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Five Minutes With… Mark Preston, CEO And Executive Chairman, City Index

Five Minutes With… Mark Preston, CEO And Executive Chairman, City Index

Having just opened the company’s first Middle Eastern office in Dubai via sister brand FX Solutions, Mark Preston, CEO and executive chairman of City Index, talks the local forex market, the impact of technology and the global investment climate.

With opportunities in real estate and the stock market why should GCC investors look at forex?

Clearly there are opportunities in real estate and equity but if you are looking at risk you really have to look across various different asset classes. So to ignore foreign exchange in assessing your overall risk profile would be ignoring one of the major issues.

Also people, particularly in this environment of low interest rates, are looking for opportunities to make a return on investment. Foreign exchange can be a volatile asset class and anything that is volatile investors occasionally like to take a view on and have a position. It’s also very cheap and easy to access.

City Index has recently reshuffled its management including your appointment as CEO, is there any more to come?

What we’ve really done recently is signal that we are genuinely committed to this area and we wanted to freshen up our people. The market has evolved. There is much more competition and we need to be much more client facing. The changes you’ve seen are reflected in the fact that we need to move away from being internal and be much more about client needs. What is helpful to the client, what does the client journey look like and how can we help our clients.

What will be the size of your operation in Dubai?

There is no limit it will grow as the business grows. We’re starting on the ground with two people because we feel that we wanted to start with the number that’s commensurate with a start-up in terms of activity in the region. But don’t forget there are 400 other people in the firm of which at least 200 are behind them supporting them in the UK. I’m reluctant to tempt fate but our working plan is we’ll grow those two to a number, whether it’s four or six, over the coming year as volumes demand. If we were 15 people in two years time I would be delighted and surprised.

Do you foresee opening another office in a regional city like Abu Dhabi or Riyadh?

I think one step at a time, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out Riyadh is a very important centre for us, but actually for the time being this is a good hub, it’s a good centre. A lot of our Saudi Arabian customers travel here frequently so this is a good place to start.

What sets aside your offering from some of the other players on the market?

There are some competitors that are very good. But I think what sets us apart is our focus on the client. We want our clients to be successful, we want our clients to be the better trader and I’m not entirely sure that’s always the objective for competitors. We don’t succeed if our clients fail we want to succeed because we’ve got long term relationships with our clients, who are themselves successful in the long term.

How is the rise of mobile and tablet FX applications impacting the market?

A very high percentage of our transactions are made over mobile devices and that has a number of different implications. It has an implication for clients; they can access the markets more readily and get more information. It also has an impact for how we market our business. When people are primarily observing us through digital means that has an impact that we have to consider.

On average 25 per cent of all our trades are executed via a mobile device, and in the summer that increases because everyone is away, one in three clients actively uses a mobile every month for trading.

If you had $1000 dollars today in what part of the forex market would you invest?

Personally its always quite nice to be a bit of a contra view and a lot of people are looking at what’s going on in the Euro and thinking the Euro has got to sell off. There is Ukraine there is Russia and problems in the Euro economy, and yet it hasn’t. So that’s telling me that everyone who wants to be short is short and there is a bit of me that says the contrary trade right now would be to buy the Euro. So if I were looking for a bit of an outsider I might go for the Euro.

Do you have a general outlook, which currencies are performing well?

Sterling is looking pretty good at the moment; the UK economy is going gangbusters beyond most people’s expectations, something might change, it always does, but at the moment is is looking good.

The big move you’ve got to ask yourself about has been the move down in emerging markets. As quantitive easing has looked like it was going to fall away its appeared to cause the emerging markets to sell off. So one question to keep asking is when will that trend decline. There are two factors. On the one hand the search for yield that’s driven the move into emerging markets away, as there is a move towards rising interest rates in the rest of the world. Against that the economic demographics of emerging markets, growth economies, is still very much there. So at some point that balance will tip again. If I knew when I would be a rich man but at some point the emerging markets are going to be worth looking at it.

What is your leadership style?

My leadership style is yes you’ve got to set a direction; yes you’ve got to make decisions. But more than anything, having set the strategic direction, liberate your people to help you fulfil it. If you’re the smartest guy in the company, you’ve done something wrong.

What makes the perfect employee?

Curiosity.

What words define success?

Happy clients. Content clients.

When I’m not at work I like to…

Ride motorbikes.

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