Youssef Barakat, SquaredDirect CEO

SquaredDirect The DMA broker that works hard to make the trading journey unique and worthwhile

October 2019 in Cover Interviews

SquaredDirect is a brokerage firm that is working hard to be different. It brings together a wealth of experience and commercial expertise to offer a range of innovative products and services. The company has built a highly experienced management team that is looking to take a new approach to providing top class international financial trading solutions. e-Forex spoke with CEO, Youssef Barakat, to learn more about his endeavours.

Youssef, you are very much a veteran in this industry. Please tell us a little about your background and career so far.

I started out with Forex and Bullion trading in London’s financial services sector over 20 years ago. Since then, my career has taken me to several places around the world, namely: Geneva, Abu Dhabi, Dublin and now I am in Cyprus as the CEO of SquaredDirect. It has been an interesting journey so far, with a wealth of experience in all things trading and the financial services industry.

We operate our business and deal with customers based on trust and professional integrity.

What do your day to day responsibilities in the firm usually involve?

As the CEO, I make sure that everything flows smoothly by coordinating and overseeing the departments in our firm. It is vital that all departments be aligned towards our corporate goals so we can realize our vision of becoming a global financial services provider. It is my responsibility to make this happen by evaluating performance with the Head of each department and by taking the right steps, where necessary, to adapt our strategy and plans to deal with difficulties and challenges as they arise. In simpler terms, I am responsible for business development and advancement.     

Presently, we are offering MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and quite soon we’ll be launching MetaTrader 5 (MT5).

How would you describe the core values of SquaredDirect which govern how the business operates?

First and foremost, we operate our business and deal with customers based on trust and professional integrity.  The Safety of our clients’ funds is one of our main priorities. We deliver services and solutions of the highest Quality to transform our clients trading journey into a Unique experience. We can flexibly Adapt to our clients’ specific needs and investment goals while remaining Reliably committed to our clients. We are driven by Excellence and are Dedicated to our cause, principles and values, namely: Safety, Quality, Uniqueness, Adaptability, Reliability, Excellence and Dedication. When put together in that order they spell out ‘Squared’, the name of our brand.

We are committed to offering complete, crystal clear transparency when it comes to procedures.

What markets and financial instruments that can be traded with SquaredDirect?

With SquaredDirect traders can trade a professionally selected multi-asset offering of 40+ currency pairs – we handpicked the most traded pairs but also included some promising exotics – CFDs on Single Shares and on 8+ of the most popular stock Indices worldwide such as Dow Jones, FTSE 100 and Dax 30. Additionally, clients can trade Precious Metals such as Gold, and Energies such as Brent Crude and WTI. 

What range of platforms do you offer?

Presently, we are offering MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and quite soon we’ll be launching MetaTrader 5 (MT5). We strongly anticipate MT5 becoming the new industry standard. It is much faster than its predecessor, it supports more order types and has a multitude of new features and options allowing for greater flexibility in customization but also in designing, testing and running indicators and trade-bots, or Expert Advisors as they are called in MetaTrader Lingo. We are almost finished with our MT5 integration and will be offering it to interested clients upon request. 

We are also offering our own proprietary platform SquaredTrader with a streamlined GUI for optimal performance and ease of use. Our in-house technological expertise allows us to innovate in ways that can yield competitive advantages to our clients. 

Why traders choose to have a SquaredDirect account

What types of clients are you serving and in what ways has this been evolving and changing as the business keeps growing? 

We are serving retail and professional traders. We actively listen to our clients and we take great care in enhancing and personalising their experience. Our development team is constantly working on improvements and new features that can further streamline online trading for our clients.  

SquaredDirect is a true DMA brokerage. What exactly does that mean and why is this model so attractive for many traders?

As its name suggests, Direct Market Access as a model allows traders to access the markets directly and trade at live-market prices. With DMA what you see is what you trade.  Our data is being hosted in one of the world’s biggest trading data centres, Equinix LD4, which ensures that latencies in online electronic trading are always maintained at an ultra-low minimum. 

