Whilst the coronavirus pandemic might be slowing down the world, it has not slowed down foreign exchange (forex) broker ATFX, which has been pushing full steam ahead with its expansion plans.
As Finance Magnates reported, ATFX is entering into a new phase of growth, which will see the broker expand its geographical footprint across Asia, as well as enhance its product offering, focusing on localisation.
At the same time, in August, the firm published its financial results for the year ended 31st October 2019, revealing a significant increase in turnover for the period, but still closing out the year at a loss.
In light of all of these changes, Finance Magnates caught up with Wei Qiang Zhang, Managing Director of ATFX (UK) to learn more about how COVID-19 has influenced the company’s operations and what is next on the horizons.
When asked how the pandemic has impacted ATFX, Zhang outlined that the pandemic is proving to be one of the biggest challenges the retail FX brokerage has needed to face in the past 50 years.
“At ATFX, we remain focused on implementing our strategic expansion plans. Covid-19 has not stood in our way, instead, we’re proud to say that confidence in our robust business model has only accelerated. We’re an online service provider, so we haven’t been disrupted in the traditional sense, as many other businesses have. Clients still had access to our award-winning platform, even during the lockdown period.
“Coronavirus has drastically shifted the operational functionality of businesses, but our contingency measures have made it all the more easier to enact new measures. Remote working has thus been a smoother transition than initially expected as we were well-prepared beforehand and all staff have had the necessary infrastructure they need to work virtually.”
‘We’re Taking Each Day as It Comes’
Despite COVID-19 forcing staff to work from home, the FX broker has still continued to hire new personnel from all over the world. Furthermore, the company is monitoring its work from home policy and adjusting it as needed.
“We’re taking each day as it comes and have even found ways to prosper as a company amidst mass uncertainty. Due to the halt in offline activities, we’ve been able to reallocate our resources to focus on a huge revamp of our website and client portal.
“Many of the management formulas that worked when most of our staff worked from our offices had to be redesigned as they were no longer effective. We have adopted new management models for the digital workforce, which are still evolving.
“We’ve also raised our share capital by £3.15 million. The funds will facilitate our EU expansion plans, as well as goals to enter emerging markets. We are confident that our growth-focused approach during this challenging period combined with resilient global teams will see ATFX emerge as an even stronger company post-crisis.”
Past Two Years Were Transition Period for ATFX
As Finance Magnates reported, ATFX reported a loss of £383,661 for its operations within the United Kingdom for the year ended 31st October 2019. This was largely driven by an uptick in administrative expenses. So what does ATFX expect for 2020?
“2020 has been a promising year for ATFX. Volume increased by 61.29%, and 46.52%, for Q1, and Q2, respectively when compared to 2019. The number of total active traders also rose by 54.64% and 66.40%. These impressive results were achieved, in part, due to heightened volatility within global financial markets,” Zhang elaborated.
“We consider the last two years as a transition period for ATFX. We tested various strategies to find out which ones were suitable for the company and our clients. Having a profitable year will be a significant milestone for ATFX, it’ll reaffirm our business strategy and provide reassurance to our clients.”
ATFX Focuses on Bolstering Technology and Team
Furthermore, Zhang explained that the company has been investing heavily in upgrading its technology and launching new products. As mentioned above, ATFX has also been expanding its team with new hires, which was one of the reasons why administrative expenses increased in 2019, and have continued to do so in 2020.
“The launch of our institutional arm, ATFX Connect, also came in 2019 where we allocated significant resources and are proud of the results we’ve seen in such a short space of time. Again, we strongly believe that what is best for our clients will be best for the company long-term, which is what drives our long-term decisions,” he continued.
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“You can see that we increased our share capital by £1.5 million in April and again by £3.15 million in July to cater to the rising costs of running a customer-focused business, as well as business and service expansion. We have the utmost confidence in the future of our business. So long as we continue to satisfy our customers, we should have no issues becoming profitable in future.”
COVID-19 Impact on the Industry
When asked how he thought the FX industry had handled the coronavirus pandemic, Zhang said that brokers were one of the main benefactors of COVID-19, as traders became more active amid heightened volatility.
