AxiCorp: discovering what it takes to build a respected global brand

AxiCorp is a leading online margin trading and institutional financial services provider serving more than 30,000 active clients in more than 150 countries. The company launched in Australia in 2007 and has its head office in Sydney, but has grown into a global business with offices in London, Dubai, Singapore, Shanghai, Philippines, Ukraine and Cyprus. e-Forex spoke with CEO Rajesh Yohannan to learn more about the business, its products and services and how his team have gone about building a respected global brand.

First Published: e-Forex Magazine 85 / e-Forex Interview / March 2019

Rajesh, please tell us a little about how you got into the world of online trading and the background to your career.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but I’d earned an MBA and a BE in Computer Science then packed my bags and headed to Singapore to join the finance industry. As things transpired I ended up spending almost all my professional life there, accumulating experience with some big names in the banking and trading sectors.

Very broadly I was focused on eBusiness, marrying up a love of the fast-growing online banking world with an interest in the nascent digital and mobile marketing space. They were really exciting times with all the emerging technology. I was promoted to a Managing Director role at what might be considered a relatively young age, but by then I’d been privileged to work with some very inspiring people at different companies so had learned a lot from their successes – and mistakes!

In 2016 I got the offer to come to Sydney and join AxiCorp as CEO, charged with driving the company’s global growth. Two and a bit years in I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made so far but am still loving the challenge of trying to reach a new level.  

A lot of what guides us can be summed up in the “by traders, for traders” mantra
A lot of what guides us can be summed up in the “by traders, for traders” mantra

What do your own day to day responsibilities usually involve and focus around?

Being CEO means the big decisions ultimately rest with me so they naturally dictate what I need to prioritise, but this industry is incredibly dynamic so my day to day focus changes a lot depending where we’re at within the broader strategic vision of the company.

Running a global business in a sustained growth phase means you rarely have as much time as you’d like to focus on some things, so multitasking is a big part of what I do every day! But that’s where you put trust in your team and I’m lucky to have an excellent leadership group and fantastic staff who do a great job steering the business every day.

PsyQuation is the kind of tool that makes a genuine difference
PsyQuation is the kind of tool that makes a genuine difference

AxiCorp Financial Services Group has various trading, wealth management and associated business units. Please tell us how the firm is structured and what each company within the organisation focuses on providing?

We have a pretty simple structure which sees AxiCorp sitting on top and our other businesses – AxiTrader, AxiSelect, Axi One and AxiForex – under that umbrella. Within those different branches, we’re able to offer every service a trader needs, from traditional retail trading to a prime brokerage to analytical software through to standalone transaction processing.

At its heart, PsyQuation is an analytics platform
At its heart, PsyQuation is an analytics platform

How have you gone about creating a company that delivers the trust and security that traders are increasingly looking for and how would you describe the principles that guide the business?

A lot of what guides us can be summed up in the “by traders, for traders” mantra that’s been with the company since it was founded. It’s a pretty simple line but I think it makes sense: if what we’re doing isn’t going to be good for our traders, we probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Trust and security are huge components of that. It doesn’t matter what pricing or services a business offers, if your customers don’t trust you the relationship is almost doomed from the start. That’s especially true in our industry where being licensed and regulated is essential. The fact that we’ve been around since 2007 helps reinforce our reputation, as does our success in obtaining trading licenses as we expand into new regions.

We have a dedicated and experienced workforce
We have a dedicated and experienced workforce

Tell us more about the origins of PsyQuation and what the plans for the future are.

PsyQuation is a trading tool we were enamoured with from our first introduction. When you look under the hood it’s an incredibly advanced piece of software that took their team years to develop, test and turn it into a viable platform. To be perfectly honest, unless you have a deep well of knowledge in qualitative modelling and advanced mathematics – plus a touch of psychology – you’ll probably never fully appreciate how it’s built. But the real beauty is its simplicity for the end user.

Essentially you connect your trading account and it’s remarkably good at offering suggestions, based on your trading history, to improve trading performance. Similar software has been written before, but I’ve never seen anything with this depth and rate of success.

PsyQuation is the kind of tool that makes a genuine difference and I see its use going well beyond a single broker. There’s an inherent interoperability to the way it works – a real plug and play capability that reminds me of the way MT4 cuts across competition.

