State your name, company name and position please:
Ilan Azbel, Autochartist, CEO
Describe your company with three words:
Financial Market Research
Please go into detail about the Company, its market segment and recent developments:
Autochartist started off in 2001 as a “garage startup” by myself and Erik Voges. At that time we both worked extensively for large corporates and decided to further our studies. I was tired of working for other people and decided it was time to start something on my own. So when we finally launched our first end-of-day Johannesburg Stock Exchange product in early 2002 we thought we would watch the money rolling in. That’s when we realized that simply putting up a website doesn’t make money roll in.
Since those days the company has grown consistently and is currently servicing 40 of the largest and most successful on-line brokers all across the globe. Our community now comprises of more than 50 000 traders in over 80 countries worldwide. We like to think of ourselves as the leading technology for provision of chart pattern recognition technology.
After our initial failure to launch in South Africa, we applied Autochartist to US Equities on an intraday basis. This offered traders a new perspective on using chart patterns in their trading because this type of functionality and computing power had never really been applied on such a broad spectrum of financial instruments.
The next few years saw Autochartist growing quickly in both user numbers and product. We added the ability to identify Fibonacci patterns in 2008, our price volatility tool in 2009, and Horizontal support and resistance levels in 2011. Between Chart Patterns, Horizontal levels, Fibonacci and our price volatility indicator, I believe our products reached a point in which they were able to service a very large majority of the technical traders in the market.
At this point we started slowly expanding the direction of the company by presenting our products in a research form. The daily Autochartist Market Report feature was launched recently and is popular with many casual traders, providing a simple, concise technical outlook for the markets.
In March 2013 I think we achieved something that nobody has attempted to do with chart patterns before, by launching ‘Our Favourites’ trade alert service. Presenting clients with the trades Autochartist calculates to be statistically most successful in a single view; the service offers a brand new approach to technical analysis. Clients can select the desired minimum probability of success – from 60% to 80% – and each trade opportunity is then highlighted. A graphical illustration, plus details of the system’s historical success of forecasting against the specific pattern, on that asset and at that time of day are also given.
What you have have achieved since being appointed CEO?
Until 2008 the company had around 10 broker clients. Since being appointed as CEO in 2008 we have grown to over 40 broker clients and that number is growing on a daily basis.
What are your present issues and challenges and what is your plan to steer the company through them successfully?
Firstly, I think the stock market and the OTC markets (such as Forex) are facing different sets of problems. The Forex market in particular is facing huge regulatory issues, but more importantly, in my opinion, is that the perception around Forex is that it is still an arena for gamblers instead of investors. And this perception is true, one look at the NFA retail trader stats around client profitability will show you that most retail traders lose their money.
I think this problem will continue unless there is radical reform in how money managers and signal providers are remunerated. Having individuals other than brokers remunerated through traded volume instead of through performance is counter-productive. Yes, this is making many individuals a lot of money, but is hurting the industry in the long term.
I believe that if we want to start making Forex a real investable asset class the regulators need to change their focus away from the brokers and start clamping down on remuneration structures that are, in no uncertain terms, heavily biased against the retail investor. I am also of the opinion that copy-follow platforms should be completely outlawed unless they remunerate based on performance.
So I hate to be called the “nun in front of the brothel trying to stop people from entering the premises”, so I always try to position Autochartist as the “nun in front of the brothel handing out condoms”.
As industry is well known to be highly competitive, what means do you use to survive and to excel in such a fast and sometimes harsh environment (except for collaboration with Forex Magnates Directory of course ;)?
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Yes the market is very highly competitive. However competition is not necessarily a bad thing. It drives us forward, and at Autochartist we are always striving to improve our product and to come up with new offerings.
Some of the ways we have improved within the last 2 years has been more focused attention on the trader with increased social media interactions, improved educational material, and most importantly the provision of more signal-type products such as the “Our Favourites” feature.
Autochartist is very technology focused and invests heavily into R&D. I think this technical competence will give us an edge over a competition in the long run. For example, in the next 2 – 3 months we are planning a release of a new product that is heavily dependent on massive computational power. I am certain our competition struggles to keep up!
Does your company focus on the domestic market or does it have a global presence?
We have a very global reach with Brokers from all over the world, including Japan, United States, United Kingdom and Australia. We have many users from Asia, Africa and Europe. The only continent we have yet to expand into is South America.
Is branding important, and what is your corporate view on it?
With the rise of Social Media, branding is no longer just a pretty logo on a billboard. Just as a person creates an online identity, so too a business needs to create an online identity. So branding today is more about an identity made up of the values and goals of the business decision makers and employees.
We like to think of ourselves as an approachable trader-centric brand. This is unlike many of the research providers to the industry that put themselves on a “know-it-all” pedestal. We try to bring out our personality through our social media posts, and the open conversations we have with our community.
What is your predictions for the coming years of the Forex industry as a whole?
The future of the Fx industry lies with the regulators. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that their focus should change to clamping down on rebate models for money managers. If this happens I think the future is bright, if not, I think Forex is doomed to remain the high churn gambling environment it is today.
Do you read Forex Magnates Quarterly report?
Yes, most definitely! It has become one of the most important publications in the Forex industry. Michael Greenberg and his team have done a great job.
What’s your view on the Forex/social network phenomenon?
The social network phenomenon has a lot of potential however a lot of businesses in the industry are jumping on the band wagon without giving too much thought into the long term effects. In the long run quality pays off and I just feel these social networks are full of “successful” traders that use unsustainable money management methods to mask their failed trades and their lack of trading skill and experience.
If one looks at more mature financial markets one would notice that successful traders hold their cards very close to their chest and don’t scream it from the highest roof-top. When the retail traders start understanding this I think the social trading hype in Forex will cease.
Are you using social media channels to create greater exposure and increase trader lifespan?
Yes we do. We have a very strong presence on social media channels. Social media is a great way to build a loyal community of traders.
To allow us to get to know you a bit better, let us know something that interests you, and what you enjoy doing in your spare time.
I am a down-to-earth guy that lives a modest lifestyle. I like to think of money as a means to attain freedom, not material things, although I have been known to buy myself a few boy-toys. I enjoy participating in sports like tennis, swimming and cycling. I absolutely love going to good restaurants and sharing a bottle of wine with close friends. I am not a ruthless businessman; for me business is about creating win-win scenarios and good natured competition!