iFX EXPO Asia 2023: Acuity CEO discusses AI-driven trading

abdelaziz Fathi

The highly anticipated iFX EXPO Asia 2023 returned to the vibrant city of Bangkok, Thailand. This premier event brought together industry professionals from the Asian region and around the world at the Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre.

iFX EXPO ASIA 2023 interviews

In this article, we’re excited to feature an exclusive interview with Andrew Lane, Founder and CEO of Acuity Trading Ltd.

Acuity’s platform uses AI to extract data from different news sources to aid with trend detection, sentiment analysis, and identify influential themes to develop actionable strategies or keep track of specific assets. It also offers multiple display and integration options to help augment existing trading tools such as technical analysis, calendars, and traditional news feeds.

FinanceFeeds Editor-in-Chief Nikolai Isayev asked Andrew about his impression of the IFX Expo Asia in Bangkok.

Andrew, attending the event for the first time in Bangkok, expressed his enthusiasm for the bustling atmosphere. Having received feedback from his team who attended the expo last year, he noted that this year’s event drew a larger crowd, creating a dynamic environment conducive to networking and business opportunities.

In comparing the sentiment to that of Europe and North America, Acuity CEO observed a striking difference in optimism among the attendees. While concerns over mortgage rates and economic crises dominate conversations in London, the atmosphere in Asia remains remarkably positive. Lane’s recent visit to Singapore further reinforced this sentiment, as brokers and banks showed a resilient and unaffected demeanor in the face of potential crises.

In a thought-provoking conversation, Andrew shared his insights on the evolving landscape of retail brokerages and how they will cater to the demands of the Gen Z generation.

Acuity CEO emphasized that marketing strategies in the brokerage industry will undergo substantial transformations. He pointed to the current influence of social media and its impact on marketing approaches. Recognizing the preferences of the younger generation, exemplified by his own 13-year-old son’s extensive use of social media features like reels, Lane highlighted the need for marketing strategies to adapt to these emerging trends.

Shifting the focus to the structure and functionality of brokerages themselves, Lane drew an interesting parallel to the potential future of Amazon. He speculates that advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, and large language models could diminish the necessity of traditional brokerage interfaces.

Interestingly, Lane proposed a scenario where investors could directly instruct their AI models to search for specific assets based on desired parameters, bypassing the need for a conventional brokerage platform. This would involve leveraging AI capabilities to find correlated assets or make predictions based on available data. Lane cited eToro’s partnership with Twitter as an example of potential collaborations between brokerage platforms and social media networks, further blurring the lines of traditional interfaces.

As the demands of the Gen-Z generation continue to shape the financial landscape, retail brokerages are compelled to adapt their marketing strategies, and explore alternative approaches to meet the evolving expectations of traders in an increasingly digital and interconnected world, he added.

As technological advancements continue to shape the financial industry, the quest for streamlined trading experiences persists. The future may hold further innovations that redefine the way retail traders interact with financial markets.

Nikolai Isayev recalled a time when trading widgets gained popularity as a potential solution. These widgets, embedded within web browsers, aimed to provide users with a convenient way to trade based on market conditions or specific needs. By simply clicking a button within their browser, individuals could execute trades without the need to log into a separate platform or access a mobile app.

In response, Lane highlighted the early efforts of a company called Tradable, which sought to pioneer this concept around 10 to 15 years ago. Although the widespread adoption of such widgets didn’t materialize at that time, the concept laid the groundwork for future developments.

In recent years, Lane pointed out that the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi) has sparked new possibilities for integration. He provided an example where travelers purchasing flights from American Airlines might encounter an option halfway down the page to spread the cost using a specific payment provider. This integration of financial services seamlessly within other online experiences is becoming more prevalent.

Nevertheless, while discussing the potential disappearance of the trading interface itself, Lane remained cautious, acknowledging that it is yet to be seen whether complete interface elimination will occur in the future.

In a discussion about the interests and tendencies of younger investors, Andrew Lane shared his perspective on the ongoing fascination with cryptocurrencies and digital assets, as well as the potential trajectory of traditional assets and markets.

Reflecting on his own experiences, Lane emphasized that there will always be bubbles and emerging opportunities that captivate traders. Drawing parallels to his early foray into the markets during the dot-com boom in 1999, Lane recalled the fervor surrounding internet stocks. He recounted purchasing shares in companies like lastminute.com, only to witness their value plummet before the delivery of goods, resulting in significant losses. These boom-and-bust cycles have been recurring phenomena throughout history.

Regarding cryptocurrencies, Lane acknowledged their exceptional marketing and branding efforts, which have contributed to their widespread appeal. He highlighted the allure of investing in tokens associated with sports clubs like Manchester United, as they offer straightforward appeal to investors. However, from the perspective of a research provider, the lack of underlying value supporting such tokens presents challenges in providing accurate information and analysis.

Lane believes that certain technologies underlying cryptocurrencies will endure, but he anticipated that the landscape will evolve and change over time. While acknowledging the ongoing bubbles, he predicted the emergence of new ones in the future as investment trends continue to evolve.

Elaborating on Acuity’s Sync Signal Center, which provides 40 high-quality real-time trading signals each day, the conversation turned to the decision to generate these signals manually rather than relying on automation, considering the advancements in AI technology.