This model of executing market orders guarantees that there is no conflict of interest between us and the client and enables full transparency in all processes. Thus, we align ourselves with their personal investment goals instead of pursuing our own investment goals at the expense of our client, something that credibly differentiates us from a lot if not most of our competition. 

Youssef Barakat
Youssef Barakat “We are quite flexible in arranging our offering for each individual client”

In such a crowded market, how difficult is it to build a financial trading business that is different from many others and how have you gone about trying to do that?

The fact that the market is already crowded like you mention makes it very difficult to differentiate your business from the competition but not impossible. Of crucial importance is the ability to adapt and customize your offering to meet the expectations or specific needs and goals of each individual client. It is in offering these custom solutions and services that you can be different than the fixed offerings found in many others. It’s not to say that we don’t have fixed offerings, but to stress out that we are quite flexible in arranging our offering for each individual client appropriately.  And I consider that to be one of our strengths. 

Who are the key individuals in your executive team and what roles do they each have within the firm?

I’ll start with Piotr Pryzmont our Chief Technology Officer. Piotr has been a member of Squared Financial group staff since 2006. Before becoming SquaredDirect’s Chief Technology Officer, he was a Head of IT and Executive Director of Squared Financial Services in Dublin. Prior to that, Piotr was responsible for architecture and management of Unix based systems in finance and ISP sectors. Piotr holds a master’s degree in Technical Sciences as well as MBA. With over 12 years’ experience working as a technology executive in the finance sector, Piotr is recognised as a key asset in strategic IT Planning and Management. 

Michael Kopanakis is our Head of Brokerage.  He has worked in the financial industry for more than 5 years with an educational background in Mathematics from the University of Crete (Greece). He is also a Certified Technical Analyst and holder of the CFTe Level II Diploma. Michael has diverse financial experience due to working in various departments throughout his professional career. Through involvement in various projects, he strongly believes that knowledge is the only way to move forward and develop the right skills. The combination of his passion for Technical Analysis and Mathematics was what drove him to join this industry.

Loucas Louca is our Head of Finance and holds a degree in Finance, Accounting and Management from the University of Nottingham and is also a Certified Chartered Accountant and a member of the ICAEW. After graduating in 2010, he joined Deloitte Ltd Cyprus, where he spent 5 years and became an Assistant Manager in the audit department. Loucas has an extensive knowledge on all financial and accounting related matters and a broad experience of the forex industry as evident from his years spent as an external auditor and as part of finance teams in the industry as well. When Loucas is not busy managing the finance department at SquaredDirect.

Constantina Economidou is our Head of Compliance and holds an LLB Law degree from the University of Sheffield and is also a member of the Bar Association of Cyprus. After graduating in 2012, she joined a Law Firm, where she had her traineeship as a junior lawyer. Constantina, since 2014 has shifted to the financial services industry, at the position of Compliance and Anti-Money Laundering Officer where she ensured to retain high compliance and ethical standards following the developments on the legal framework. 

Michael Kopankis and Dora Christofi

Dora Christofi is our Head of Marketing and holds a degree in Computing Science, a master’s degree in E-Commerce and Information Systems from Newcastle University (UK) and is certified in Digital Marketing. Prior to her career in Marketing, Dora has worked within the ICT Research & Development industry where she managed large projects funded by the EU. Her passion for marketing led her to started working at digital marketing agencies conducting marketing for financial investment firms. She has an extensive knowledge and experience in project planning, business development, social media, SEO, PPC, affiliate and email marketing. She thrives on challenges that aim to expand the company’s reach. 

Ali Rupani is our Head of Group Sales and joined SquaredDirect having previously spent 15 years in Investment Banking, 10 years at Goldman Sachs, and 5 years at HSBC. Ali has developed deep FICC (Fixed Income, Currency & Commodities) relationships across Sovereign, Institutional, Corporate and Family Office Client bases in various Emerging Markets with primary focus on the Middle East and Africa. Ali graduated from University College London (UCL) with a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Economics.

