Like any other business, Online Brokerage has particularities which are not obvious at the beginning of the journey. In this article, I will draw your attention to some common pitfalls and save those intending to start a brokerage some money, time and nerves by shedding light on the challenges ahead of you.
0. Test Your Assumptions.
I marked this point as ‘Zero’ on purpose to highlight it’s importance as a foundation.
When we decide to start a business we are driven by our intuition and past experiences. What we are reluctant to acknowledge is just how much we are driven by emotions instead of calculations. I’m not here to discredit Intuition or ‘Gut Feeling’ as we call it. As a matter of fact, most of the successful entrepreneurs are known for being visionaries i.e. people with extraordinary intuition.
As Albert Einstein once said ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ My interpretation of this genius thought is simple – trust your gut, yet verify assumptions with data. In practice, this means if you truly believe in your business idea, don’t let critics crash it because they are just as subjective as you are, instead find a way to test and validate it.
Test your MVP (Minimal Viable Product). You can test your idea without incurring large expenses e.g. build a prototype of your business and test it on the group of people you know and also strangers. Many providers will be willing to give you a functional demo platform for you to run tests.
1. Legal setup
When approaching legal setup of your brokerage firm the main question is whether or not your country has relevant regulations for Online CFD Brokerage firms. If so, you must obtain the right type of license to run the business. Be prepared for a lengthy process and long hours billed by the lawyers. My recommendation here would be to go along with advisors with good track record.
On the other hand, not many jurisdictions have legislation in place to govern CFD Brokerage industry. In those jurisdictions, you might be treated as any other online business/merchant. This saves you expenses on lawyers and consultants, and also removes statutory obligation to maintain minimal level of capital requirements. This obviously frees up a lot of cash to be utilised for the growth of your business. Nonetheless, even if you are not obliged to maintain minimal capital levels, I strongly recommend implementing similar rule as an internal policy.
Lastly on legal setup, if you are considering onshore vs offshore setups (run a business from a local company or use an offshore one e.g. Vanuatu, St. Vincent and Grenadines, BVI etc.) you need to thoroughly investigate if you would be able to find a reliable banking partner to service your offshore company. Nine times out of ten I would advise doing business onshore, as it inspires trust and eases transactional friction.
2. Human Resources
We regularly fall into a pitfall of doing business with people we already know well, friends and even relatives. Even though we might have an advantage of an established trust, this doesn’t mean these people are right for the business and will be able to drive it to success.
PARTNERS. At the primary stage when you are thinking about starting up with a partner make sure your skillsets complement each other. Also, understand whether or not your goals match e.g. if you are building your dream project and your partner is only after a ‘quick buck’, such partnership might collapse bringing more damage than good.
EMPLOYEES. My conviction is that the first person hired in the company should be a professional HR manager (even if part-time). By doing so you will eventually save yourself a lot of time and money by getting the right people from the very beginning. The right people will identify issues and find solutions before they even become a problem.
MENTORS. Finding a few aspirational mentors can be very powerful to stimulate your vision. While experts within an industry can give an in-depth insight on specific matters, I’d also recommend ‘getting outside the box’ and reaching out to people from other domains. My personal example is Buroka’s Freemium pricing model inspired by Spotify. The idea is that the basic service should be available to clients without high thresholds like a Setup Fee.
INVESTORS. Lastly, I am counting investors in HR section because at a startup stage you will most likely deal with an individual ‘angel’ investor who will support you. It’s crucially important that your ‘angel’ fully understands your plans and shares the vision. The 3 most important aspects here are:
(1.) Share the same long-term vision for the project and ensure understanding that patience is part of the process;
(2.) Create effective control and reporting mechanisms for your ‘angel’;
(3.) Be very clear and upfront about the total budget for the project and have funds locked down and available to you at all times.
Lack of either one of the above will hurt your business at some point, be it ‘angel’ wanting to see ROI (return on investment) prematurely or failing to deliver investment on time.
