A new Hong Kong based internet stock trading platform hopes to make trading more convenient by bringing in new technologies such as a Twitter-like social media network and an easily customizable interface.
8 Securities - launched late last month by a group of former executives of online brokerage giant E-trade - hopes to "reinvent" online brokerages, and calls itself Asia's first "socially connected trading portal."
Users can exchange trade ideas with instant messaging, "follow" friends or other anonymous traders in the community, and even see their tradings in real time.
Mathias Helleu, executive chairman of 8 Securities, said internet stock trading emerged more than 10 years ago, when many banks and brokerages went online.
But the technology has stayed more or less the same.
Helleu helped start US-based E-Trade's international business in 2000, and was managing director until he quit to go out on his won in 2009.
Social elements are not a novel idea thought up by 8 Securities, as many brokerages already provide users with social forums for trading ideas.
US-based Zecco, for instance, which launched some five years ago, publishes a ranking of its top traders.
Helleu said his firm is closely connected with Zecco, as one of 8's major shareholders, Willem Willemstein, also invested in Zecco.
But the difference is that 8 puts the social networking "inside the trading engine."
"Anyone giving investment ideas at the community is supported by genuine trading records - they can look at your portfolio."
A more integrated trading and social networking experience is made possible with the portal's unique "app based" interface, somewhat similar to the iGoogle search page and Launchpad of Bloomberg terminals.
This allows a trader to design a trading platform by adding required information, such as order ticket, news, research and graphs.
8 securities also saved on setting up servers by being the first brokerage to use Amazon's cloud-computing service. It may also provide better system stability when tradings surge.
The portal will allow customers to trade in 15,000 stocks in Hong Kong and the United States.
Every US stock transaction will attract a flat fee of US$8.88 (HK$69.26) regardless of the size of the trade. Helleu claims the fee is the lowest charged for US stock trading by any SAR-based brokerage.
Hong Kong stock orders will be charged 0.18 percent as commission, with a minimum charge of HK$88 - generally lower than online portals of local banks. But other securities firms do offer much cheaper options, even as low as HK$5 per trade.
8 Securities does not yet support trading of options.
Having set up trading platforms in 14 countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, India and in Europe during his tenure at E-Trade, Helleu chose Hong Kong to set up his own company.
"The [Hong Kong] market has grown a lot in the last 10 years, fuelled by China initial public offerings. It has much more volume now," he said.
The SAR also has the advantage of high online investment penetration with more than 1 million accounts in web brokerages.
"Looking at all the locations, the best is Hong Kong," Helleu said.
Most of 8's top management team came from E-Trade. Helleu and chief executive Mikaal Abdulla, who used to manage E-Trade's Asia business, together own about 50 percent of the company.
Helleu raised US$8 million from investors in Hong Kong and Europe, and from personal inputs.
The company has won some technological accolades. It was selected among the top five start-ups out of 400 entrants at Startup Battlefield, a global competition held by US tech website TechCrunch in Beijing last November.
And in the Battle of the Apps II held in Hong Kong in December, 8 Securities was voted the "Top App" among 12 finalists.
But Helleu, not one to rest satisfied with merely heading just another trading website in Hong Kong, plans to expand into the rest of Asia.