It has been a very busy year for Plus500 Ltd (LON:PLUS).
Despite getting through last January’s Swiss Franc spike with nary a scratch, shares of the Retail Forex and CFD broker took a dive until Playtech PLC (LON:PTEC) stepped in with plans to buy Plus500 for $700 million.
When that deal unravelled late in 2015 Plus500 didn’t seem to miss a beat, posting strong Q4 and Full Year 2015 results while continuing to build its market share of the all-important UK Forex and CFD market.
We’re pleased to be joined today by Nadav Shilo, Plus500’s Head of Affiliate Program (500Affiliates) and Partnerships, to review what life was like during the Playtech takeover, and what the future holds for the still-independent Plus500.
LR: Hi Nadav, and thanks for joining us today. It must have been a very interesting six months at Plus500. We realize that the reasons leading to the breakup of Playtech’s acquisition of Plus500 had nothing to do with Plus500 itself, but can you let us know what you learned through the whole process? Did many employees leave thinking that the company was about to be acquired? Would Plus500 have done anything different knowing what you now know?
Nadav: The past few months have been challenging for Plus500 but we emerged stronger and more confident. On the one hand, the option of the merger with Playtech evoked thoughts of possible new opportunities in a big corporation, however on the other hand, raised some concerns of the unknown as well.
The bottom line though, since the most important resource to Plus500’s success is its human capital, was maintaining the company’s stability and ensuring our employees’ satisfaction from the work they do.
At the end of the day, not even a single employee left and Plus500 continues to maintain its strength and to grow – both in personnel and in long term projects. As proof: Plus500 published strong full year preliminary results and the stock (LSE symbol: PLUS) continues to rise.
LR: It seems as though a lot of brokers are trying to emulate Plus500’s ability to automate a lot of services and processes – everything from client acquisition to retention seems to happen with a lot less ‘manual’ human input at Plus500. Without giving away any state secrets, how do you do it?
Nadav: We do so through technology. Ultimately, it’s about giving our affiliates the best tools and terms to succeed and in providing our customers with the best trading platform – if you check reviews on both the Android app store (Google Play) and Apple’s AppStore, you’ll see that we are the highest app rated in our sector with an average of about 4.2 stars.
LR: Plus500 surprised a lot of people in the industry placing second in UK CFD trading market share. Do you see most of your growth still coming from the UK in 2016, or from other regions?
Nadav: We focus on growing organically in our existing markets and additionally look for opportunities in new markets. We expect that in 2016 we will continue to grow simultaneously in the UK and in other countries where we operate (Europe, Australia, etc.). We are very proud we’ve been able to do so in the past and are confident of the future.
LR: Another area where Plus500 seems to be quietly succeeding is its Affiliates program 500Affiliates.com. You were recently the only financial firm to win at the 2016 iGB Affiliates Awards in London (being named Best Financial Affiliate Program). What’s the secret to running a successful Affiliate program?
We invest a lot of effort and resources in the program in order to ensure it is the best. We always look to innovate. Our award-winning affiliate team maintains a very close relationship with our affiliates, who receive the best support, tools and payment conditions and enjoy high revenues from promoting Plus500, making the program both profitable and reliable. We believe that our strong and personal ties with our affiliates are the key to the program’s lead, and to our affiliates’ success.
LR: What changes are you looking to make in 2016? Specifically, is mobile a key part of your strategy?
Nadav: Mobile has been a key part of our business since 2011, both in new customer signups and ongoing usability.
In 2015 we developed a Windows Phone dedicated app along with fully supporting Surface tablets as well as the Apple Watch. These versions were introduced along with our already existing apps on iOS and Android, and as I’ve said previously, are highly regarded by our customers who rated us the highest in our sector in the corresponding app stores. Our mobile offering is now on par feature wise with our PC version and web version which has also seen a great overhaul a few months ago. Since most customers today trade on the go, it is important to give them the best applications and support 24/7.
In 2016, we are continually aiming to innovate and enhance our customer support. Additionally, we also look to offer our affiliates even more marketing tools and the best support, both professionally and timely. After all, our affiliates’ success is our success.
LR: What is Plus500’s take on the social trading phenomenon? Is that something you would consider adding?
Nadav: We are always listening to what our customers want and if we will add social trading in the future, we’re sure to let LeapRate know about it!