3. Banks and Payment Processors
Banks are notoriously bureaucratic institutions and the best guide to navigating you throughout layers and layers of red tape is your bank account manager. Make sure your business has a human face – meet and introduce yourself to your bank. Do not try to conceal or ‘sugarcoat’ your true business activity, the bank will find out eventually (after the very first transaction most likely) and then if you were not honest there’s no way to restore the relationship.
Apply certain amount of rigour to your accounts’ structure. I do recommend to operate a system of Segregated Accounts for clients’ funds even if you are not required to do so by your supervision authority.
On this, just a couple of basic rules which apply by definition to STP brokers and I strongly recommend all Market Makers (B-Book Brokers) should apply too:
(1.) Have a designated Client Funds Account.
(2.) Reconcile Weekly. This means to calculate the P&L and transfer profits into your Company Account.
(3.) Just like with personal savings – Save Up for tough times. In a B-Book model specifically, a broker has to maintain certain minimal capital to satisfy potential P&L drawdowns.
In case with a PSP (Payment Solution Provider) just like with banks I’d recommend using local licensed payment processors. They would normally have lesser fees than large international processors and you’d find them more responsive to your needs especially at the start of the business when you cannot boast large turnover on your accounts.
Using IT world jargon ‘Define your MVP’, where MVP stands for Minimal Viable Product. This presupposes construction of a logical framework of your technology at the most basic level that would allow you to start doing business ASAP. Of course our natural instinct is to ‘roll out’ the best version of our product/service to the market, however, the reality is counter-intuitive. You wouldn’t know exactly what your customers truly want unless you start testing and getting feedback from them. The core idea here is to start with a basic offering and once you have few clients on-board to start iterating and improving your business avoiding huge upfront costs and time wastes.
Once your MVP is defined you need to carefully scan the market and find the best Technolgy partners for your business model. There are countless great solutions but the reality is that you wouldn’t be able to afford them and most importantly you might not even need them upfront. Compare offers from providers with in-depth expertise and good customer support.
Own your domain and hosting. These are important assets which must be strictly in your possession. Do backups for everything. In internet business loss of data equals loss of business.
5. Managerial accounting
Know your budget. Whether you finance your project with your own means or attract investor capital, it is critically important to understand your present and future budgets to set up and sustain the project. I would strongly recommend avoiding the situation where you will be relying on a promise of financial commitment instead of funds being available upfront. Absolutely the last thing you’d want to happen is your investor to pull out of the project halfway leaving you with prospects of failure and potential liabilities.
Be pessimistic in your revenues calculation. It never goes smoothly in the beginning, you’ll be making mistakes and winning the first clients will be a mission. Pace yourself for a marathon, not the sprint and try to be as lean as possible financially. Build a cash flow which would be tailored to reinvest most of the profits back in the business development, marketing, and customer support.
A cliche saying ‘Think outside the box’ fits perfectly here. A startup project has no chance of competing for online clicks with the giants of the industry with deep pockets. My strongest advice here would be – think locally, be the best for a specific audience of clients in your target region to start with. Don’t worry about the rest of the world – become the best where it matters.
Part of thinking differently will push you to consider unorthodox marketing channels. Whilst building my first online business in Africa I discovered that the traditional Google and Facebook campaigns were not nearly as effective as communicating with the target audience via radio.
Get personally involved and build your business around your personal brand. Clients always want to know who is behind the business. A founder practicing transparency and integrity in his or her business will boost the customer confidence. Strong business oriented Social Media profiles are an absolute must for a founder.
Start off by carefully crafting your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and move forward to building a solid online reputation in general. Hypothetically, if Elon Musk were to set up a brokerage firm, it would not struggle with customer acquisition simply because of the solid reputation of the founder. As the old saying goes ‘people buy from people’.
7. Customer Care
Focus on speed of deposits and withdrawals. This tip is worth an ‘ounce of gold’. Customers will judge you primarily by the way you handle their money. Make sure these two operations are pitch-perfect beyond all else.
