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Independent Backtesting: Lessons from Software Development

The Critical Role of Third-Party Analysis in Trading Strategy Success

In the domain of algorithmic trading, the creation and evaluation of trading strategies through backtesting is a cornerstone of strategy development. This process, akin to quality assurance (QA) in software development, is vital for identifying potential flaws and ensuring the strategy’s robustness before live deployment. Drawing a parallel from the software industry, where developers are advised not to QA their own code, this article argues for the necessity of having an independent third party conduct backtesting on trading strategies. This approach minimizes biases and emotional investments, leading to more reliable and objective assessments.

Why Independent Backtesting?

  1. Objectivity: Strategy developers, much like software developers, are inherently biased towards their creations. They may unconsciously overlook flaws or rationalize away poor performance. An independent backtester approaches the strategy without preconceptions, ensuring a more objective evaluation.
  2. Unbiased Risk Assessment: Developers might underestimate the risks associated with their strategies due to familiarity bias. An independent evaluator, with no emotional investment in the strategy’s success, can provide a more realistic assessment of its risk profile.
  3. Fresh Perspective: Just as a QA engineer might identify unforeseen bugs or use cases, an independent backtester can uncover issues or potential improvements that the original developer might miss, possibly due to tunnel vision on their intended outcomes.
  4. Enhanced Credibility: For wealth management firms, especially Family Offices looking to adopt algorithmic trading strategies, presenting strategies that have been independently backtested enhances credibility with stakeholders. It demonstrates a commitment to due diligence and risk management.

Lessons from Software Development

In software development, the principle that “developers should not QA their own code” is a recognized best practice. The reasons are manifold:

  • Developers are too close to their work to objectively assess it.
  • They may have blind spots for errors since they understand how it’s supposed to work, potentially overlooking how it could fail.
  • Independent QA brings fresh eyes and can simulate end-user interaction more accurately.

This principle directly applies to the development and backtesting of trading strategies. Just as independent QA can lead to higher-quality software, independent backtesting can lead to the development of more robust, reliable trading strategies.

Independent backtesting in quantitative trading compared to software quality assurance, highlighting unbiased strategy evaluation.

Implementing Independent Backtesting

Choosing the Right Partner: The choice of who conducts the backtesting is critical. It could be an internal team that is separate from the strategy development team or an external third party. The key is ensuring that the backtester has no involvement in the strategy’s creation and possesses a deep understanding of both quantitative analysis and the specific market dynamics relevant to the strategy.

Comprehensive Evaluation: Independent backtesting should not only assess the strategy’s profitability but also its risk-adjusted returns, its behavior under various market conditions, and its sensitivity to assumptions made during the development process.

Iterative Process: Much like software is iterated upon post-QA, trading strategies should be refined based on feedback from independent backtesting. This iterative process helps in fine-tuning the strategy to enhance its performance and robustness.

Embracing Transparency: Just as code reviews and QA results are shared among software teams, the findings from independent backtesting should be transparently shared with all stakeholders involved in the strategy’s development and deployment. This transparency fosters a culture of continuous improvement and risk management.


The call for independent backtesting in algorithmic trading borrows a valuable lesson from the field of software development: just as developers should not QA their own code, strategy developers should not be the sole evaluators of their backtests. Independent backtesting brings objectivity, uncovers hidden issues, and ultimately leads to the development of more robust trading strategies. For wealth management firms, embracing this approach not only enhances the credibility of their strategies but also aligns with best practices in risk management and due diligence.

QuantConnect Scripts: Elevating Strategy with Comprehensive Backtesting

QuantConnect Scripts (QCS) offers detailed backtesting that culminates in a comprehensive report. This report covers backtesting results, performance, and risk analysis, extending to optimized strategies as an optional deep dive. Clients receive precise insights into how their strategy performs under various market conditions, enabling informed decisions on strategy deployment, refinement, or reconsideration. This streamlined approach ensures strategies are not only tested for viability but are fully understood in their potential for success, positioning QCS as a vital partner in algorithmic trading strategy development and optimization.

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