At the end of last year, one of the FX industry’s most prominent figures, Luis Sanchez assumed his position as CEO of BMFN.
As mid 2015 approaches, Luis Sanchez spoke to LeapRate in his notably charismatic and eloquent prose, on the ground covered since he took the leadership position within the company, and how he plans to lead its global growth in the immediate future.
Luis: Thank you Andrew.
I assumed the CEO position of BMFN on the 1st of November 2014.
My first action was convening the entire team in our Dubai office for a face-to-face global management meeting. This forum allowed me to connect personally with each manager, in group settings and individually, so that, we could—together—forge the strongest possible team and foundation for future growth.
This meeting spotlighted nuanced information about each market—and nurtured my detailed understanding of which projects were in progress, which were pending, and which were elsewhere in the pipeline. In my years in this industry, I have learned to avoid or challenge assumptions.
I have generally discovered that what you hear and what you are told about a company can never compare with what you experience when gathering information first-hand: when you are actually there, seeing an organization-in-motion with your own eyes and ears. Since theory and practice do not always coincide, conducting in-person assessment can be invaluable.
About BMFN itself, we are a growing industry player that was founded back in 2008 in Boston, the letters ‘BMFN’ stem from Boston Merchant Financial Network.
The organization gradually moved to Europe and Asia, acquiring five licenses and creating more than 11 offices around the world, from Mexico to Australia, adopting a telling slogan and concept: “Global Markets Delivered Locally”. The firm’s core technology, built and designed by Paul Belogour, owner and founder, remains one of the key elements to BMFN’s success. Called the UniTrader platform, its functionality, simplicity, and elegance, enable users to build their own brokerage in minutes.
The combination of BMFN’s UniTrader technology platform and the organization’s pioneering outlook have resulted in BMFN’s rise to increasing prominence, especially in some markets such Asia, where the escalation of our market presence has been exponential. I can even say that we have become like the benchmark in that region.
BMFN’s business model was designed expressly to create and enable enduring business opportunities for employees, Introducing Brokers (IBs), clients, partners, and other entities involved in the business.
Our vision is to provide you—anyone who is passionate about this field—with the ability to build your own lifestyle as you grow together with our company and its success. BMFN is a family: employees are treated as the life-blood of our joint success, and we take great care of our employees to the last detail. We believe—and put our resources behind—the creed that employee well-being must be our first priority in order to ensure that customers have an equally satisfying experience doing business with BMFN.
Andrew: Can you tell us about BMFN’s plans and position geographically?
Luis: Yes, definitely.
Our business development plan identifies the Middle East as a very attractive market for BMFN. We were fortunate to recognize very early that the only way to penetrate and succeed in this market is to become an entity that is regulated by the Central Bank. This is because foreign exchange brokers that are not native to certain countries or jurisdictions can face certain operational limitations and may eventually have their activities stopped
In a strategically pre-emptive move, BMFN took informed action immediately and, with a wider vision, we chose to partner proactively and exclusively with Noor Capital, a regulated, local company in this region of the world, which opened market access for us to pursue the possibility of promoting, distributing, and operating within the entire GCC region.
Our specialization in the business of IBs—thanks especially to our technology—makes us a leader in this field, with more than 4,500 IBs in Asia and more than 7,000 around the world. Each of these IBs uses our branded solutions on UniTrader and and branded private cabinet on MT4, all features built internally by our team.
This leading technology allows those who work with our platform and our approach to run their businesses in a simple, automatic way—with instant and ongoing access to a custom-built Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, personalized and branded web pages, and full control in a automated way, starting with the process of client registration and going all the way through to detailed reporting systems.
On the other hand, BMFN is penetrating more strongly into the retail self-traders, money managers, and institutional businesses. To make this move, over the past six months, I have started to implement and develop—nearly from scratch—an engagement strategy and new focused action within these important market segments in Europe and Latin America. I have catalyzed this with the help of Noam, our Marketing Director, and Patrick, our UniTrader CEO.
Until recently, within these segments in Europe and Latin America, BMFN’s presence has been weak and has had nearly no market penetration. The plan we have underway now adapts to these markets in multiple ways. We are quickly developing new procedures, redesigning systems processing, and even significantly changing our web site, building it to encompass a new, tailored concept and simple approach.
The new web site will launch in May) Our actions acknowledge and act upon vast differences in the way that business is conducted in Europe and Latin America compared to Asia and the Middle East.
For example in Asia, which is at a different stage of market evolution, we will be launching—next month—a fully automatic opening-account system in a interactive manner, which is part of our digital marketing strategy that we are piloting in Asia. We will eventually evaluate the results of the new programs we pilot, with the strong potential to replicate our models’ successful attributes in other regions. LeapRate, a leading FX industry news source and news distribution channel, will have the exclusive press release next month about such development.
Over the past several months, my team and I have 100% changed the way that the Mexico office of BMFN works. We have restructured its procedures, and we started a development campaign from nearly zero. During this time, I invested dozens upon dozens of hours in Mexico asking questions, listening, and talking with my IB’s clients, partners, and especially my team.
I spent days upon days re-designing the methodology of work, sharing with my team the reasons for each adjustment and the overall reason(s) that we need to make such large-scale changes—with an emphasis on the creative power of tailoring, customizing, adapting, and evolving every part of our solution. I expect this Mexico office to play an important role in BMFN’s success both locally and globally.
With the support of this Mexico office, our expansion more deeply into Latin America is gaining initial momentum now, particularly beginning in Lima, Peru, where we have started a branding and awareness-building (exposure) campaign.