Without an understanding of financial markets, online trading may be akin to gambling. This is bad because it doesn’t create a bond of continuous interest and engagement. To be successful a broker must educate their customers and navigate their journey – teach them about risk management and market patterns, show opportunities and warn about the pitfalls. Most of our successful startup clients are educators and trainers who have customers’ best interest in mind.
I have covered a few essentials in this article. Obviously, there’s plenty more you will discover along the way. I am happy to become a mentor to a serious and passionate entrepreneur and share my knowledge and experiences.
Changelly Review: Should You Buy Cryptocurrencies on Changelly?
Changelly is one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges that offer users the opportunity to buy and sell a wide range of digital currencies and tokens. The exchange offers an easy-to-use service that combines user-friendliness, speed, and low fees. In this Changelly review, you will discover the benefits and drawbacks of this popular exchange and learn how to buy cryptocurrencies on Changelly.
When buying cryptocurrencies on the exchange, rates and the time of the transaction are made clear from the beginning. However, the rate given before the transaction being completed by the user is an estimation. This may not be the actual amount in crypto received, depending on the exchange rate at any given point in time (which can rapidly change when it comes to crypto).
Changelly gives users the option of choosing crypto-to-crypto exchanges and also allows users to exchange fiat currency to cryptocurrency by using a VISA, MasterCard credit or debit card. The service can be accessed by anyone anywhere in the world as long as their requirements are met.
How Does Changelly Work?
It is pretty easy to get an account at Changelly, the only thing you need to provide is your email address. Once you sign up, you receive an email confirmation with a password to log in with (make sure you change the password to make it more personal to you as well as more secure).
Next, there are dropdowns for you to select the two currencies you want to exchange. Then, put in the amount of currency you want to exchange from. Changelly will show an estimate of the amount of the new currency to be received. The exchange rate, the amount you will receive, and estimated arrival time is shown as well. Changelly also calculates and displays its 0.5 percent transaction fee leaving no room for confusion as you continue through the process.
Once this is done, enter the wallet address that you want your funds to be sent to. Check that this address is correct! There will be no way to get your cryptocurrency after the exchange is made if you enter an incorrect address.
Once you click on “Next”, the information entered previously shows up and you are asked to confirm that everything is correct. At this point, it is recommended to re-confirm the details of your wallet and amount. This is the last step to make sure your details are correct.
Finally, transfer the funds of the original currency to the wallet that Changelly provides. You can either do this by copying the wallet address listed or scanning the QR code at the bottom of the page.
You will receive a confirmation email once Changelly has received your funds. Expect to have the purchased cryptocurrency in your wallet within 5 to 30 minutes.
Identity verification is not needed for trade at Changelly, unlike at most other exchanges. The only limitations set are the ones designed for specific regions, and they are all removed after a month of using their services.
Cryptocurrencies Available on the Platform
Changelly has a high number of supported cryptocurrency. It offers over 100 different digital currencies and tokens. The swap transactions are available for all coins though they can be delisted in the future if little interest is shown for the particular altcoin.
Methods of Deposit
Changelly does not hold fiat money in the account balances of its traders. However, you pay for the coins and receive them in your wallet address instantly.
The acceptable fiat payment methods are credit or debit cards expressed in either USD or EUR. Wherever you are in the world, if you hold a valid bank card, you are eligible to purchase any coin from Changelly. The exchange claims that there are no fees on your purchase with the card, apart from the commission. The fees are added in as part of the exchange rate when purchasing coins.
Changelly’s Exchange Rate and Fees
There are two types of costs that one should keep in mind. First is the commission, charged at 0.5 percent of the transaction value and the other is the network fee. The network fee is a commission that a blockchain takes from the amount sent in each currency. If the amount is too low to cover the fees of the network, the transaction will not go through. The network costs are specified for each coin and do change on daily basis, depending on the trade volume.
