Copy trading has become one of the most sought-after services in the retail trading industry. It was popularized in the early 2010s by a handful of platforms like eToro, but now almost every well-known broker is offering copy trading services.

However, the concept of copy trading came from the ancient internet era’s social trading, when expert traders shared their trading strategies on forums and other platforms. Copy trading only streamlined that approach with technology, allowing rookie traders to execute the trades of experts instantly.

Sam Rudnick
Sam Rudnick, eToro's Head of Popular Investor Program

“Copy Trading allows our users to diversify across asset classes or instruments they may be unfamiliar with by copying a more experienced investor,” said Sam Rudnick, Head of eToro’s Head of Popular Investor Program.

The concept was a hit as the industry witnessed an influx of more and more retail traders. Also, it created another income stream for expert traders. eToro alone has more than 2,200 expert investors whose portfolio can be copied, out of which, 12 have over $10 million copying their strategies and portfolios.

The overall social/copy trading industry is also massive. It is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 7.8 percent, reaching a market size of $3.77 billion by 2028, according to a report by The Insight Partners. The market size of the industry was at $2.2 billion at the end of 2021.

However, many industry experts believe that the popularity of copy trading is declining.

“The boom of the ‘Reddit’ type copy trading has certainly started to slow down,” Nick Battista, Market Strategist and Finance Expert at tastytrade, told Finance Magnates.

Nick Battista, Market Strategist and Finance Expert at tastytrade
Nick Battista, Market Strategist and Finance Expert at tastytrade

“I believe part of the reason for this slow down can be attributed to the market conditions, less instant gratification, and certainly more 'pain trade' via the sideways/down movement in the market. Seasonality also plays a role, generally, market liquidity decreases into the summer months as more casual traders tend to move on to other activities.”

Copy Trading's Broad Appeal

Copy trading received can be used by anyone, be it a novice trader or an expert. While rookies can copy someone else's strategies to gain some possible profits and learn about trading, experts can also implement someone else's strategies, after all, there is always a better trader.

Furthermore, expert traders, if they meet the stringent criteria of the copy trading platforms, can share their strategies to earn a steady income if they successfully gain followers.

High Flying Copy Trading Platforms

Despite the bearish predictions, the copy trading platforms are performing very well. Though the platforms do not share specific numbers, their overall performance remains impressive.

NAGA, a German platform offering copy trading services, has been posting record numbers for several quarters. The company ended 2021 with €55.3 million in revenue and generated another €18 million only in the first quarter of 2022.

“We are happy to see a dynamic start into 2022 and NAGA continuing steady towards its targets,” the CEO of NAGA, Benjamin Bilski said earlier. The company is now focusing on gaining more regulatory licenses and is betting big on cryptocurrency services.

eToro, which missed the deadline of a SPAC deal to become public, ended the last quarter of 2021, netting $304 million, which was a yearly increase of 85 percent. Moreover, its net trading income surged by 50 percent.

Another popular copy trading platform, ZuluTrade was acquired by the Finvisia Group last December for an undisclosed sum. Now, the platform is focused on expansion, gaining regulatory licenses, and adding features.

Copy Trading is Not Without Risk

According to ZuluTrade, only 63 percent of the traders who copied someone’s trading strategies profited between September 2021 and August 2022. That figure is much better than CMC Markets and Pepperstone, which reported 78 percent and 81.18 percent, respectively, of their clients, lost money trading CFDs.

Brokers also promote copy trading as very safe and suitable for new traders. However, there are always risks.

“Novice traders tend to look toward absolutes, 'what’s the BEST trade' or 'what’s the BEST way to manage this position rather than the idea generation follow/copy trading provides,” Battista added.

“After a couple of wins/losses I think most novice traders start to understand that the market is filled with imperfect information, and ultimately following someone else may not necessarily fit their own risk tolerance, capital limitations and directional assumptions. From there, they realize the concepts and strategies used are more important than the actual picks/trades and can form their own assumptions, and be more selective with which trades to follow or copy.”

Another, risk of copy trading is squeezing market liquidity. "If a copy trade generates a large number of trades in the same direction, then this can cause a gap in prices and slippage for investors," said Harry Turner, founder of The Sovereign Investor.

Regulations Can Kill Copy Trading

Regulations always remain a major concern in a high-risk industry like retail OTC derivative trading. At present regulators are considering copy trade as normal trading activities.

“We classified copy trading as portfolio or investment management where no manual input is clear from the account holder. This entails standard regulatory obligations for authorized management,” the FCA stated earlier.

However, if some of the top regulators like the FCA, CySEC or ASIC change their stance and consider copy-trading strategy providers as unregulated investment managers then it can break the entire industry.

Charles Qi, founder and CEO of StockPick.
Charles Qi, founder and CEO of StockPick.

“It is important for copy trading platforms and strategy providers to stay outside of the boundaries of regulated investment management as most copy trading services would not be economically viable if regulated as registered investment managers,” said Charles Qi, the Founder and CEO of StockPick.

Despite all the risks and market conditions, copy trading remains popular among retail traders. The performance of the copy trading platforms over the recent years clearly projects the popularity of the services. And, with an influx of new traders in the market, this niche industry is only expected to grow in the future.

