Why did Religare (one of India's largest financial services group), Thomson Reuters (one of the world's biggest providers of business information), SIAS (Asia's largest organized investor lobby group), Business Times (Singapore's leading business daily), and the Risk Management Institute at the National University of Singapore -- all decide to throw their weight behind the world's first ever online social investment platform for equities?
"One word. Transparency," answers Bobby Bhatia, the Founder & CEO of Singapore-based TrakInvest.com. The social trading platform which integrates global equities trading with social listening, has received strong buy-ins from various academic, research and financial services institutions across Asia.
Current trading strategies are built around rumors and tips, and people often make investment decisions based on limited, poor, and incorrect information. The average retail investor does not have access to high quality independent information, research and analytics. That explains why the privileged outperform the markets, whilst the rest keep guessing why something worked remarkably well for others, but not for them.
For the longest time, the inherent, acknowledged conflict in the investment world is that the companies recommended by investment banks and brokerage firms are often fee-paying customers of the same institutions. Conflicts such as these underline the need for unbiased and honest opinions.
"In the case of TrakInvest, it is not only the opinion of one individual, but an attempt to harness the collective wisdom of a broad group of investors. The learn-share-earn model acts as the fulcrum of capacity building," adds Bhatia.
After spending 20 years in the investment sector, first as a Principal for J.P. Morgan Partners and then as Managing Director and Head of Principal Investments in AIG, Bhatia embarked on an education and talent identification journey. His mission is to use the technology platform of TrakInvest.com to find the next hundred Warren Buffets of Asia.
He wants the masses to understand their cumulative power, learn from each other's instincts and intelligence, share the learning unconditionally and seamlessly, and eventually earn not just wealth but also scholarships and employment opportunities.
The high velocity exchange of information on social media accelerates Bhatia's aim to empower the common man to leverage trading information for awareness and financial independence.
"The world is no longer insular, and every individual is as good as anybody else, with each standing his own on a global playground," adds Bhatia.
"TrakInvest can be seen as the lowest common denominator for social equality. It's akin to teaching a vegetable vendor on the streets of India who trades at an unskilled level every day to come at par with the best traders in the market, by augmenting his basic trading skills and awareness level with the investment education needed to make intelligent decisions, " says Mandeep Nalwa, Founder, Chief Executive Officer of Taurus Wealth Advisors, one of Asia's elite multi-family investment office.
"Yes it is disruptive, but that's precisely why it is a leveling factor within our hugely disparate societies," maintains Nalwa.
The TrakInvest platform combines social media and compensation-incentive based investing into a simple user interface. Everybody is allotted phantom cash to build their own portfolio, and provided access to contextualized news and Twitter feeds coupled with detailed research and analytics as learning tools to kick-start their investment campaign. Huff Post readers can get their free account here.
The platform has also partnered with Thomson Reuters to generate weekly updated research and analytics reports for over 12,000 companies listed on US, India, China, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong stock exchanges to its users.
Besides that, the platform also provides users the ability to showcase their talent and win sponsored prizes, including 50 internships at leading financial institutions. The impact of the social trading platform is best summed up through the robust presence of its partners in Asia.
"Through this partnership, technology, expertise and insights will come together to give people - experienced and new to the markets, a virtual avenue to explore and hone their trading skills which in turn will help them make informed and more thought through decisions when they trade in the real markets," says Basab Mitra, CEO, Capital Markets and Wealth Management, Religare, one of India's biggest diversified financial services groups.
Religare currently has over 900,000 retail brokerage accounts across India who are being provided access to Trakinvest.com.
In Singapore, TrakInvest's model of transparent trading and democratizing information has led it to partner with Business Times and Securities Investor Association of Singapore.
"As an investor association, we believe that if you have to safeguard and champion the rights of the investors, you have to empower the investors through investor education and information. How else would you protect the interests of minority shareholders?" said David Gerald, President & Founder of Securities Investor Association Singapore (SIAS), which has a member base of about 100,000 investors.
"The fulcrum of TrakInvests's model resonates with our stand to advocate fair, open and transparent industry regulations, governance policies and practices," adds Gerald.
This common vision of reforming the investment approach is the key connect between TrakInvest and its selected partners.
"Let's use technology to shift the investment approach and model from arbitraging opacity to arbitraging collective knowledge, intelligence and transparency,"quips Bhatia.
Human beings ultimately search for what's missing in their lives and that eventually germinates the seeds of change. The quest to discover is embedded deep within the human heart and curiosity is integral within the human DNA. What follows then is an inevitable flight of breakthroughs and progress.
Initiatives like TrakInvest become critical steps in that direction.
(Image Credit: Ken Zen)