Discerning retail traders are no longer hampered by having to resort to b-book retail shops with inflexible also-ran and marketing-led services, but can, from the comfort of their own living room or whilst on the move, now genuinely emulate the professional trader. We go to Plantation, Florida to meet John Bartleman, President of TradeStation to discuss the company’s move toward a wider audience, complete trading environment modernization and the encompassing of retail traders by one of the world’s most esteemed professional platforms
During the past few months, FinanceFeeds has been a staunch advocate of the benefits of retail FX brokerages elevating their product ranges and connecting to multi asset venues, as well as opening themselves to the opportunities of doing business in North America.
The electronic trading business in the United States has for almost its entire existence taken a completely different path to that of other parts of the world, largely as a result of the large number of professional traders and proprietary portfolio managers as well as listed futures and derivatives traders with high value accounts that proliferate the domestic market.
The level of sophistication within the North American electronic trading environment is so refined that, unlike in many other parts of the world where the average global deposit to a retail electronic trading account is $3600 and the average client lifetime value only six months, it is not uncommon at all for North American broker dealers to stipulate a minimum account balance of $250,000 and experience several years of trading from one client using multiple terminals in a dedicated office.
Indeed, domestic choice of retail FX brokerages may well be confined to just two, those being OANDA Corporation and GAIN Capital, soon to be joined by evergreen British stalwart IG Group when it returns to the US via its Chicago office in the homeland of electronic trading prowess.
A high quality environment and a very astute customer base sets the United States completely apart from all other regions, however the majority of its long established platform developers and market connectivity companies have concentrated on professional traders and inter-institution technology that is designed for algorithmic trading and HFT (high frequency trading) by employees of large commercial trading entities.
The astute among the platform household names in North America have realized over the past two years that with the increasing sophistication of retail traders and their consequent lack of credible options in terms of genuine multi asset trading environments, a move toward widening the scope of professional platforms toward the retail audience is indeed a sensible one.
Today, FinanceFeeds spoke at length with John Bartleman, President of TradeStation based in Plantation, Florida, to gain a full perspective on why TradeStation made a significant effort to rebrand, redesign and increase the audience that such a high-quality and long-established platform can serve.
Mr. Bartleman was appointed President of TradeStation two years ago, and has been with the company since 1999 under its previous guise of Omega Research, which the Cruz brothers founded in 1982.
During Mr. Bartleman’s committed tenure at TradeStation, he witnessed the original transition from Omega Research to TradeStation in 2001 when the company became a brokerage. Upon assuming the position of President, Mr. Bartleman has put in place an updated strategy.
“Since 2001, we have been targeting the professional day trader, but that niche had not been growing since the financial crash of 2008, so we expanded to a wider range of traders,” said Mr. Bartleman.
“We looked at everything from our pricing, to how we targeted active traders to how we could target non-active traders,” he continued.
“In March of last year, we launched a new equities and options pricing plan which was intended to appeal to a broader audience. To make sure it was competitive, we kept prices at $5 per trade for equities, 50 cents per contract for options, and $1.50 per contract for listed futures,” explained Mr. Bartleman.
Mr. Bartleman explained the rationale behind this decision, stating that the company charges no data fees and no software fees, which is compelling to a broader audience including discerning retail traders. To ensure that the retail audience is further served, TradeStation provided a HTML5 web application as well as new iPhone and android mobile applications.
“TradeStation was always more specialized,” said Mr. Bartleman. “It is very tricky for retail traders not working from a trading office, because it is impractical to download and install the software and then sit at a permanent space all day,” he said.
“As a result of this, in order to expand to a retail audience, web was important. We added Matrix, trading news and our Trader Concierge to actively push data to customers. If you are a trader who is holding a position in Microsoft, for example, we can then send a notification which states that Microsoft’s earnings are about to be released – our traders are always ready,” he said.
“We are now working on an AI solution that could provide more specific data to our customers” explained Mr. Bartleman. “Taking the trader with an open Microsoft position as an example, our AI solution would then provide an alert saying that Microsoft’s earnings are coming tomorrow, complete with a full dataset explaining what happened to Microsoft’s stock price after earnings over the last several years so that the traders do not have to do that research themselves,” – John Bartleman, President, TradeStation.
“To further engage traders who are on the move and not working in a professional trading environment, we also have developed Siri integrations, and other voice activated solutions as part of the modernization of the TradeStation platform,” said Mr. Bartleman.
TradeStation’s viewpoint is that the new TradeStation platform looks more modern. The original platform has its roots in the 1990s, so the new TradeStation Platform has improved usability, provides more assistance for new users to get started, and has a landing page with news feeds, educational products, and a social media feed.
“We worked on stability considerably,” said Mr. Bartleman. “Customers demand that this product works all the time. This new version has been the first major change to the platform in the last 10 years,” he explained.
“We launched a new website and Education Center in the summer of last year which signaled the beginning of the complete rebranding of TradeStation.
Giving back to the community
“We have been looking at how to give back to the community,” said Mr. Bartleman. “We recently launched TradeStation Salutes, which was appropriately launched on Veteran’s Day a year and a half ago. We offer commission free trading, with no market data frees or platform fees to all active military, veterans and first responders.”
“This program also has custom education tracks to teach about the markets. If you want to become a trader when coming out of the military, we can teach you how to do it. Our partner for this is Online Trading Academy, offering free education,” said Mr. Bartleman.
“Another important enhancement that we made this year which was led by Jodi Fronczke, our VP of Marketing, has focused on how we partner with companies and produce content,” continued Mr. Bartleman. “Coming soon we will be launching TradeStation TV powered by Cheddar. This will give our clients exclusive content from Cheddar only available on TradeStation website and apps.”
“We partnered with a company called Cheddar. They deliver content via mobile apps, Facebook Live, YouTube, and Twitter, reaching a younger audience.” – John Bartleman, President, TradeStation
“In the past, we focused on providing tools that were great for the power user. But the active traders who are doctors, lawyers, and other busy professionals do not have time to spend looking at trading strategies. We needed engaging and accessible content for them,” said Mr. Bartleman.
“We have also diversified our asset range, again with the retail trader in mind. An example of this is our foray into cryptocurrency in December 2017 with Bitcoin futures on CME and CME,” he enthused.
Looking internationally, Mr. Bartleman revealed TradeStation’s global aspirations. “We have also launched a new offering called TradeStation Global, a partnership with Interactive Brokers,” he said. “This will provide a solution to global clients starting in Europe, which will largely consist of FX, CFDs, US markets and local European Markets.”
Indeed, this complete modernization and expansion into the global and U.S. retail sector by a high-quality firm represents the new environment for retail traders who, along with their discerning experience, are now able to access a quality platform, which was, until recently, reserved for professional traders.
This is empowering because retail traders are no longer hampered by having to resort to b-book retail shops with inflexible also-ran and marketing-led services, but can, from the comfort of their own living room or whilst on the move, now genuinely emulate the professional trader.
To celebrate all of these innovative changes, TradeStation is hosting an interactive pop-up activation in New York City’s transportation and entertainment hub, the Oculus March 27-29. Activities will include haircuts, dye jobs, blue wigs, a selfie wall and iPad station for attendees to access the platform.
POP-UP DATES AND TIMES
Tuesday, March 27th: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST
Wednesday, March 28th: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. EST
Thursday, March 29th: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. EST