportion.

But this is a reputational issue, and someone at the company has screwed up in letting it grow unanswered. I hope you will provide enough information to permit readers to understand what happened and, most importantly, to understand what they may face if they decide to use Topstep in the future. Any doubts peoples may have need to be settled, going forward.

Bob.

Mick who handled this case forwarded me the email chain so I can speak with some confidence on this issue now albeit, a year late. The reason this payout was not issued was because of the traders trading behavior in Step 1 and Step 2. This was an account identified with (intentionally or unintentionally) exploiting the SIM fill engine using a method of high frequency trading that produces HIGHLY favorable results compared to if this strategy was executed in the real-time markets. This was also occurring around a time when Topstep was paying out on Pro Accounts so word got around that this strategy could be run for easy and unrealisticly earned profits without ever intending on trading this methodology in the real-time markets. At Topstep the goal is to use the Trading Combine and SIM markets to help develop a traders discipline and strategy so that they can take that to the real-time markets. When a trader is using the Trading Combine and SIM markets in such a manner that is exploitive then that goes against the intent of what the product is supposed to be used for and that is outlined in the Terms of Use.

For resolution to this issue we offered the trader to either redo the Pro Account under the circumstances they would no longer trade in a manner that took advantage of the SIM fill engine or a refund on their Trading Combine. They accepted the refund and we issued it.

Topstep learned a lot about itself in 2021 and we made an incredible amount of improvements since then including removing two rules, better risk-management for our funded traders, and increased transparency and communication in what we expect from our traders. It is very unfortunate that Topstep did not address this issue in a timely manner because this would have been a relatively easy issue to patch up in the moment. Thankfully, with the changes we have made since 2021 a circumstance occurring like this again would not happen. Now if a trader were trading like this we would send them an email suggesting a change in behavior, if they still didn't change we would send an email again, and if they still didn't change then it would be a longer conversation.

I hope this explanation makes some progress in patching up any lingering trust issues that this forum might have with our program. I'd be more than happy to answer any questions.

If you have any questions about our products or services at Topstep (formerly TopstepTrader), please send me a Private Message or use the FIO "Ask Me Anything" thread.
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  #1282 (permalink)
 bobwest 
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Topstep View Post
Mick who handled this case forwarded me the email chain so I can speak with some confidence on this issue now albeit, a year late. The reason this payout was not issued was because of the traders trading behavior in Step 1 and Step 2. This was an account identified with (intentionally or unintentionally) exploiting the SIM fill engine using a method of high frequency trading that produces HIGHLY favorable results compared to if this strategy was executed in the real-time markets. This was also occurring around a time when Topstep was paying out on Pro Accounts so word got around that this strategy could be run for easy and unrealisticly earned profits without ever intending on trading this methodology in the real-time markets. At Topstep the goal is to use the Trading Combine and SIM markets to help develop a traders discipline and strategy so that they can take that to the real-time markets. When a trader is using the Trading Combine and SIM markets in such a manner that is exploitive then that goes against the intent of what the product is supposed to be used for and that is outlined in the Terms of Use.

For resolution to this issue we offered the trader to either redo the Pro Account under the circumstances they would no longer trade in a manner that took advantage of the SIM fill engine or a refund on their Trading Combine. They accepted the refund and we issued it.

Topstep learned a lot about itself in 2021 and we made an incredible amount of improvements since then including removing two rules, better risk-management for our funded traders, and increased transparency and communication in what we expect from our traders. It is very unfortunate that Topstep did not address this issue in a timely manner because this would have been a relatively easy issue to patch up in the moment. Thankfully, with the changes we have made since 2021 a circumstance occurring like this again would not happen. Now if a trader were trading like this we would send them an email suggesting a change in behavior, if they still didn't change we would send an email again, and if they still didn't change then it would be a longer conversation.

I hope this explanation makes some progress in patching up any lingering trust issues that this forum might have with our program. I'd be more than happy to answer any questions.

Thanks, Nick.

A part of my problem with how @Topstep handled this originally was simply that the rules when this trader qualified for a payout were one thing, but @Topstep decided to change the rules retroactively and not make the payment, after the fact.

I have had to make business decisions, and I know that situations may not always be simple but you have to decide anyway. I do not think @Topstep made the same decision I would have. I think I would have applied the rules as they existed at the time, and taken the financial hit, and then made my changes going forward. But I was not making the decisions, and I do not know how I would have come down if I had been. I also do not know how widespread this problem was at the time for the company. I can see slamming on the breaks if it suddenly became a major issue with a lot of traders. I also don't know how many others had also found this loophole and were making use of it. Since I was not there and did not have to make the decision, I will not say more about it. Probably people could reasonably disagree on this.

The other part of my problem was that @Topstep did not, until now, explain what they had done and why. As to this, I do find the explanation very comprehensible.

