GFT’S founder and chief executive Gary Tilkin is in bullish mood. This week, his firm launches its latest innovation, a platform for binary trades, where traders can simply make yes/no predictions about whether a financial event will happen. The platform covers foreign exchange, but also popular indices and commodities. “It’s an idea I had a few years ago, a chance to be a little bit unique. We deliberately went for a platform that is not just competitive in pricing but also engaging and easy to use. We didn’t want it to be like trading off a spreadsheet. People are very visual, and the new platform takes that into account.”
One example of that visual emphasis is the DealWheel tool, a timing wheel that counts down before a trade’s expiry. That makes interacting with the platform a little more fun than some others, and it is also important, because, unusually among binary offerings, GFT’s binaries can be entered and exited as many times as you like and, depending on the market, can be tradable up to expiration.
Binaries are good if you want to stay on your trading toes. GFT is offering short-term binary trades at five-minute, twenty-minute and hourly intervals, as well as at the mid-session mark and for daily markets. Across all the categories available, that adds up to 6,000 potential trades every day.
Tilkin says that the ability binaries give for traders to know their maximum loss means this should attract more people to trade. “It makes trading easier to grasp, if you’re not steeped in trading already. Binary trades are logical – it will close above or below this point in this time period – and we’ve emphasised that with clear visualisation through our new software. If you see an opportunity in the market, it gives you an easy way to make the trade, and it can lead on to more complex spread betting. You know, people aren’t interested in difficulty for its own sake. Sophisticated analysis is possible here, but by making it easy to use it works at every level.”
Tilkin’s understanding of what his customers want goes back to the 1990s, when he created GFT by seeing the demand for spot forex trading, with most customers moving over from futures immediately to take advantage of 24-hour, highly liquid trading. “Customers didn’t like placing a phone call to move a stop three points. They always felt like they were bothering the broker. Software made it easy. We knew this was going to be the only way for 99 per cent of trades. We understood the customer side, and found developers to build the software.” Since then GFT has kept its lead by listening to its customers and keeping its software fresh. Tilkin says that more updates are on the way, including an iPad app and the integration of all products into a single platform.
Another emphasis for GFT is trader education – “It comes up in customer surveys as one of the most important things people want. We have programmes in place now for educating people on both short-term trading signals and long-term fundamental and technical indicators – and we’re developing more.”
That energy to innovate goes alongside a belief that the trading marketplace has plenty of room to grow. “We’ve hardly scratched the surface,” says Tilkin, despite remarkable growth in the UK market in recent years. “The UK is as good a market as any in the world. People understand trading pretty well, regulators understand the business better than elsewhere – it’s a mature market with people who are really interested in the possibilities.”
He’s careful to add that this doesn’t mean trading is for everyone. “We’ve never said that. It’s only for people financially and emotionally capable of absorbing the risk.”
That still leaves a large audience, and while current levels of market volatility have many wincing, Tilkin sees it as ideal for GFT’s brand of trading. “One thing we’ve found is that the more volatile the better for our business. But that’s because traders can pick a direction, so volatility becomes an opportunity. It’s not just about being long stocks. Even if the market’s down, it doesn’t have to be bad news. It can be a hedge for long positions in your portfolio, and in forex you can enhance your positions in foreign currency. That’s not to be overlooked – people can lose more in currency than they make in the markets.”
Above all, Tilkin says, GFT is trying to look out for its customer’s interests, with its combination of 24/7 customer service, with real people handling your trades while the markets are open, alongside an unblemished regulatory record worldwide – “that can’t be said by all our competitors” – and, from its very beginnings, a focus on software platforms that make successful trading easier.
Tilkin sums it up: “We’re best served as a company by customers that are profitable. They stay around and they tell their friends. We give whatever we can to support them.”