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Why the rise of retail FX is here to stay

Why the rise of retail FX is here to stay 1

By Michael Kamerman, CEO Skilling 

2020 has been a tumultuous year for both the world and for financial markets. The events of this year have changed the very course of how we’ll live our future lives. Alongside the disruption of daily routines, the coronavirus disease has disrupted the global financial markets at systemic levels kicking in a global stock market crash in February this year. Sure, things look good now, but remember how you felt in early March?

The Coronavirus Crash had sent financial markets plunging into the fastest, most precipitous fall ever recorded in history and the most devastating since the Great Crash of 1929  – signalling in turn the beginning of a worldwide Covid-induced recession.

Certain industries have been hard-hit with many businesses unfortunately falling into insolvency. Many others are still fighting to survive the global lockdowns that threaten their existence. The new realities inflicted by the pandemic have also given rise to a new set of consumer needs and have as a result driven surges of interest in some sectors.

While the headwinds of Covid-19 have made this a chaotic year, the changing lifestyles of consumers have fueled the growth of other more fortunate industries. These include, for example, online retailers, home-delivery services, pharmaceuticals and biotech, video streaming services as well as… online trading. And a sector experiencing outsized growth in online trading is retail FX and CFD trading. Yes, the novel coronavirus pandemic has jolted foreign exchange and CFD trading because of bust-and-boom movements brought on by extreme volatility in fear-led markets.

Volatility is the Mother of Opportunity

When it comes to trading, volatility is the mother of opportunity. It has always been the case for trading speculative markets. This explains why the global FX market daily turnover hit $6.6 trillion earlier this year, with a 40% increase in day-to-day trading volume compared to the last decade.

Pre-Covid-19, the forex industry was relatively muted. Economic outlook was more certain, with relatively subdued market volatility, while a steady stream of traders were trickling into the market. As such, industry focus was on diversification and future-proofing business models.

Volatility, the likes of which we have experienced this year, feels like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, and one effect has been a surge in customer acquisition numbers in FX. With trading platforms having spent recent years optimising their online capabilities, the proliferation of people looking for innovative ways to capitalise on market movements and take control of their finances while under lockdown has, in a sense, been the ultimate proof of concept for the industry.

A continuation of this trend is very likely as countries across the world fight to keep the virus under control. Even with a vaccine on the horizon, record levels of government debt, high unemployment, and negative interest rates are creating a cocktail that is driving many people to seek greater financial independence, whether they are novices or experienced traders. Turning to the retail trading market in these circumstances can make for extraordinary tales, both in terms of wins and losses.

A rise in trading in pursuit of financial independence

Michael Kamerman

Michael Kamerman

Undoubtedly, the world has never spent more hours in front of screens as it has this year with the importance of online access to practically anything taking center stage. Simultaneously, personal finance has been high on people’s agendas, with the impact of the pandemic posing an existential threat to the income of millions of people.

This has driven greater appetite to participate in online trading, and the unpredictability of the 24-hours news cycle has created both confusion, and a sense of opportunity with aspiring traders.

In the wake of widespread redundancies and pay-cuts, people’s outlooks are shifting towards wanting to best monetise their time. This entry of new players into the market has happened in tandem with more experienced traders and investors sensing an opportunity to grow their own portfolios. Thus, one outcome of this year appears to be a shared desire from people to take a far more active role in protecting and growing their finances.

An era of more experienced traders

A positive outcome of this year’s situation is that new entrants have been those keen to study and learn about the markets. Indeed, the challenges that the world has faced this year are so unique, that from an economic perspective, they warrant examination, and are being used as a learning exercise.

Reliable and trustworthy brokers have provided a safe environment for traders to both test and develop their trading strategies. In doing so, traders have been able to grow their skills by learning how to navigate volatility and beginning to execute more substantial trades. Time spent on practice is increasingly more valuable to protect oneself against riskier and lesser-known market variations, particularly in the current climate.

The next six months aren’t likely to be a smooth ride. Volatility is set to continue, bringing with it greater trading volumes and greater opportunities for trader upskilling.

Good news lies ahead – for the world, and the world’s traders.

It is unfortunate that traders and investors stand to capitalise on higher returns during devastating situations that create heightened volatility, but this is the truth nonetheless and part of the essence of investing. The outlook of markets remains to be an indication of where the world is also headed. And that is not all bleak. The stock market bounced back relatively quickly in March, with share prices rising sharply even though many of the world’s developed economies were and are still suffering one of the worst recessions in living memory. Why? This is because, theoretically speaking, share prices are based on anticipated future expectations and income streams.

A most recent example is seen in Airbnb’s extraordinary IPO, making it one of the greatest success stories in the 2020 stock market. The success is clearly not based on Airbnb’s growth in revenue over the past year (when travel basically came to a complete halt). Investor demand was fueled by the hope and anticipation that pre-pandemic life will return and the global travel industry will be revived.

The overall global long-term outlook is a positive one, and the pandemic and associated recession is expected to give way to an economic recovery. What is for sure though is that the road to recovery is a long one, and market participants are to actively assess and reassess their investment and risk management strategies. The key to being in a better position to exploit the opportunities that arise in the markets is to be better able to mitigate the higher risk that comes with the unpredictable volatility of pandemic times.

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