These are the limitations put on credit-card based transactions:
- The UK, Canada and Australia – $200 limit for the first transaction, the next purchase could be made in four days (500$ limit), $3000 after seven days of the first buy. No more than three payments within the first week. No limits in one month at all.
- CIS region (Russia/Ukraine/Belarus/Kazakhstan/Armenia/Georgia) – $1000 limit for the first transaction. The next limit increase could be done in 24 hours. The total limit for the first week is $3000 and for the first month is $10000. No limits in one month at all.
- EU and other countries – $500 limit for the first transaction, the next purchase could be made in four days with $1000 limit. No more than 6 payments within the first week. No limits in one month at all.
Changelly has two-factor authentication and funds are never stored on the site because all cryptocurrencies are processed to the respective wallets directly. Additionally, there is no confirmation via email to deal with the site and all transactions are anonymous.
Changelly’s features make it very easy to use, even for first-time cryptocurrency buyers. The platform takes you through the process step by step and you make your first purchase within minutes of signing up.
Moreover, the fact that Changelly supports so many digital currencies and tokens and does not require you to verify your identity when you trade, has made it a popular digital asset exchange.
If you want to buy or sell digital currencies and tokens on Changelly, sign up to the platform here!
*Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the company, product or service. BitcoinAfrica.io is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any loss or damage caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, product or service mentioned in this article.*
The Best Bitcoin Trading Platforms in 2018
The high number of bitcoin trading platforms can make it difficult for newcomers to the cryptocurrency investment space to decide which platform to sign up for. To aid in this endeavour, Bitcoin Africa has compiled a list of the top five best bitcoin trading platforms available today.
Binance is a new cryptocurrency exchange that has already succeeded in making a name for itself as a popular trading platform. The exchange started its operations in July 2017 after raising a significant amount in its ICO. The Chinese platform is headed by Changpeng Zhao who has an impressive amount of experience with blockchain technology having previously worked at Blockchain and OKcoin.
The cryptocurrency exchange supports the trading of an impressive number of digital currencies. It is possible to trade well-known coins such as bitcoin, ether, and litecoin as well as smaller and lesser known digital currencies and tokens. Binance supports over 40 cryptocurrencies. This is an advantage for users who want to trade in tokens that are not easily available on other exchanges.
Moreover, Binance boasts of one of the lowest trading fees in the cryptocurrency market. The trading fee is not based on a tiered structure as is common amongst other platforms. Instead, it is fixed at 0.1 percent of your trade. Additionally, it is possible to slash this fee in half if you decide to use the native cryptographic token of the platform, called BNB. It is important to note this reduction is a temporary promotion being run by the exchange and will be stopped at some point in the future.
Without verification, it is possible to withdraw up to 2 BTC daily. However, after registration, you can withdraw up to 100 BTC daily. The withdrawal fees vary for each token and are updated regularly. Binance trading features are advanced and require an existing understanding of trading platforms.
Lastly, it is important to note that it is not possible to fund trades on Binance using fiat currency. To begin trading, you must fund your account with cryptocurrency by sending it to your account on the trading platform. This means you must first acquire cryptocurrency before you can start trading on Binance.
US cryptocurrency trading platform Bittrex is one of the largest and most popular exchanges in terms of trading volumes. The exchange started operating in 2014 and is well trusted by the community.
Bittrex makes it a point to focus on security to ensure the safety of its customers’ funds. The platform utilizes industry-leading security practices and stores the bulk of the users’ funds in a cold wallet in order to avoid any losses through thefts or hacks. In fact, Bittrex is one of the few exchanges that has never been hacked since it started operating.
The exchanges most prominent feature is the large number of currency pairs it offers its customers. Furthermore, it features a fairly simple user interface that is easy to use for beginners and traders can withdraw up to 1 BTC daily without verification. To withdraw a larger sum, you need to submit to the KYC and AML practices enforced by Bittrex.