Andrew Lane shed light on the reasoning behind Acuity’s approach. With Acuity being deeply rooted in the realm of AI, and Lane himself coming from a data science background, a significant portion of their processes are indeed automated. However, Lane explained that Signal Centre, a FCA-regulated London-based company acquired by Acuity two years ago operates with a strong commitment to doing things manually.

Initially, when examining Signal Centre’s approach of providing a limited number of signals per day (around 40-50), with one signal per asset, Lane questioned its alignment with the demands of the market. However, the company emphasized that its primary focus is trust. They are a team of professional traders with extensive experience, including trading on the floor. Their belief in delivering manual trade ideas that are clearly described and encompass all types of market information before being shared with the market has garnered trust and appreciation from users.

While automated solutions may attract attention and clicks, the manual trade ideas provided by Acuity’s subsidiary go against the prevailing trend. Yet, they have emerged as the most popular product, thanks to the trust they have established.

This emphasis on trust and the meticulous nature of their approach differentiated them from the crowd. By leveraging the expertise and experience of seasoned traders, they have successfully carved out a niche in the market and continue to offer trade ideas that resonate with traders seeking reliable guidance.

Andrew also revealed that they were dedicated to building out their institutional offering for systematic hedge funds, banks, and social platforms over the past year.

Lane stressed that this expansion journey faced several bottlenecks, but he was optimistic that they have reached a pivotal point. They recently conducted the first data test, utilizing it to predict GDP in the United States. The results of this test have been truly remarkable, showcasing the power of the datasets they are working on.

One such dataset is their Unstructured Topic Analysis, which offers insights into various subjects, and unsupervised talk topic analysis, a groundbreaking concept in computer-managed topics. To support their research and development efforts in this domain, Acuity has assembled a team of scientists, including Ph.D. professors. Additionally, their partnership with the University of Barcelona has played a crucial role in expanding these advanced capabilities.

Looking ahead, Acuity aims to make a significant impact with a grand launch in September. Their focus will be on targeting the markets of New York and London. Lane, hailing from London himself, expressed excitement about the prospects of unveiling their innovations in his hometown.

In November 2022, Acuity Trading, along with its subsidiary Signal Centre, introduced AnalysisIQ to the market. This revolutionary product serves as a compact Bloomberg terminal seamlessly integrated with MT5 and other platforms.

AnalysisIQ has become a pivotal component of the extensively popular Research Terminal, widely embraced by online brokers. It empowers traders by providing access to cutting-edge AI technology and leveraging the expertise of seasoned professionals.

Andrew Lane delved into the features and capabilities of the newly launched research terminal. This platform brings together Acuity’s extensive datasets, offering a wealth of information to users. It introduces novel ways of accessing and visualizing data, such as new calendar views tailored for corporate and economic events. Furthermore, it provides detailed asset pages dedicated to specific instruments like the Euro/Dollar. These landing pages can be seamlessly integrated into MetaTrader, incorporated into emails, and serve as invaluable resources for traders.

The feedback received for AnalysisIQ has been overwhelmingly positive, he noted, with users commending the exceptional design and functionality of the technology.

During the interview, Andrew revealed an upcoming product currently in the beta phase, called NewsIQ. While specific details about it are yet to be unveiled, the anticipation surrounding this product is palpable.

While an official announcement is yet to be made, NewsIQ promises to revolutionize news analysis by harnessing the power of data science. It transcends the traditional news feed by providing valuable insights into how news events impact the market.

As a seasoned professional with a background in news, including his experience at the prestigious Wall Street Journal, Lane emphasized the importance of news in the trading world. His genuine passion for news and extensive consumption of news content drive Acuity Trading to continually seek innovative approaches to leverage news data. With NewsIQ, they aim to deliver a fresh perspective and unique offerings in the realm of news analysis, setting themselves apart from others in the industry.

Our conversation also delved into the immense potential that arises from the fusion of various news sources with data science techniques. As someone with a rich background in journalism, having worked in diverse locations like Mexico City and Russia, Lane recognized the unique storytelling styles and cultural nuances present in different regions.

The complexity and intricacy of this process also make it a truly fascinating endeavor, particularly for individuals who possess a deep appreciation for the art and science of news analysis. Once one grasps the immense possibilities that lie within the intersection of news data and data science, it opens up a world of endless exploration and discovery.

As the session concludes, Andrew Lane shed light on the prospects of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the realm of online trading. While cautioning against claiming expertise in AI, Lane shared his insights and experiences in the field.

One intriguing aspect Lane highlighted was the significant potential of AI when combined with proprietary data, citing Bloomberg as a prime example. With access to vast amounts of exclusive data, Bloomberg leverages AI capabilities to offer a distinctive and powerful product.

The growing abundance of content in the digital landscape was also a focal point of interest. Lane pointed out that platforms like Buzzfeed are already utilizing AI to create content, aiming to enhance their search engine rankings. This trend is expected to proliferate further.

However, the surge in content also brings challenges, as misinformation and conspiracy theories propagate rapidly on social media platforms. As such, Lane predicted a shift towards traditional media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, and Bloomberg, where factual reporting takes precedence over automated and unverified content.

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