“As a company, we know that crisis and opportunity coexist, we’ve shown that we’re more than capable of managing such conditions – an optimist might even go as far as to say that the turbulence has strengthened us,” Zhang highlighted.
“Our business continuity plan came into effect earlier this year when the coronavirus first gripped the world. We quickly moved most of our trader education programmes from physical seminars to online classes and webinars to better serve our clients. We also partnered with WebTV, Dow Jones and Autochartist to provide quality first-class education to our clients. Further to this, we’ve introduced more online payment channels for our clients as governments across the globe discouraged the use of physical cash.”
Long-Term Effects: Changing Trading Habits
So what could be the long-term effects of the pandemic? According to Zhang, COVID-19 has caused investors trading habits to change. People are trading at all times of the day, increasingly using mobiles and more will remain after the pandemic has gone.
“The growing use of smartphones within the FX industry means that many traders will be basing their choice of brokers upon the efficiency of mobile trading offerings. We’re seeing the introduction of innovative developments that facilitate smooth mobile trading for ATFX clients, that can speed up client portal processes,” Zhang added.
“We’re also planning to use machine learning to power our cutting-edge client portal as we continue to upgrade our technology infrastructure. But we have noticed that the FX trading volume in London has been shrinking on a daily basis. This reflects the current state of the global economy, which has notably shrunk due to Covid-19. Unemployment rates have risen significantly and the true economic effects of the lockdown measures are still not known. This is likely to be a monumental challenge for our industry in the long run.”
ATFX Focuses on European Expansion
Beyond the pandemic, what plans are in the works for ATFX? According to Zhang, the broker’s priority is expanding its operations outside of the UK into other European countries and providing more localised services. As part of this, the firm will be hiring local talent to cater to its growing European client base.
The company’s ultimate goal is to establish a new European office hub. Currently, the FX trading provider is researching what will be the best location for this hub, and once the office is fully operational, clients within the Euro area will have a team of local support staff to address their needs in their native languages.
“ATFX is also keen to further expand its product suite with many new products that are currently in the pipeline. These are being developed by our in-house IT team. We have one of the best IT teams in the world, which allows us to create innovative products from scratch instead of licensing the existing products from third parties,” Zhang explained.
“The products being developed target both retail and institutional traders, which sets us apart from many other retailers who license the same products. While this approach is more costly at the beginning, it will pay off immensely in future because it allows us to create products that address the most pressing customer needs.”
In addition, ATFX is planning on launching more trading tools, namely, ATFX mobile and the TeamUp app. ATFX Team app is a proprietary social trading app where clients can discuss trading ideas with their fellow peers, follow and automatically copy expert traders, as well as provide signals to other traders.
“The planned launch of the ATFX mobile trading and Team app will showcase our commitment to creating innovative products for our retail clients. We believe that the two apps will revolutionise the mobile and social trading experience for our clients and cement our position as the most innovative Forex broker.”
Education Remains a Key Focus for ATFX
Aside from all of the changes mentioned above, educating traders still remains a key area of focus for ATFX, and will continue to be one of its largest going forward. This will be showcased in the company’s new website, which will have two new sections dedicated to trader education.
The two new sections are Trading Strategies, which will cover all topics vital to trading, and Market News, which will be a section of the broker’s website dedicated to delivering the latest financial news.
“We’re also creating one of the most complete trading courses on the market which will launch soon. The course will have content targeted at beginner and intermediate traders who are looking to sharpen their trading skills, as well as content to boost the advanced traders strategy portfolio. The self-paced course will complement the online webinars but will also be a complete standalone educational package for our clients,” Zhang said.
As part of its focus on education, ATFX plans on hosting online educational events, which are aimed at replacing the physical seminars the company previously hosted. The events will feature expert traders and investors who will share their knowledge and insight with clients. Alongside this, users will be able to access relevant market analysis produced by the firm’s top analysts, led by Alejandro Zambrano, ATFX’s Chief Market Strategist.