Fin Tech

Social Trading and Its Implications: A Financial Technology Market Research Perspective

Written by Ju Jian Ngiam on  Digilah (Tech Thought Leadership).

Social trading is a form of investing that enables individuals to observe the trading behavior of their peers and expert traders, and to follow their investment strategies using copy trading or mirror trading.

It democratizes access to financial instruments such as options, as traders can make decisions based on other traders’ actions rather than analyzing raw financial data, which they may not have the time or ability to do so accurately.

While social trading provides a platform for investors to learn from and mimic other traders, copy trading is a specific subset of this broader concept.

Copy trading is an automated process where an investor’s account mimics the trades of a chosen trader automatically.

Social trading requires more involvement and understanding, allowing investors to pick and choose specific trades to follow rather than copying all trades from a specific trader. In some cases, social traders can make the opposite trade of the expert they are following if the trader has a bad reputation.

An example would be the anti-ARK Innovation Fund (ARKK) exchange traded fund, Turtle Short Innovation ETF, otherwise known as SARK. The ARKK Fund was once a respected exchange traded fund, but due to poor performance in recent years, an exchange traded fund called SARK was created to short the ARKK. The fund went up by 75%, while ARKK dropped by 50% in 2022, proving its mettle in the financial industry.

Key players in the social trading space include eToro, Moomoo and Robinhood, among others. These platforms provide a wide array of investment options, from foreign exchange and stocks, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) to cryptocurrencies, and attract traders of all skill levels. High Frequency Trading (HFT) firms like Tower Research, Domeyard are also relevant, as they employ sophisticated algorithms that execute large quantities of trades within split seconds, often at the expense of retail investors.

Social trading’s main benefit is its ability to leverage the collective knowledge and experience of a community of traders, otherwise known as the wisdom of the crowd.

It allows inexperienced investors to learn from more seasoned traders, potentially mitigating some risks associated with lack of knowledge.

However, social trading also carries significant risks. Copying a strategy without understanding its underlying mechanism can lead to substantial losses, especially in volatile markets. There’s also the risk of following traders who themselves may not be competent or who may be driven by emotions.

Furthermore, the tactics of HFT firms can distort market information, leading to accusations of market manipulation through their tactic of “Quote stuffing”.

“Quote stuffing” in essence is placing mass orders of trades and cancelling them last minute, with the intention of overwhelming competitors by having them process the orders and cancellations.

At its worst, this tactic caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to fall by 1,000 points in a few minutes in 2010. However, these firms are necessary market liquidity providers, accounting for 50% of all equity trades in the United States as of the present.

Hence, social trading platforms such as this company, FollowTrade should have risk management features that can safeguard consumers such as stop limit orders for their own good.

My deep fascination with the intersection of finance and technology is my primary motivation for being in this space.

It led to me completing a certificate in Financial Technology at HarvardX, an online learning initiative by Harvard before matriculating. I learned about strategies like High Frequency Trading and intend to delve deeper.

My understanding of the industry’s intricacies, such as the tactics employed by HFT firms and the complexities of trading as a finance undergraduate has equipped me with a unique perspective.

This offers an unparalleled opportunity to further my knowledge and contribute to the dynamic fintech landscape. I am excited to apply my skills and passion to real-world research and look forward to the valuable experience this promises.

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Fin Tech

The Evolution of Financial Payments

Written by Salim Hussain on Digilah (Tech Thought Leadership)

It is a paradox of our lives that some of the most common of actions underlying a functioning society are left virtually untouched by advancement as civilization marches forth to Metaverses and recyclable rockets. An example is how Education has operated historically – a source of knowledge (teacher/computer) facing a collective of students, dispensing knowledge. The dispenser may vary but the fundamental construct remains unaltered. But the one I want to focus on today is the act of making Payments. Yes, payments…the industry that is supposedly being disrupted with an onslaught of payment tech start-ups touting nosebleed valuations. But if one peels away the slick interface and looks into exactly how the payments course from one end to the other, you will inevitably run into technology which was built when Mash was still on air and “Bloody” a bad word!…

Let’s think of a situation where a corporation say Nike, needs to pay its suppliers in Vietnam called VietShoe. Nike instructs it’s bank to make a payment in VND to its supplier bank account. Nike is shown a FX rate by the trader at Nike’s bank, “Banque de Zapatas”(BDZ)…there follows a little negotiation… then finally the golden word “done” is said/typed. The next stage is for the operations people then deduct the USD100 from Nike’s account in the US and initiate a series of steps whose desired outcome is to get the VND equivalent of USD100 (about 2,250,000 VND at current rates) credited to VietShoe’s account.

FX markets are the largest component of capital markets with a daily trade volume is 6.6 Trillion USD (the equivalent number for equities is 0.5 T and bonds is 4.7T). hence, there are hundreds of thousands of such Nikes making millions of payments to the Vietshoes of the world every day! The scale is mind boggling.  The good news is that there is a method to the madness. There is a common platform and a common language which banks can speak to each other. And a central organization creating rules for this superhighway, so these trillions can move around seamlessly. That organization is a member owned cooperative called SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication). This was set in the 70s! And is still the backbone of the vast majority of the 6.6T being transacted every day.

% Turnover

I will give you a brief taste of the gymnastics involved in the example above.

1.Once the rate is agreed with Nike, Bank NY needs to let it’s partner bank in Vietnam called Bank VN (termed “onshore bank” in the Trading Room) two things – One, the identity of the Beneficiary and it’s bank account details and Two, the amount to be transferred. This is done using a MT 103 Swift format file.

2. Once Bank VN receives the request, it will debit the account BDZ maintains with it for 2,250,000 VND and credit the ultimate beneficiaries account.

(I am making a number of simplifying assumptions here like the presence of “nostro” account as well as absence of routing banks. These can be the subject of another future note.)

The route above, is how most fintech apps work today. If evaluated by a tech person, she will be aghast at the usage of flat files, and, in a minority of cases, API calls (which will be the subject of future write ups). Now, take a step back and juxtapose the promise of blockchain technology to this archaic construct… suddenly, The Swift system, if imagined as an entry on a vast netted ledger, across multiple counterparties, begins to resemble a classic blockchain construct.  And the realization comes that this is the exact point where the technology should be deployed and has not, for the most part, been deployed. For it remains mired in producing Dogecoin’s and NFTs to make use of those Dogecoins!!