FNG Exclusive Interview – 2023 was a very busy year for M&A activity in the FX and CFDs brokerage sector. And with industry consolidation being one of the key themes of the year in our Top FX and CFD trading industry news stories of 2023, Gerald from FNG thought it would be a good time to catch up with Joe Li, Chairman of ATFX Group which was very much involved in much of the action.
Gerald is the founder of FNG and is one of the most experienced writers covering the online trading sector. Prior to starting FNG, Gerald founded Forex industry B2B news website LeapRate.com in 2010, selling it in 2018 to publicly traded Catena Media plc (STO:CTM). An avid skier, cyclist and ice hockey player, Gerald was previously an investment banker for more than a decade at Bear Stearns, Robertson Stephens, and Merrill Lynch. Gerald holds an MBA from Columbia University in New York and a BCOM degree from the University of Toronto.
How does ATFX approach M&A activity?
What is Joe’s outlook for the industry in 2024?
Here is what he had to say, exclusively at FNG.
FNG: Hi Joe, and thanks for joining us today. One of our key FX and CFD sector themes for 2023 was industry consolidation, and ATFX was certainly at the centre of a lot of the action, acquiring Rakuten Securities Australia as well as licensed South African broker Khwezi, as well as getting SCA licence in Dubai. How do you approach the issue of acquisitions as a key strategic tool for ATFX?
Joe: The acquisitions of Rakuten Securities Australia and Khwezi not only broaden our geographical reach and but also deepen our global strategy in the following ways:
Firstly, by acquiring established players like Rakuten Securities Australia and Khwezi we boost our market share and competitiveness in a rapidly evolving industry where consolidation is common. Merging resources under the reputational licences of ASIC in Australia and FSCA in South Africa significantly strengthens ATFX’s global footprint. More importantly, the respective licence allows us to provide better service to institutional clients in the relative regions with one ATFX global liquidities and strengthen competitiveness under “ATFX Connect”, our institutional business brand.
Secondly, with mature global successful experience, acquisitions provide us with access to new markets and customer segments. By merging with or acquiring other companies, we gain a wider customer base, which can be leveraged to cross-sell services, introduce new products, and increase revenue streams. This approach helps us to diversify the offering and capture untapped market potential.
Additionally, acquisitions also facilitate knowledge and expertise transfer. By bringing together the talent and experience of acquired companies, we can enhance our capabilities in technology, compliance, risk management, and client services. This constructive collaboration allows us to stay ahead of the competition, adapt to evolving customer demands, and deliver superior service experience.
FNG: What changes have you seen among the online trading community in the past while? How is ATFX preparing to address these changes as we turn the calendar page to 2024? Can you share your major goals for 2024?
Joe: In recent times, the online trading community has witnessed significant changes. These changes have been fueled by advances in technology, market trends, and evolving investor preferences. As we approach 2024, we recognize the importance of adapting to these changes and staying ahead in the competitive landscape.
We have outlined several major goals for 2024 to address the transformations in the online trading community. Firstly, we aim to further enhance and streamline our online trading platform to provide a seamless and user-friendly experience to our clients. This includes continuous improvement of the platform’s functionalities, optimising performance, and incorporating cutting-edge technologies.
Additionally, we recognize the growing importance of social trading and the rise of influencer-driven investment decisions. To cater to these trends, we aim to strengthen our social trading features by integrating advanced social trading tools and platforms. This will enable our clients to benefit from the collective wisdom of experienced traders and make informed investment decisions.
Furthermore, as the online trading community becomes more globalised, we are committed to expanding our global presence. We will focus on entering new markets, establishing strategic partnerships, and enhancing our multilingual customer support services. This will ensure that we can cater to the diverse needs of traders worldwide.
FNG: ATFX is one of just a handful of brokers which operates properly licensed businesses across a variety of locations worldwide including the UK, EU, Australia, South Africa, and the UAE. Where do you see the most growth and opportunity for ATFX, both in terms of geography and products?
Joe: When considering the potential growth and opportunities for ATFX, it would be beneficial to analyse the current market trends and demands in each location.
In terms of geography, we already operate in the UK, Cyprus, Australia, South Africa, and the UAE. It would be wise to evaluate the performance and potential for growth in each of these markets individually. Consider factors such as the regulatory environment, economic conditions, market saturation, and target audience needs. By conducting a comprehensive analysis, we can identify the locations that offer the most growth and opportunities for ATFX.
Regarding products, it is essential to assess the demand and potential profitability of each product category offered by ATFX. Consider factors such as market demand, competition, differentiation, and potential for expansion. By identifying the most sought-after products and exploring new opportunities, we can maximise growth and seize potential opportunities in the market.
We will base our analysis on concrete data and research to ensure accuracy and reliability. Additionally, staying updated on market trends and continuously monitoring the performance of ATFX in each location will help make informed decisions about geographical expansion and product development.
FNG: How is the London based, FCA regulated ATFX Connect institutional operation going? What do you see as the key goals for that business in 2024?
Joe: ATFX Connect, our institutional arm of ATFX Group, has been operating actively in 2023. In July, we formally joined the Global FX Code of Conduct, which promotes integrity, fairness, transparency, and the effective functioning of the global foreign exchange markets, demonstrating our commitment to upholding the standards of integrity, fairness, transparency, and efficiency in the market.
Additionally, we have already announced our partnership with EBS Direct, a well-known electronic trading platform that has been a reliable source of institutional liquidity and price discovery in the e-FX field for nearly thirty years. With EBS Direct, ATFX Connect can offer our institutional clients direct market access to custom liquidity and connectivity solutions in Spot FX and Precious Metals, further enhancing its institutional electronic FX offerings.
In 2024, the key goals for that business should include expanding our client base and enhancing the technological infrastructure to provide more efficient and secure trading capabilities. With the stable and good business foundation of ATFX Connect Agency and Margin business, the focus of 2024 will be offering ATFX customised ECN trading platform to our global institutional clients as well as expanding the institutional risk management team to enhance ATFX unique liquidity offerings.
FNG: What else can we expect to hear from ATFX in the coming months?
Joe: In the coming months, you can expect to hear several exciting updates from us. We aim to keep ourselves as one of the most active brokers in the market. We have been focusing on expanding our product offerings and enhancing our services to better cater to the needs of our clients.
One area of focus is technology advancements, as we aim to leverage cutting-edge tools like our mobile application and platforms to provide a seamless trading experience. Additionally, we are launching an auto-KYC onboarding procedure allowing our clients to complete online applications in a few minutes. It will be launched region by region in 2024.
Furthermore, we are strengthening the global analysts’ team by offering daily analysis for more than 10 languages everyday together with unique ATFX education resources as well as copy trading solutions, aiming to provide a comprehensive and variety top tier service. We are committed and dedicated to staying at the forefront of the financial industry and delivering innovative solutions to global clients.