How does PsyQuation seek to improve trade performance?

Everything is built around a PsyQuation Score. Traders establish a score based on four key metrics: skill, risk, behaviour and history. Once that’s in play, the predictive algorithm – which is powered by machine learning and fed with huge amounts of trading data – has a foundation to offer suggestions or alerts tailored to the profile of the individual trader. The more a trader uses the platform the more accurate the recommendations should become and the more likely a trader is to improve their profitability.

From that base, you have a whole suite of trading tools to use – things like order flow analysis, trade signals, forecasting and institutional level modelling. There’s also a PsyQuation Leaderboard which is fun and interesting, plus it adds a real sense of community.

The fact that we’ve been around since 2007 helps reinforce our reputation
The fact that we’ve been around since 2007 helps reinforce our reputation

In what ways you are looking to disrupt the traditional retail online trading business model with PsyQuation?

We’re not so much looking to disrupt as we are to enhance. At its heart, PsyQuation is an analytics platform that’s complementary to a traditional trading platform like MT4. We’re not necessarily seeking to change the fundamentals of what and how people trade, we’re just trying to help them do what they do better and more profitably. To give an example, if you’re trading a currency with decent returns but PsyQuation can make simple suggestions to potentially improve your profit by five, ten or however much percent, why wouldn’t you use it?
It’s really part of a wider approach of arming traders with knowledge and tools they can use to succeed in the markets. We give them PsyQuation, we open the pathway into AxiSelect, we provide tools like AutoChartist and MT4 NexGen, we send people on training courses – the act of trading is just one small, if important, aspect of the end to end service.

Who are you targeting with your intriguing AxiSelect Incubation Program and what is it focused on achieving?

AxiSelect is a program we’ve run in the background for several years but it’s been the introduction of PsyQuation that’s enabled it to find a natural fit at the forefront of our offerings.  The program itself is a funding pathway for talented traders. Essentially, we’d identify retail traders with a proven track record of success then back them by giving them AxiTrader funding to trade with. The idea was to turn these talented traders into professionals. Now, by integrating PsyQuation into the pathway and leaning on the PsyQuation Score, we have an additional, highly quantifiable method of assessing traders which really opens up potential funding channels.

As the reach of PsyQuation is scaled up around the world and our partnership helps more traders improve their performance and ability, it stands to reason that we’ll see more people meeting the criteria for AxiSelect funding.

We’re able to offer every service a trader needs
We’re able to offer every service a trader needs

AxiPrime is your institutional offering. How have you gone about developing this service and what key advantages does it provide for firms looking to access deep liquidity?

Over the last year at AxiPrime we have been working to develop our own multi ECN platform. Axi-One is the latest offering in AxiPrime’s range of platforms and caters for any client wishing to gain direct market access.

Our Axi-One offering allows clients to leverage AxiCorp’s multiple credit facilities and gain access to all major banks, non-banks and ECN’s via one platform. This creates more efficiency in terms of integration and development, as well as being more economically viable. We work very closely with our liquidity providers to ensure clients receive the best possible pricing available to them and their trading style.

Being a global brand regulated by FCA, ASIC, DFSA, with offices in London, Sydney, Dubai, Cyprus, Singapore, China and Philippines we have a dedicated and experienced workforce focused on servicing our institutional clients. The Axi-One platform allows users to access a wide variety of liquidity sources on one platform, allowing us to cater for different types of professional traders. With real estate on traders’ screens become increasingly precious, the Axi-One platform utilises one screen with multiple liquidity sources.

Axi-One gives access to 7 ECN’s: Currenex, CBOE (Hotspot), FastMatch, 360T, LMAX, FXAll as well as our own pool of liquidity. All from one GUI or API. We can offer CFD’s and NDF’s, Full amount, no last look, and retail liquidity. We have also integrated with One Zero and Prime XM for MT4 bridges. We are currently working on mobile trading app which will be available late Spring.

Do you see increased regulatory oversight in FX as a positive step and an opportunity for leading providers like AxiCorp to differentiate themselves and how supportive have you been with industry efforts to create a more fair and transparent market?