And finally Evdoxia Teliopoulou is our Head of Back Office. She holds a degree in Economics with a specialization in Business Economics and Political Sciences and a master’s degree in International Business Economics from City University of London. She has been in the financial industry for the last 7 years having worked in Client’s Accounting, Institutional Operation and Back Office departments. She gained extensive experience in performing client due diligence, reviewing KYC documentation, implementing company AML policies, opening accounts and processing clients’ transactions, dealing with chargebacks, interacting with banks and various payment providers whilst being involved in the institutional partner affiliate programs.

Evdoxia Teliopoulou and Loucas Louca

What do clients particularly value about the services you provide and how do you manage to maintain such high levels of customer satisfaction? 

I will begin with transparency. We are committed to offering complete, crystal clear transparency when it comes to procedures. Everything, including every step of a procedure or process is openly visible with all information being easily accessible to the client, at any time. This is greatly appreciated by our customers.  

Additional attributes that we know attract many of our customers are our significantly low commission fees and our technological expertise.   

We strictly adhere to all CySEC regulations and ensure that we remain updated on any regulatory changes, e.g. the recent MiFid II requirements.  Being a member of the Investor Compensation Fund our client’s assets are guaranteed for up to 20.000 Euros. 

The funds of our clients are kept in segregated accounts with custodianship from Cypriot and Global Tier-1 Banks ensuring protection from risks related to the company’s activities. We are aware that our clients appreciate the fact that we take their fund safety so seriously and readily place their trust in us for our fair and professional business practices. 

We strongly anticipate MT5 becoming the new industry standard

Do you think that leading retail trading providers are offering enough educational support services for their clients and could they do more? 

Educational support and services are very important for beginner and advanced traders and while leading retail trading providers offer educational packages, I believe there is always room for improvement. It is in our best interest as brokers to avoid having clients lose money because they don’t know any better. I feel it’s a responsibility for us to ensure that a client who wants to trade knows more than the very basics before they do so. We always recommend studying and practicing with a demo account to novice traders before they trade the market with real money. 

How does SquaredDirect use education to compliment your own efforts to deliver the very best trading conditions possible? 

We have an advanced and quite comprehensive Educational Library in the making, which includes eBooks, webinars and video tutorials, providing all the necessary information on trading. We also provide market insight with daily expert Technical and Fundamental Analysis and various articles on related subjects for a well-rounded, in-depth trading education. Most importantly, we are always at our customers disposal and can provide professional support 24/5.  

We are constantly working on improvements and new features that can further streamline online trading for our clients

Do you offer different account options and other types of financial services?

Yes, in fact we do. We have three distinct account types that were specifically designed to cater to all levels of traders and their appetite for risk. So, let’s say you want to keep your trading as simple as possible; we have you covered. You want advanced access to all instruments with the ability to trade high volumes at the lowest possible fees? We have you covered as well. All account types on offer are suitable for individual as well as institutional clients. 

Regarding other types of services, our fully integrated Portfolio Management system gives investors the ability to allocate the management of their assets to us and offers strategy personalization based on their individual needs. Additionally, we are offering a FIX API Connection for the more demanding traders whilst our MAM Account makes it easy for money managers to trade and manage multiple client accounts directly from the MT4 platform.  

We have an advanced and quite comprehensive Educational Library in the making

Social Responsibility is very important for SquaredDirect. In what ways are you trying to help various international and local communities?

Absolutely correct. We take our Social Responsibility as a firm quite seriously. We provide support to international and local communities through voluntary actions and charitable donations with the involvement of our stakeholders including managers, employees, customers, investors, and shareholders.

In a general sense, what are SquaredDirect’s future business plans? 

Our long-term plans include geographical expansion in non-English speaking jurisdictions and opening our doors to more retail and individual investors from across the globe. We want to develop a robust presence within the financial industry being renowned for our premier client service and the longevity of our business relationships.