‘There are huge opportunities in tech-driven brokerage business’
Mr. Michael Akinwale is the General Manager of Rally Trade, an international online broker. In this interview with BENJAMIN ALADE, he speaks on opportunities in brokerage business, the need for Nigerians to have multiple streams of income and a regulatory environment for online brokers.
What is Rally Trade all about?
Rally Trade is a financial service brokerage company. We have a platform where people can trade in global financial markets. It means looking at the global stock market- New York Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange, French exchange, German exchange and other platforms where you can trade directly from Nigeria. You can trade currencies, euro, pounds, and dollar. We all know that prices from each country are always fluctuating, which means you can trade them against themselves to make money. Lastly, commodities- gold, cocoa, aluminium, rubber, not in their physical form, but virtual form, are all on the market platform.
What do you see in Nigeria’s economy at the moment?
Well, based on our own business, it is a good time to be in Nigeria and the reason is that we are going through a transition period. We are in a serious problem now. First, people that have one job will find that the job alone can’t help them again. Secondly, there’s no job, even for young and old alike. We are in a time where we should be creating opportunities to solve the problems. This will mean creating several other sources of income that people never know about. It is a good time to be in business because we are now helping people now to start making money from a source they never thought existed. While I was in school, I didn’t know anything called trading, though it was existing, but because at that time, there was no technology to bring it here. There was no Internet and mobile phone, so the trading could not come to Nigeria. But now that the technology is here and everyone has a mobile phone, it’s a good time to be in the business.
Is the business related to foreign exchange trading?
That word foreign exchange (forex) is just one part of the market. If I say currency, I mean forex. But somebody can be trading indices, that is not trading financial currency. So, foreign currency is just a part of the market and the business we do, not the whole market.
What opportunities for this business exist in Nigeria?
There is great potential. For any young person, I see the business as a career. There’s something about making money, but the other side is the career, something that you can be proud of and would want others to be part of.
What is the role of technology in business operations?
Without mincing words, technology now is the bedrock of businesses. Any company that is not technology-driven is headed for disaster. Whenever we do our seminars, we always show people the fact that in the last 10 years, companies like Exxon Mobil, Shell, China Petroleum, were the biggest in the world then. The biggest companies in the world now are Google, Microsoft, Apple. But who really are they? Simply, technology. Kano is centre of commerce, but if Kano does not become centre of e-commerce, it will disappear because technology is the future. Everything is electronic now, even in Nigeria right now, any company that is not leveraging on technology will die. If Shoprite does not evolve to online sales, Jumia will kill them and that’s the truth. So, that’s the future, there is nothing you can do about it.
How does your New Partner Programme works?
It is very simple, normally if I refer you to a broker, there is what we call spread, which is the difference between buying and selling price. That is where brokers make their money. They share about 50 per cent of that trading initially and we call them partners. What if I refer you and you now become a partner and you refer somebody else and that person becomes a partner, who also referred someone? Shouldn’t you be making money in referring somebody? That is the new system that we have created, like higher level of stream of income for a partner, making it a multi-layer, instead of just a single layer system.
How reliable is the technology behind this business plan?
Technology is not new. At least, I have been in the business between seven and eight years and it has been around that same time. I don’t think there has ever been any day that the whole market is down and nothing is working. That has never happened. For example, about 60 per cent of the whole American economy is in New York Stock Exchange, which is why companies like Ali Baba in China can leave the country to raise money in America because there’s no other place you can get that kind of money.
The whole American economy is built on the New York Stock Exchange, which is the same trading we are talking about. If it is not reliable, they won’t put all their lives in it.
When people tell me that the likes of “Wonder Banks” and MMM had gone under, wondering if the forex market will not go like them, I only tell them that they are looking at it locally.
Forex market is not a Nigerian thing, it’s not an American thing, it is not a Japanese thing, it is the whole world and driven by a level of fundamentals. So, it can go down unless human beings are all going down.
What competitive advantage is Rally Trade coming with?
To be frank, all brokers offer the same thing. It’s like all Nigerian stockbrokers offer the same thing. You want to buy First Bank or GTBank shares, they are all offering the same thing.
But the things that can make you different are in-depth customer service, things that sometimes, as a stockbroker, you take more time to research on. Of course, you can advise your clients on how to buy shares. But if people can see that your clients are making more money, it becomes extra advantage.
In Rally Trade for instance, we have unusual customer support. Our staff call clients every day to know if there is any problem or challenge. Every client has a dedicated staff that takes care of his or her business. Then we have the best education system here. There is no company that is educating Nigerians like Rally academy does. In terms of our conferences, expos, seminars and the trainings we do in our office frequently. So, those are some of the two major advantages that we have- essential customer service and quality education system.
There is this fear about Fintech, especially that of trust. What is your take?
All a company can do is to make sure that it is dealing with a regulated institution, the same way we are sure that banks are regulated by Central Bank of Nigeria. We are regulated in Europe by financial commission. At the same time, when I talk to people about online business, if you decide to run away and hide yourself in the sand, saying you don’t trust it, your money might disappear, you will never do anything. You won’t believe that some people don’t use ATM till today, you know why, saying if they are being caught up in a corner, all their money will be collected. Some people don’t use Internet banking but that doesn’t help you at all. You are losing more than you are gaining. That is the way it is.
With the current technology comes challenges and hacking of funds, but yet, there is nothing you can do about it other than find how to use them safely and make sure you do enough research. Wherever you are putting your money, do extensive research. For instance, in the last 10 years, Nigerians have gone through several scams. We had MMM, Wonder Banks, among others, but I have never lost one kobo to any of them because I learnt about 10 years ago that there are no free money and I had been a victim online, when I lost like $200 and had to withdraw. So, when Wonder Bank and MMM came, I knew that it was just scam. People need to be educated, do research, then you really have very little issues when it comes to doing financial business online.
What is the MT4 Platform all about?
Let me try to describe the MT4 in a simple way. Let’s use car, which is the best way. A Toyota and a Honda, what is the difference? Nothing! They both are cars. But in Nigeria, we have more Toyota than Honda, why? People just love Toyota! Or maybe Toyota is easier to maintain or it has more second hand value or it is cheaper to buy. The same way we have different trading platforms. For instance, there is a company called Tesla, which makes car in the U.S. They didn’t exist before now. The same way companies create trading platforms for themselves. So, I can start a brokerage company and decide that like the software banks use, I don’t want to use a certain platform, but a fresh one people can trade on that can be better, but that doesn’t mean people are going to love it. Tesla is in America now but doesn’t mean it is selling more than Toyota that has been selling for a while. MT4 is just a platform people trade on, just to buy and sell, that is what it is but it is the oldest, it has the highest adoption, it is what people love the most, so every broker has it.