The trading fees on the platform are set at 0.25 percent of the trade. To begin trading, you must fund your account with the cryptocurrency of your choice. However, it is possible to purchase a minimum of $10,000 in bitcoin, ether, or USDT through a bank wire transfer with an ‘enhanced verified account.’
Kraken is one of the oldest and most established bitcoin exchanges in the market. It has been in operation since 2011. The design of the exchange makes it easy to execute trades while still offering a wide array of trading tools such as automated orders, stop-loss orders, and margin trading.
The San-Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange utilizes encrypted cold storage to store its customers’ funds. Moreover, accounts on the platform must be secured using two-factor authentication to further enhance security. Additionally, Kraken prides itself on its ability to provide a high level of liquidity.
In addition to America and Canada, the platform supports customers from a number of European countries which makes it popular on the continent. Moreover, Kraken supports fiat trading pairs in a number of different currencies. This allows users from different countries to easily fund their accounts and begin trading. The exchange also has a dark pool, which allows users to trade anonymously.
The fee structure on Kraken is somewhat complicated. Funding and withdrawal fees are dependent on the method and currency utilized. Trading fees are charged on a tiered structure according to trading volumes which are calculated on a thirty-day basis. Trading fees include a taker and a maker fee. Lastly, it can take up to a week for accounts to be registered on the site due to KYC and AML protocols.
Launched in 2014, Poloniex is a well-known and popular cryptocurrency exchange. The platform is best known for its trading tools. It boasts a number of tools and information packages that allow users to make the best decisions with regards to trades. Moreover, it supports lending and margin trading.
However, due to its comprehensive tools, the platform can be difficult for first-time crypto traders to use. Additionally, it is not possible to fund your account with fiat currency. The American exchange also boasts high trading volumes and subsequently liquidity thus it is possible to settle trades in a fairly timely manner.
Poloniex supports a wide number of cryptocurrency trading pairs. Creating an account is easy but the amounts supported for withdrawal are based on the verification level of your account. Trading fees are charged on a tiered structure based on trading volumes but are low in comparison to other exchanges.
Lastly, the platform stores the funds in a cold wallet. It also enforces two-factor authentication for all accounts. The platform did suffer one security breach in 2014 but made sure to refund all affected users.
Hong Kong-based Bitfinex was started in 2012. The exchange is considered one the biggest based on daily trading volumes as it handles upwards of $2 billion daily. It provides users with a wide array of trading tools that support both basic and advanced level trading. It is possible to navigate the user interface as a novice but the platform is better suited for more experienced users. Moreover, the exchange has a mobile app for on-the-go trading.
Due to its large trading volumes, Bitfinex boasts a significant amount of liquidity. This enables the platform to quickly settle trades which helps users exploit changes in the market. The exchange supports margin trading, margin funding as well as more complex order types such as fill or kill and iceberg orders.
The trading platform has encountered a number of security breaches in the past. Due to this, it stores its funds offline with just enough to facilitate trades kept online. It also enforces two-factor authentication, encryption and other security measures to avoid other compromises in its security.
Fees on Bitfinex are tiered. The greater the trading volumes, the less the fees levied. The trading volumes are calculated monthly. The platform makes a point to update the fee structure regularly.
How to Mine Monero Using Your Home Computer: A Beginner’s Guide
Monero is a privacy-focused cryptocurrency that resonates with a large number of users who are disillusioned with the level of financial privacy that public blockchain-based cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and litecoin offer. Apart from offering users anonymity, Monero mining can be a profitable venture due to its CryptoNote protocol which is resistant to ASICs mining and enables anyone to mine Monero using a CPU.
Launched in 2014, Monero (XMR) has a number of features that set it apart from cryptocurrencies. Users are able to enjoy a higher degree of privacy since their balances are not broadcasted on the blockchain as is the case with bitcoin. This is made possible by the use of ring signatures, which operate by mixing a user’s account keys with public keys from the Monero blockchain to create a ring of “signers” and thus shielding users balances on the network.
