Social trading – Is it a free for all?

Committed traders spend thousands of hours absorbing, processing and acting on market information. “Social” empowers them to post, receive, and thus exchange information, 24*7 with others around the globe.

P2P is THE new paradigm. Unsurprisingly, traders have embraced P2P with gusto.

Social and traders: isn’t this exciting? How about Social trading / Copy-trading / Auto-trading / Mirror trading??

Here’s our take! (Hint: knowing that trading is Intellectual Property, you won’t be surprised!)

Social trading & collaboration

Trades are a time sensitive IP produced by hard to acquire trading skills: knowing a good trader’s current market outlook, or the trade that he just placed is VERY valuable information.

On this account, “social” holds promise. Trading rooms & clusters of “Twitter traders” have formed on a validated psychology principle: group beats individual decision-making. Your information helps me; my information helps you, it’s a win-win, “social trading” here we go!

Collaboration is everything in social trading







Almost, but not quite!

Social trading = free for all?

There’s this tiny little thing: for this to work, my contribution has to be as valuable to you as your contribution is valuable to me.

Otherwise, imagine this conversation between Trader Johnnie and George “Quantum” Soros in 1992. Johnnie, who just placed his first ever trade, reaches out: “Hey George, I’m a trader, you’re a trader, let’s social trade: I’m long the GBP, any thoughts?”.

Absurd, and therefore unlikely! Animal Farm’s unforgettable Napoleon summed it up:

Animal Farm and social trading




“All traders are equal, but some trades are more equal than others”




Free “Social trading” as described above = barter. Barter works… AS LONG AS all parties to it exchange equally valuable contributions.

Luckily for George, trading is an IP industry: no amount of Johnnie trades are of interest to George (this is not to say that knowing ALL trades by ALL Johnnies at any point in time wouldn’t!). Barter and IP are difficult soul-mates: a sustained IP exchange where a trader consistently contributes above average only works if he really likes philanthropy: the communist trader – a very strange creature, indeed!

Social trading – our take

“Social trading” would work IF all traders had similarly valuable IP to contribute. But they don’t. The moment a trader contributes more than he gets, his incentive is to walk. Once he does, the second best trader, who also contributed above average and now also lost access to the best trader’s IP, follows suit. This triggers a race to the bottom that soon becomes noise. At its worst, this is Twitter for traders. Everyone has trades to tweet, alas not all trades are equally valuable.

Social trading – what’s next?

Barter is not the way to exchange valuable information: this ignores the dynamics of intellectual property. Existing “social trading” propositions fall short on this account and thus have flaws that greatly outweigh their benefits to good traders. What’s worse, they’re a self-selection magnet for all sorts of bad stuff that smart traders should best stay away from. Groucho Marx knew when he said: “I wouldn’t join a club that admitted me as a member!”

At Darwinex, we know that, given the right set-up, good traders have valuable IP to contribute, and can benefit from collaboration. Our investor platform is already in private beta, so stay tuned!


Trading is Intellectual Property: the proof is Coke!

Ever wondered what the common ingredient to trades, trading algorithms and Coke is?

Easy! Intellectual Property!

Agree that speculation is an IP industry? To understand the full implications for your trading income, look no further than Coca Cola: a lesson on capturing – or missing out on – the dividends accruing to intellectual property.

The origins of Coca-Cola (hat tip wikipedia)

Colonel John Pemberton was wounded in the American Civil War, became addicted to morphine, and began a quest to find a substitute to the dangerous opiate. The prototype Coca-Cola recipe was formulated at Pemberton’s Eagle Drug and Chemical House in Columbus, Georgia, originally labelled coca wine.

Insight 1: True intellectual property, like a successful trading strategy, is the valuable product of hard, sustained effort.

He may have been inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a European coca wine. In 1885, Pemberton registered his French Wine Coca nerve tonic (…) essentially a non-alcoholic version of French Wine Coca.

Insight 2: Your strategy’s IP could inspire others roaming the markets!

The first sales were at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886. It was initially sold as a patent medicine for five cents a glass at soda fountains.

Insight 3: IP has a value – no-one who has worked hard to develop a successful trading strategy gives it away for free!

With that in mind, look closer at the Coke ticket (a beauty, BTW)

First Coca Cola Ticket

Notice the Trademark Logo – IP Protection. This way you had no way to use the logo (IP!) without 1) advertising Coke and 2) incurring in legal risk.

Insight 4: Successful creators protect the IP they disclose!

Insight 5: Successful market the product of IP but do NOT, repeat DO NOT, disclose their IP!

The business model of IP is to disclose, for a price,  the product of the IP, not the IP itself! Coke buyers paid for a glass of patent medicine: they enjoyed the product of the IP (they drank it!), but NEVER, EVER got anywhere close to the formula (patent!). Pemberton (literally!) locked the formula in a vault to make sure that there was one and only one way to drink Coca Cola: to pay Pemberton for it, every time. 

Wonder what happens if you don’t do that? Look no further than… Coke!

Pemberton was diligent in withholding IP from customers… alas not from partners. By 1888, three versions of Coca-Cola were sold by three separate ¨partners¨ who laid hands on the formula.

Insight 5: IP, just like your trading strategy, benefits ANYONE deploying it. When disclosing your IP, you’re waiving (some or all of) the future profits it generates!

Result? The Pemberton family, like the inventor of Vin Mariani before them, lost Coca Cola to those who got access to the formula, and made the most of it.

Insight 6: IP benefits copiers as much (if not more) than inventors: IP leakage hurt Pemberton, but it hurt the inventor of Vin Mariani so much, that we even ignore his name!

Trading lessons?

If you didn’t already, now you know. Your trades ARE the product of your intellectual property.

If you absolutely must, tweet your trades, sell your algorithm or explain your strategy and charting set-ups in your blog. But beware:

  • If you disclose it all in one go, you could end up the unknown (= forgotten!) French guy who invented Vin Mariani (the Coca Cola),
  • If you disclose it trade by trade, remember that valuable IP WILL BE reverse-engineered. Trades are NOT the IP itself, they’re the key to the vault. Incidentally, this is the reason why Darwinex will NEVER publish the track-record of our members. We sure certify that it is true, but that’s no excuse to compromising your IP!
  • If you’re pitching to manage investor capital, DON’T disclose so much IP in your pitch that others can then replicate your strategy!

At all times, remember Pemberton:

  • By all means, rent the IP: allow investors to benefit from your IP via fees… but
  • NEVER give so much of your formula away that investors can replicate it without paying you going forward!
  • Before tweeting, realize that markets learn 24/7. Once you disclose IP you will (at best) share the success of your intellectual property.

PS: if the content of this post sounds too trivial to you… feel free to recommend it to good traders roaming forums, engaging in mirror-trading / copy trading / social trading sites. Looks like they missed it: trading is Intellectual Property!