Copy trading has become one of the most sought-after services in the retail trading industry. It was popularized in the early 2010s by a handful of platforms like eToro, but now almost every well-known broker is offering copy trading services.

However, the concept of copy trading came from the ancient internet era’s social trading, when expert traders shared their trading strategies on forums and other platforms. Copy trading only streamlined that approach with technology, allowing rookie traders to execute the trades of experts instantly.

Sam Rudnick
Sam Rudnick, eToro's Head of Popular Investor Program

“Copy Trading allows our users to diversify across asset classes or instruments they may be unfamiliar with by copying a more experienced investor,” said Sam Rudnick, Head of eToro’s Head of Popular Investor Program.

The concept was a hit as the industry witnessed an influx of more and more retail traders. Also, it created another income stream for expert traders. eToro alone has more than 2,200 expert investors whose portfolio can be copied, out of which, 12 have over $10 million copying their strategies and portfolios.

The overall social/copy trading industry is also massive. It is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 7.8 percent, reaching a market size of $3.77 billion by 2028, according to a report by The Insight Partners. The market size of the industry was at $2.2 billion at the end of 2021.

However, many industry experts believe that the popularity of copy trading is declining.

“The boom of the ‘Reddit’ type copy trading has certainly started to slow down,” Nick Battista, Market Strategist and Finance Expert at tastytrade, told Finance Magnates.

Nick Battista, Market Strategist and Finance Expert at tastytrade
Nick Battista, Market Strategist and Finance Expert at tastytrade

“I believe part of the reason for this slow down can be attributed to the market conditions, less instant gratification, and certainly more 'pain trade' via the sideways/down movement in the market. Seasonality also plays a role, generally, market liquidity decreases into the summer months as more casual traders tend to move on to other activities.”

Copy Trading's Broad Appeal

Copy trading received can be used by anyone, be it a novice trader or an expert. While rookies can copy someone else's strategies to gain some possible profits and learn about trading, experts can also implement someone else's strategies, after all, there is always a better trader.

Furthermore, expert traders, if they meet the stringent criteria of the copy trading platforms, can share their strategies to earn a steady income if they successfully gain followers.

High Flying Copy Trading Platforms

Despite the bearish predictions, the copy trading platforms are performing very well. Though the platforms do not share specific numbers, their overall performance remains impressive.

NAGA, a German platform offering copy trading services, has been posting record numbers for several quarters. The company ended 2021 with €55.3 million in revenue and generated another €18 million only in the first quarter of 2022.

“We are happy to see a dynamic start into 2022 and NAGA continuing steady towards its targets,” the CEO of NAGA, Benjamin Bilski said earlier. The company is now focusing on gaining more regulatory licenses and is betting big on cryptocurrency services.

eToro, which missed the deadline of a SPAC deal to become public, ended the last quarter of 2021, netting $304 million, which was a yearly increase of 85 percent. Moreover, its net trading income surged by 50 percent.

Another popular copy trading platform, ZuluTrade was acquired by the Finvisia Group last December for an undisclosed sum. Now, the platform is focused on expansion, gaining regulatory licenses, and adding features.

Copy Trading is Not Without Risk

According to ZuluTrade, only 63 percent of the traders who copied someone’s trading strategies profited between September 2021 and August 2022. That figure is much better than CMC Markets and Pepperstone, which reported 78 percent and 81.18 percent, respectively, of their clients, lost money trading CFDs.

Brokers also promote copy trading as very safe and suitable for new traders. However, there are always risks.

“Novice traders tend to look toward absolutes, 'what’s the BEST trade' or 'what’s the BEST way to manage this position rather than the idea generation follow/copy trading provides,” Battista added.

“After a couple of wins/losses I think most novice traders start to understand that the market is filled with imperfect information, and ultimately following someone else may not necessarily fit their own risk tolerance, capital limitations and directional assumptions. From there, they realize the concepts and strategies used are more important than the actual picks/trades and can form their own assumptions, and be more selective with which trades to follow or copy.”

Another, risk of copy trading is squeezing market liquidity. "If a copy trade generates a large number of trades in the same direction, then this can cause a gap in prices and slippage for investors," said Harry Turner, founder of The Sovereign Investor.

Regulations Can Kill Copy Trading

Regulations always remain a major concern in a high-risk industry like retail OTC derivative trading. At present regulators are considering copy trade as normal trading activities.

“We classified copy trading as portfolio or investment management where no manual input is clear from the account holder. This entails standard regulatory obligations for authorized management,” the FCA stated earlier.

However, if some of the top regulators like the FCA, CySEC or ASIC change their stance and consider copy-trading strategy providers as unregulated investment managers then it can break the entire industry.

Charles Qi, founder and CEO of StockPick.
Charles Qi, founder and CEO of StockPick.

“It is important for copy trading platforms and strategy providers to stay outside of the boundaries of regulated investment management as most copy trading services would not be economically viable if regulated as registered investment managers,” said Charles Qi, the Founder and CEO of StockPick.

Despite all the risks and market conditions, copy trading remains popular among retail traders. The performance of the copy trading platforms over the recent years clearly projects the popularity of the services. And, with an influx of new traders in the market, this niche industry is only expected to grow in the future.