It is easy to see how perfect sim "fills" with a high volume of very rapid short-term scalps could exaggerate a trader's results beyond anything achievable in reality -- if they never really have realistic slippage due to the simulation. If that is combined with actual payouts of real money from purely theoretical sim trading, it's an opportunity that would be quickly understood and put to use by many. It's a sort of a sure thing, actually, and not something that would be available in live trading. Hence, probably, this explains a lot of the changes that @Topstep has put in place since then.

As you said, "It is very unfortunate that Topstep did not address this issue in a timely manner because this would have been a relatively easy issue to patch up in the moment." I'm not sure why there was a communication shortfall here, although probably it had to do with the need to first plug that hole. I hope that in the future @Topstep will respond if something crops up among its present and potential customer base when and as it comes up, if it does.

So I for one find your explanation convincing -- about the general case -- and I can see why @Topstep felt it had to take action. I also think it should have been much more alert to how the actions it was taking would seem to others who only got some of the story. As I said, I am not commenting on this particular situation with this trader, but I can see the reasoning and the general situation.

Now, let me say this: while I am satisfied with your explanation:
(1) This is the internet, and nothing is ever completely settled on the internet ("Is the sky blue?" -- "No, it's green!" -- "No, Red!") Nothing will ever satisfy everybody.

(2) We are talking about traders. Traders often disagree about essentially anything, and, you should know, often distrust any claims made by anyone who is trying to sell them anything -- which is often a very good idea. So there may always be some skepticism. To overcome this, to the extent that you can, you have to talk to them. This main Topstep thread has been dead for months. Talking helps.

(3) My being satisfied is just me, and doesn't mean anything about how anyone else who reads it may take it. On futures.io, any point of view that does not violate our rules of courtesy and regard for other traders is freely permitted, and discussion is encouraged, including compete disagreement. We think this is how actual value is uncovered. So you may still get pushback, skepticism and disbelief. People can be won over, or not, on the merits. But only if you talk about things, which is my main point.

---------------------------

I am taking the opportunity to close out the old thread now. It is something of a distraction to have a detailed discussion that is off the main topic of the main Topstep thread, although it sometimes will have to happen.

I will copy your post, along with a short explanation, into the thread in question, which I hope will give some closure there. If anyone is interested in continuing the discussion, that is fine of course, and it can continue here. I'll provide links in both threads to cross-reference them.

Here is the thread that had the original discussion. It got pretty tangled, and was very off-topic at times, but after a few posts you will probably get the gist of it. Here it is:



Again, thanks to Nick at Topstep for the explanation of what went on, which I do think clears up what happened and clarifies what people can expect going forward. This is really the important outcome of all this.

Bob.

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  #1283 (permalink)
 Tymbeline 
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Topstep View Post
It is very unfortunate that Topstep did not address this issue in a timely manner

My prediction is that this is one thing you've said that nobody can argue with.



Topstep View Post
I hope this explanation makes some progress in patching up any lingering trust issues that this forum might have with our program.

For me, it does (and I say that as one of the people openly expressing dismay and concern at the time.)

I'm grateful for your very-long-overdue public response and explanation. Obviously I can speak only for myself, but I entirely accept it.



bobwest View Post
Again, thanks to Nick at Topstep for the explanation of what went on, which I do think clears up what happened and clarifies what people can expect going forward. This is really the important outcome of all this.

Bob.

I agree strongly, both with this and with everything else you've said above.

I'm hugely grateful to you, Bob, for your own laborious and time-consuming efforts and energy toward achieving at least some kind of "closure" of this troubling issue.

The forum and its members, as so often, have every reason to be both proud of you and very thankful for all you do here.

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VirtualMark
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Thanks for the explanation. I'll be honest, it's not how I would have liked to have seen it handled. You made the rules and someone exploited them, but that should be your loss not theirs. In my opinion, rules should only be enforced once they're in place, not retrospectively.

My feelings on Topstep are already that it's like a carnival game, the odds are stacked against you and passing isn't easy due to the rules and restrictions. So when someone finally passes and profits, they should be paid what they're owed, and if any mistake has been made at your end then you should foot the bill.

Still, it is what it is, and at least the rules are a lot clearer now.

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 phantomtrader 
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"The reason this payout was not issued was because of the traders trading behavior in Step 1 and Step 2. This was an account identified with (intentionally or unintentionally) exploiting the SIM fill engine using a method of high frequency trading that produces HIGHLY favorable results compared to if this strategy was executed in the real-time markets."

Everyone's BS meter should be on full red alert. If the sim account doesn't reflect real time trading, then the entire business model is a sham. There is zero reason why a simulator would execute trades and a live account would not. The trader should have taken them to court. It's just a matter of time before someone steps up to the plate and takes TS to court on these bogus issues. Patak couldn't trade his way out of a paper bag and neither can anyone else at that organization. It's a total sham.
Perhaps the FTC will get interested enough to investigate. Who knows??

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 bobwest 
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phantomtrader View Post
"The reason this payout was not issued was because of the traders trading behavior in Step 1 and Step 2. This was an account identified with (intentionally or unintentionally) exploiting the SIM fill engine using a method of high frequency trading that produces HIGHLY favorable results compared to if this strategy was executed in the real-time markets."