In the past few months, the BMFN name has become gradually more known in the region, but my strategy here for 2015 is one of gradual, ongoing, organic growth—potentially enhanced by a surge at the appropriate time. Presently preparing the terrain for BMFN’s success in Peru, we will open an office in Lima in end 2015, start of 2016.
I see, and feel, huge potential in this country, with an office anchored in its capital, not only because I’m Peruvian, but because this is a prominent market.
Strong local/regional partnerships, such as the one I have been forging with Tutores-FX will help BMFN to penetrate not only Peru, but also other Sud American countries and other parts of Mexico. Local IB’s such as Ipemec and others that prefer to remain anonymous will further boost this effort’s market penetration.
Andrew: What do you think differentiates BMFN from other players in the minds of people? And what new frontiers are you are moving toward?
Luis: I have noticed this: New clients, IBs, and partners are exceptionally willing to work with us for many reasons, the most important of which really are…
…our successful understanding of regulations (and our legitimate standing legally);
…our technology; and
…our culture me as CEO being Peruvian says it all.
And, our stakeholders also find value in our ongoing practice of hosting seminars, delivering webinars, building campaigns, and looking for talented people to collaborate with and work for us. All such factors differentiate us and help assure that we won’t lose any competitive edge.
I have always believed that education (of ourselves, of our partners, and of our clients) is the key to success in this business. This emphasis on education as a catalyst is the reason why in Latin America, we began with a strong campaign that includes daily webinars, seminars, and even complete trading courses that occur over a period of about three months.
Our goal for each training/learning format is the same: to provide our clients and other stakeholders with the best information available so that they can make strong, informed trading decisions. The image that comes to my mind personally is: we sell you a Ferrari, and then we teach you how to drive it, supply you with a personal coach, and support you with the entire BMFN team—all so you can get the most out of every part of the experience, including all of the impressive and productive features.
As far as new frontiers for us are concerned, institutional business is of strong interest. Although we are not a big player in that space at this moment, we do have all the technology ready and are poised to become an important player especially for startup brokers.
We have recently started to build an array of brokers as clients, and we are providing them with institutional solutions, ranging from liquidity (solutions) to full brokerage, and including platforms, bridges, private cabinets and web pages. Toward the needs of this segment, we created “BMFN Prime,” which has experienced its soft launch already, and which will be launching officially next month.
Regarding growth and pushing frontiers, let me also say this: It has taken me a little over six months to understand where we were, where we are, and where we want to be—and to understand what our organizational strengths and weaknesses are, and to work on them. With this depth of understanding, it is clear to me that BMFN is the best company I have ever worked for, by far, and I believe that its practices exemplify what a company should do.
I am so thankful that Paul and Borden, owners and shareholders, gave me this opportunity. Q1 2015 was better than Q1 2014, and the month of January 2015 was our best month ever, since BMFN started.
I, along with Paul and Borden, and the global management team, are driving BMFN to the next level, and if you are wondering what else is next, then hear this: Beyond continuing our systematic growth into, across, and throughout Europe and Latin America, and beyond maintaining and augmenting our business strength in Asia and the Middle East, we are preparing gradually and methodically to go public. Paul and Borden are playing an important role in bringing many parts of this vision to life, and I believe that we can all make it happen.
Also, connected with our goals of expansion into and across market segments and geographies, we are implementing a marketing strategy in which innovation—and the use of maximally engaging formats for human information absorption—plays a central role.
For instance, our vision and outreach strategies acknowledge trends in which people are less frequently engaging with traditional banner ads and even Facebook and are engaging more frequently with information and marketing messages characterized by video-oriented, YouTube-related, educational, and tutorial content, including information shared via new distribution channels such as LeapRate.
Such an attuned approach enables us to provide content and articles to our audience, accessibly, with a personal and human touch, showing them photos, and in other ways authentically conveying our transparency and simplicity. The FX talk show, for example, is one excellent way to directly demonstrate such innovative information sharing, and LeapRate is the pioneer in this field. I am more than confident that such vehicle(s) of information sharing will be increasingly revolutionary and will have great success vis-à-vis our goals. A special thanks also to Dukascopy TV for its support and TV studio resources which help make such innovative information-sharing so compelling.
Another innovative component to our engaging marketing, awareness-building, and community-building campaigns, is the Miss UniTrader phenomenon. A rather unique concept related indirectly to our branding, this approach unites the worlds of beauty and foreign exchange in a luxury show that turns out to be a perfectly compelling combination for our IBs, clients, and partners. This concept will be slightly adapted and applied next year in Latin America, and I believe it will be revolutionary and innovative in a region that tends to highly celebrate beauty and glamour.
As a team of executive-level leaders, Borden, Paul, and I each play specialized roles: I myself focus on developing and nurturing the capacity of the sales team, step by step, in each market. I help each team member with customized sales strategies, client psychology, and the generation of measurable results.
As I do this work, I share advanced sales techniques that are customized and tailored to each of the related markets, acknowledging different approaches needed for Latin America, the Middle East, and Asian markets – all adapted toward achieving the same goal. I am free to focus on these things as Paul expertly leads our IT and technology development efforts, and as Borden leads us forward through all relevant accounting and regulatory environment-related matters.
Within the larger BMFN family, no matter what title one holds or what role one plays, each person shares the sincere feeling that we are all rowing the boat in the same direction, and we help each other as a team. Whether you are an account manager, back-office team member, or member of upper management, we all interact synergistically, with a common goal of success.
This has been a brief summary of my perspective on BMFN. I hope this gives our readers a greater idea and understanding of us.
Andrew, thanks for the opportunity to explain more about BMFN in this interview, and I look forward to seeing you soon at our next Forex Industry Talk Show in Geneva.