In a word, yes. The fact that there are some untrustworthy brokers out there unfortunately does the rest of us a disservice by association. It’s true that increased regulatory oversight will create some additional complexities for brokers, but if it’s for the good of the industry then it should be welcomed by every broker who claims to care about their customers.

I tend to view the possibility of regulatory change in quite pragmatic terms; it makes less sense to complain when you could be constructive and take the opportunity to look at the way you do business and ask if you could do better, because that answer is often yes. For example, if your success or survival as a business can be written off at the stroke of a legislator’s pen, that to me says you need to be looking at how you’re balancing business risk and perhaps you should be doing more to mitigate those factors.

Technology is hugely important in the ultra-competitive financial trading space. Why is working with the best FinTech providers so important to AxiCorp and how does best in class technology help you to be different?

They say that to be the best you need to work with the best, and I think that’s what we’ve demonstrated with PsyQuation. We partnered with this platform because it’s the best in its class and it helps our traders be better by doing things they couldn’t or wouldn’t otherwise do. It’s technology that gives us a genuine competitive advantage.

That said, it’s still only one part of the package. A great business is built on strong pillars, whether that’s pricing or trust or customer support. Our industry is famous for having high client churn so if you fall on just one aspect of the overall customer experience, you’re immediately raising that risk of churn. From a purely business perspective – and this applies to any business – retaining a customer costs far less than attracting in a new one.

Trading is just one aspect of the end to end service we provide
Trading is just one aspect of the end to end service we provide

You have opened a new office in Dubai which demonstrates a long-term commitment to the Middle East. In what ways will you be expanding your product range towards instruments specifically tailored to this market?

I think our recent purchase of OFM [One Financial Markets] proves we’re 100% committed to the region. OFM has been something of a pioneer in Middle East trading for more than ten years so it’s fantastic to be able to draw on their pedigree as we continue to push forward together. That said, we don’t have immediate plans to make our suite of trading products more Middle East-centric. If traders are demanding something then of course we’ll look at it, but right now interest still sits more towards traditional forms of trading.

One thing we have been doing successfully for our Middle East clients recently is host regional trading competitions where our team has come up with some attractive prizes, for example an all expenses paid trip to London for a five day trading workshop. Combined with regular trading seminars and the self-improving nature of PsyQuation, a focus towards trading education is opening some good channels for us.

During the last year AxiCorp has expanded its global footprint. How much of a challenge has that been given that gaining approval for licenses in different jurisdictions can be complex and time consuming?

Having gone through the licensing process a number of times we’re fairly comfortable with how it works, though I won’t argue that it’s complex and time consuming – not to mention expensive. But that’s just part of it.

The authorities have to do their due diligence for the protection of customers. Some might view it as excessive but the last thing the industry needs is for licenses to be handed out to anyone with a nice website and a pricing engine. All that would do is undermine the whole exercise.

What steps are going to be required from leading providers like AxiCorp to attract a new generation of traders whose expectations in terms of product mix, platform functionality and trading opportunities are getting increasingly higher?

That’s an interesting question because in our industry the products themselves don’t fundamentally change over time – it’s the way the service is delivered that changes. To give context, it’s easy to do everything through an app these days but 20 years ago, that tech simply didn’t exist for the average trader.
 
So, what we’re really talking about with the “next generation” are things like marketing our services into emerging channels and trends, ensuring our onboarding experience is as streamlined as possible, keeping up with evolving technology like PsyQuation and excelling in customer support. It’s cliché, but listening and responding to your customers never gets old. If you can be honest about what you’re offering, put clients first and commit to improving, you’ll give yourself every chance of succeeding.

There are major structural changes taking place across the capital markets many of which are impacting on our own FX industry. In what ways is AxiCorp with its global presence and capital in a good position to take advantage of these?

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, being globally recognised and well capitalised is enormously advantageous. It gives you the ability to ride out change and can mean the difference between having to go fishing for offers or people coming to you with opportunities. Of course, having a good reputation and a healthy bottom line is no guarantee of success either, but it does put you in a stronger position. And right now, we’re in a very strong position.

Looking ahead what are your ultimate ambitions as a global financial services and trading provider?

Ultimately, we want to help our clients become more profitable. If they’re succeeding, we are too.