Furthermore, privacy is also reinforced through stealth addresses to obscure the details of transacting parties. Stealth addresses are one-time addresses, generated randomly on behalf of the buyer on each transaction. This makes transactions on the network untraceable.
In proof-of-work cryptocurrency networks, mining refers to the process of miners contributing computational power to validate transactions and maintain the network. For instance, bitcoin miners generate hashes to solve complex algorithms to create blocks of validated transactions and include them in the Bitcoin blockchain. For their effort, successful miners are rewarded with new bitcoin. This reward works to incentivise miners to contribute to the processing power of the network.
The algorithms are solved by means of a hash function that produces a result within a certain range. In other words, a hash function takes a measured input and gives out an output of a specified length. In regards to bitcoin, the SHA256 is the hash function used. The hash rate is the computing speed necessary to solve a puzzle in the bitcoin code. The higher the hash rate the more likely a miner can succeed in finding the next block and receiving the reward.
Having said that, because of the level of difficulty of finding the correct output, mining can be an expensive and power intensive affair. In the early days of bitcoin mining, you could use a CPU or high-speed video processor cards. Nowadays that is no longer possible. The processing capabilities and high energy requirement needed can only be achieved through specialized ASICs hardware for bitcoin.
The high cost of specialised hardware coupled with the power needed prevents many people from mining bitcoin.
Monero, on the other hand, offers opportunities when it comes to mining. To begin with, since its based on the CryptoNote protocol, you can mine monero on a CPU or using a GPU. The hashing algorithm used in CryptoNote systems is known as ‘CryptoNight’ and was designed to build a more level and decentralised cryptocurrency.
Digital currencies that incorporate the CryptoNight hashing algorithm are AISC resistant, which means they cannot be mined using ASIC hardware. CryptoNight is built to take advantage of AES-Ni instruction, which allows for CPU mining with some of the work done by CryptoNight already being performed by hardware on modern consumer machines.
How to Mine Monero (XMR) on your PC
Monero is one of the few cryptocurrencies where you can still make money mining as an individual. A decent i5 or i7 should still make you a decent return and get you started.
Here is a step by step guide to CPU mining XMR on Windows:
- Set up a Monero Wallet: You can use MyMonero.com to create an account and ultimately set up your wallet. Ensure you save the string of words it gives you since that will be your password. Once you obtain this do not forget to copy your Monero address.
- Download the Miner and extract xmr-stak-cpu: Use this download link and choose xmr-stak-cpu-win64-zip.
- Determine the number of threads you should use: You must first examine how much cache and cores your CPU possesses. For instance, your CPU has 4MB cache and 4 cores. To decide how many threads you require to divide your cache by 2MB. This way you only need 2 threads, which is the result you get after 4MB/2MB. In a different scenario, your CPU has 16MB and 8 cores. The assumption would be you require 8 threads, which is not the case. If the number of threads you need to use is equal to the number of cores you subtract one. You can still work with 7 threads since it is not necessary to use all the cores and that is why we subtract one.
- Edit the config file: Here is an example of a config file. The threads you plan to use will be placed in the section under ‘cpu_threads_conf’ The file limit is seven threads so feel free to remove any you deem necessary. Also, remember to switch the wallet address at the bottom, to your wallet’s address.
- Load Huge Pages: In the config file you will notice a section showing how to allow huge pages on Windows.
- Execute XMR-STAK-CPU: Browse your xmr-stak-cpu folder and start up the ‘xmr-stak-cpu’ executable file. You are now mining XMR on your CPU.
As you can see from this guide, It is relatively to get started with mining Monero as you do not requite expensive mining hardware as is the case of bitcoin. Moreover, Monero has established itself as the leading privacy coin and has cemented its spot in the top 20 largest cryptocurrencies. That means it has a lot of upside price potential which could boost your Monero mining profits.
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