Everyone's BS meter should be on full red alert. If the sim account doesn't reflect real time trading, then the entire business model is a sham. There is zero reason why a simulator would execute trades and a live account would not. The trader should have taken them to court. It's just a matter of time before someone steps up to the plate and takes TS to court on these bogus issues. Patak couldn't trade his way out of a paper bag and neither can anyone else at that organization. It's a total sham.
Perhaps the FTC will get interested enough to investigate. Who knows??

I think, from my experience anyway, that a simulator will often not make the same fills as you find in live trading. Reason: the simulator has to assume where a matching order would be found, whether immediately or after some slippage (and some simulators basically just always assume the order will be filled immediately.) In a live trade, you will always have slippage, and depending on what's going on at the time, the real-time slippage may not be the same as your simulator assumes. In a fast market or a thin market it can be large. So I do not agree that this is BS. I think it is believable. No simulator is always going to always match live fills in real market conditions, at the level of very fine detail.

As to the business model being a sham if the simulator doesn't match live trades, if the difference in slippage between the two is fairly small compared to the size of the trade, then they will match well enough for practical purposes, and to allow evaluation of the trading that the person is doing. For instance, if I am looking for a one or two point trade (4 or 8 ticks in ES), if I lose a tick or even two it may be significant to me but not a big deal; if I am looking for a 4 or 5 point move (16 or 20 ticks), a tick or two will be irrelevant; if I am trying for nearly unattainable accuracy in order to make 1 or 2 ticks, then no, the simulator is not a sufficiently good match to live trading, because the simulation may let them have the tick, but the live wouldn't.

What is claimed is that some traders used automated systems to open and close trades almost instantly, within a tick or two, and to run hundreds or thousands of these trades, expecting the simulator to provide much better fills than live trading could have, and that this builds up a big simulated profit that is not attainable in live trading. This is where the system of judging live trading ability based on sim trading breaks down, because someone doing this in live trading would not have the same results. But with more normal trading, the difference between sim and live results would not be as important to the outcome. And you have to use something.

I do agree that TS was in the wrong in applying the new rules retroactively, at least in my opinion. At least the rules are clearer now, as @VirtualMark said. Almost 100% of the commenters in the old thread had the same take on it, but that's done now.

Please see my next post for additional points.

Bob.

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-- Cervantes, Don Quixote
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 bobwest 
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phantomtrader View Post
Everyone's BS meter should be on full red alert. If the sim account doesn't reflect real time trading, then the entire business model is a sham. There is zero reason why a simulator would execute trades and a live account would not. The trader should have taken them to court. It's just a matter of time before someone steps up to the plate and takes TS to court on these bogus issues. Patak couldn't trade his way out of a paper bag and neither can anyone else at that organization. It's a total sham.
Perhaps the FTC will get interested enough to investigate. Who knows??

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VirtualMark
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bobwest View Post
Moderator Notice
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I understand why he would say something like that, although I would have put it a bit more politely. My issue with trading tutors in general, is that if they know how to trade well, why aren't they making a fortune from trading? There is a saying - "those that can do, do. Those that can't, teach".

Obviously it's not the same for everyone, and I'm sure there are plenty of kind hearted, experienced traders that are willing to share their knowledge. It's just that Topstep is a business based on charging an expensive monthly subscription and reset fees, then putting you into either a live or livesim account. And for everything apart from the live account, it's in their interests for you to fail as many times as possible.

At the end of the day, they're a business and the main goal of any business is to make profit. Unfortunately for beginner/unprofitable traders, some of that profit comes from their failures.

So I feel it's only fair to question the credentials of their staff, as they are posting dozens of videos every month. I have no idea of Michael Patak's trading history, but would point out that he does post videos every few days giving out trading advice and tips. Does he trade? Does he have a proven track record? Is his strategy still profitable and relevant? Should I be taking his advice? The same goes for every other tutor of course.

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  #1289 (permalink)
VirtualMark
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phantomtrader View Post
Everyone's BS meter should be on full red alert. If the sim account doesn't reflect real time trading, then the entire business model is a sham.

This is exactly my problem. The trader played the game, and beat it on their rules at the time. Instead of honouring the agreement and paying out they decided to change the rules of the game, months after the fact.

They should have paid out and taken it as a lesson on how to improve their simulator, as it was their mistake to allow this to happen.

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 bobwest 
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VirtualMark View Post
I understand why he would say something like that, although I would have put it a bit more politely.

The point of the Moderator Notice is that the forum has standards of civility that are taken seriously, and it has nothing to do with whether anyone can trade or not, or has a good service or not, or should have done one thing or another thing or not. Anyone can have any opinion they like, and can argue them as vigorously as they wish, but they cannot overstep the rules we have here of civility, professionalism and mutual respect.

These are non-negotiable, and that was the point being made.

Bob.

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