Q&A Sessions with Ilan Azbel, CEO & Co-Founder of Fintech company Autochartist

Noam Stiekema

Ilan Azbel, CEO & Co-Founder of Fintech company Autochartist sits down for a Q&A session to discuss his personal journey into the industry and his views on where the industry is headed.

Ilan Azbel, CEO of Autochartist

Welcome to an exciting and cutting edge new series on FinanceFeeds.

“Industry Influencers” takes a look at the entrepreneurs and companies which are making great steps in the FX and electronic trading industry in terms of innovation, creativity and leadership.

In the first part, FinanceFeeds sits down with the CEOs of this industry to find out more about them, how they got where they are today and what their thoughts are on the way that this business will move forward.

Full name: Ilan Azbel

Company: Autochartist

Time with company: 13 years. The company was established in 2003 and was bootstrapped for the first three years. We started off as a general software company then moved into financial services.

Years in the industry: I have been in this business for 11 years, having started in equities and stocks, however I have spent 10 years in FX

City of residence: Austin, Texas

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a family man, with a wife and two kids and have been married for 13 years. I started off in network security and have a masters degree in artificial intelligence (AI). After completing my studies, my first job was Director of Technology at a sizable information security company in South Africa.

What was your journey like to get to where you are today?

It was quite the interesting journey actually. An overnight success, 10 years in the making! The company I worked for went through an IPO and consequently I found myself with some bucks to spare. I started investing (trading) personally in stocks on the Johannesburg stock exchange and naturally started building tools that I could use for my trading.

I did not see this as a business opportunity at first as it was purely for personal use, however; over time I saw a chance to move into a commercial environment and the tools were productised under Autochartist. It was not long until we signed an agreement with a stock analysis company in the US to use our tools.

We started off in the equities space and FX was something we were not familiar with at all. We just kind of stumbled onto the FX scene whilst attending the NYC Trader’s Expo (a long time ago for those that remember) trying to monetize our tools further.

This was at a time during which retail FX was still just rearing its head – the years 2004/5 – and whilst going through this period of development I met a number of FX brokerages. One that really grabbed my attention was GAIN Capital, still just a small company back then and they saw value in what we did and took us on.

An overnight success, 10 years in the making! Ilan Azbel, CEO & Co-Founder Autochartist

Once we started working with GAIN Capital it was not long before other FX brokerages noticed us and over the coming years it just spiraled with more and more brokerages using our products and tools.

I mean, we were just two guys, therefore we could not focus on multiple markets but looking back, it appears the wind blew us in the FX direction. It was not part of the grand scheme, it just happened.

Whilst the majority of our customers are FX brokers, FX is not all we do and we started moving back into stock analysis in Russia, UK and soon will will move into the US Futures market. In fact, as a company we are actively trying to drop the stigma of being a solely FX company.

What are some of the things you enjoy outside of work?

I spend most of my free time on weekends with my kids on the soccer / sports field, building Lego, therefore I am just your average family man. Nothing extravagant or over the top. Personally, I enjoy sports such as swimming, cycling, running and playing tennis and I am a keen triathlete.

One word that describes you?

Hmmm. I hate these kind of questions Noam, LOL. Let’s see- I’d say: creative

What was your biggest challenge to date that you’ve had to overcome?

I think one of the things that I remember being a personal challenge for me was that I had to take off my engineers hat and put on my sales hat. It is easy to have a tasks to do; I mean an engineer can get a task and know when it is finished when it works. It is a lot harder to know how to get yourself out there and interact with people, sell a product and build relationships. This has been a massive challenge to me personally.

I learned to do this and taught myself “how not be an engineer” and can say that I overcame this.

The trick is to prepare the objectives before meetings. The stereotype of being an engineer is talking about tech features. Sales is about relationships,  the benefits and pain points. Preparing for meetings by making sure I am focused on the objectives. This takes a lot of concentration for me as it is easy to slip back into my comfort zone.

What are your thoughts on where the industry is heading?

This industry is heading towards where the futures industry was going approximately 10-15 years ago, which is into managed products. Don’t get me wrong, dumb flow will still be there (big margins) but the serious money is looking at FX as a serious alternative asset class and moving into managed products. I see the industry as squeezing margins tighter moving forward.

Managed funds and investment funds are another factor. These will be actively managed (frequently traded) and passively managed (macro-economic; taking long term- low leveraged positions). Long term strategies like ETFs in the stock world.

I believe the large money will be here, and there will be not so much in the retail traded scene in the future.

Managed by bots or human? 

You’re going to see it all- AI, automated bots (high frequency environments) and human analysts just like in the stocks and futures sectors, except that I think that in my experience, even if looking at the top players, less than 10% of the systems are bots and are extremely difficult to produce. Just as in the world of stocks and futures, these players need to be a quant or mathematician and that’s why its out of scope of the everyday man.

This is where managed funds becomes a high possibility.

Long term I don’t think it is about selling subscriptions. The high frequency trading scene requires large funds. The big funds are mostly in managed products. Again, a small part is always going to be manually traded but it will become a smaller part- management with a combination of automated and human on the longer term stuff. That my thoughts.


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