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How I work: Matt Mattke and the pursuit of calm and order

Matt Mattke Published on 23 May 2014

Matt Mattke with Stewart Peterson

Here’s the story of one methodical, unflappable guy whose relentless pursuit of calm and order means “no surprises” and that confident feeling of being prepared for anything.

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As I write this column, I’m about to head out on a vacation to a nice warm place, and I’m nervous. I’ve never been completely unplugged before.

It’s not that the team at the office can’t live without me – that’s well covered. It’s the way I am wired. I tried unplugging once, and it didn’t work. I checked markets and news headlines on my cell phone constantly.

There’s one thing different about this vacation and my previous failed attempts to unplug. Now I am married. I’m sure my wife will hide the cell phone.

She deserves to see what an unplugged husband is like. At home, I’m methodical and curious and rarely away from my phone or computer. Here’s what a typical day looks like.

Well, scratch that. There is no typical day. Many people thrive on a day that has lots of variety. I struggle with that. I like things scheduled, done with method and precision, and enough time built into the process to notice details and how I can improve the process.

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No day in the commodity markets business is ever like that. An abrupt bout of political unrest in Ukraine changes the trajectory of the corn market. A target is suddenly hit for the milk market, and we get busy notifying clients. Very rarely does my day turn out as planned. Below is a run-down of the most typical day I have:

  • 7 a.m. – I’m in the office, going through our team’s database of leading indicators and updating everything with data from the CME. I’m looking for trends that develop in the data and analyzing the previous day’s trade. I also receive and review the day’s summary of all of our clients’ positions. If someone isn’t in line with our recommendations, I put them on a priority list for communication.
  • 8 a.m. – I go through emails and make a plan for my day: Which clients need a phone call, email or scheduled conference call?
  • 8:45 a.m. – At least once a week, our team of advisers meets as a group for about 90 minutes. We go through each market, come up with targets for the week, agree on long-term support and resistance levels, and come up with strategies for protecting various price levels.

    This strategizing takes a lot of time because we are thinking about what we would do for multiple price moves. That way, no matter if the market goes up a little, up a lot, down a little or down a lot, we have already discussed the strategies and tools we would use.

    In most cases, we discuss those strategies and contingency plans with clients, too, so they know what we intend to do before a move happens. No surprises. All this “what if” takes time in our meetings, and it’s often lively debate. (Well, as lively as a bunch of methodical number-crunchers can get. To me it’s lively.)

We also discuss specific client situations that individual advisers need help with. Each dairy is unique, and so we help each other come up with strategies that might work to protect a particular feed price in a unique purchasing situation, for example.

With the varying backgrounds and breadth of experience on our advisory team, usually one adviser can help another because he or she has seen the same situation before.

  • 9:30 a.m . – The markets are open and we begin watching to make sure that if targets are hit, we spring into action. Clients need to be notified if targets are hit. Some need more education and counseling than others as to the significance of a move or a recommendation. So here is where my day really starts to get crazy.

    Client calls are a priority. If someone needs to talk with me, and they need my time and patience, I’ll give it to them. Often I’ll use a program called “join.me” to share my computer screen with them so they can see the charts while I talk. It’s really important to me that they understand each target, each position and the expected outcome.

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  • 1 p.m . – My phone call volume tends to pick up in the afternoon. I will spend time one-on-one with clients and also on conference calls with clients and their lenders or business consultants, explaining strategies and positions. Sometimes I get so engrossed that I forget to eat. When there is a break in the action, I will walk, get some lunch and clear my mind.
  • 3 p.m . – I write the daily market report we send to clients near the end of the day. The entire team contributes, each with a different market specialty, so that helps. I summarize it and send it out.

    I also take care of any writing or media inquiries that may have come in earlier in the day. Everyone wants to know where the markets might go. I can give a general idea; however, I always urge people to be prepared for multiple possibilities.

  • 5 p.m . – The afternoon has flown by and I am able to go home to my wife, dinner, maybe a workout or some television. Then I usually spend an hour or two on the computer, looking at macro-economic news – things like currencies, the stock market or economic trends – big-picture things that are tough to absorb when you’re hopping at the office all day.

I am so lucky to have found a career that allows me to follow markets and support agriculture. I might have had a career in agricultural production, following the footsteps of my grandparents, had I not been distracted by one thing: the stock market.

Back in college, during the months leading up to the eventual burst of the dot-com bubble, I and a buddy of mine would cut class, go to the computer lab and watch the stock market. Even today, books like The Big Short are page-turners for me.

  • 10 p.m . – Sleep? I try to quiet down and relax. Anyone have any advice for turning off the brain?

I think it’s good that I crave order and work in a chaotic industry. As much as I try to minimize surprises, I have learned there is always a surprise around the corner.

Because I don’t like surprises, I am driven to be prepared and prepare our clients. That’s what I love about my job. It’s a good day when a client tells me that a surprise move in the markets doesn’t faze him.

Another thing to be thankful for: I work with a great team of analysts who challenge me every day and cover for me so I can unplug once in a while. Everyone should have a team like that, so you can always be prepared and sometimes unplug. PD

Matt Mattke is a dairy team lead adviser with Stewart-Peterson Inc. Contact him by email .

Photo courtesy of Matt Mattke.

matt mattke

Matt Mattke
Dairy Team Lead Adviser
Stewart-Peterson Inc.

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