At long last, I was able to pin down Adam Cole the Football Index CEO and their Marketing Magician Mike Bohan to record a podcast where we discussed a plethora of things index related. From life at a start up to the future of the platform, Mike, Adam and I spoke for an hour on what an amazing journey the last 3 years have been for them as a company and for traders alike!
If you haven't already, you can listen to the podcast here:
- IOS: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/football-index-podcast/id1291934749?mt=2#episodeGuid=7945028f-7de3-4d07-bcc9-a15942544c11 …
- Fireside: https://t.co/KkKcOpKnN9
- YouTube: https://youtu.be/VyajMFxMoIM
- Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6hFhB9HLEDL4od0jLZFAVp?si=mFnRhcAvRdS47Z0wMRCgGg …
Now for my thoughts...
The current platform is constantly critiqued when it comes to how practical the app is to use. Whilst incrimental improvements have been made quite regularly, index traders have been crying out for wholesale changes, more personalisation and a generally easy-to-use app. Now from the outside in it's easy to criticise the lack of huge improvements, but when Mike Bohan (Head of marking at Football Index) explains that the solution is not to build on the current platform- but start it from the ground up, it starts to make more sense. Indeed during the podcast he uses a great analogy:
"Rather than redecorate the house, we want to build a new one"
Now when you look at this from a tech standpoint this makes total sense (I don't have any tech background so bare with me on this dodgy as **** analogy). Imagine you're building a jenga tower, but the foundations are weak and wobbly. You need to keep building it higher, but the more jenga blocks you load on top the more unstable the tower becomes. So instead of continuing to build the tower upwards, making it more and more unstable and more prone to damage, you start again- making that foundation far more solid at the start. This is similar to what Football Index plan to do- they want to add lots of new features onto their current tech stack, but the more features they build (and these new features would have to be interoperable with existing features) the more likely bugs are to occur. What does this mean for the future? Short term, we're going to have to deal with the really irritating bugs but long term, it may mean all of our quieries and dillemas are answered and solved all at once!
Importantly, maintaining that personalisation and creating added customisability will most certainly reinforce Football Index as this leading challenger brand to the archaic and non-customer centric online gambling world. In banking, Monzo, Starling and Revolut have all built challenger brands by creating a loyal customer base, by alligning their company incentives with that of said customers. It's so important that with a site revamp, or whatever features are added don't take away from the novelty of the product, if anything- it should reinforce the notion that this platform is the alternative to traditional online gambling. Successful digital services and platforms build on the trust they have from consumers. So far, Football Index have luckily gained a following and customer base that absolutely love the product. They have stayed with it thick and thin, now it's time to improve the app and website to really push the platform on.
Dividend Cut off & Future Add ons
Now something that maybe didn't get as much reaction on twitter via the podcast was the subject of dividend cut offs. Mike and Adam both talk about how they started growing dissapointed with the volume of trades over the weekend, and so it was decided to move the cut off point from 11:59pm the previous night, to 2pm. At first glance it doesn't seem like that big a deal but it's a 14 hour swing and by the sounds of it, it clearly upped their trading volume, particularly on the weekends siginifcantly. Mike indeed states that "inplay betting has surpassed pre game betting in terms of volume" and by the sounds of it Football Index could look quench the thirst traders have for that in play euphoria. Neymar winning you media dividends is great, but the excitement and hype behind a PB winning performance from a player you bought only 5 hours ago is arguably way more exhilirating, but also, and maybe more importantly, it's more attractive from the outside in as a product- thus widening their aquisition pool.
Now, this has polarised opinions to a great degree. Should FI risk more of a liability for larger trading volumes and therefore more comission? Or should they protect themseleves buy limiting liability, but also putting trading frequency at risk due to the large spreads. My opinion is that they should be circumstantial. If there is 0 demand for a player (Mo Salah injury) then yeh, why should FI buy the player off you? But if he's risen say 20p in a day, and there's clearly demand for the player, why should the spread stay large? It's a point I understand when there's massive injury- you're just unfortunately out of luck and to quote Adam Cole "you've lost your bet". Now that's always an opinion I've held, and I actually feel they're still experimenting with spreads. I would love them to make them smaller, particularly at the top end to see the effect it has on the market. The narrative that spreads are there to 'protect portfolios' really confuses me. If a player is injured, massively off form, then they're going to fall anyways, so why should those traders be protected by making a bad investment? If the 'lost your bet' narratvie that was pushed, a more transparent (dare I say truthful) one, then I believe traders would come round to it and say "well, if I'm not buying an injured Mo Salah, why should Football Index?".
The most talked about thing since the podcast; order books. Now before I go on, I want to remind every reader that every big decision Football Index have made in terms of changing the platform has improved the product. IPO's, Performance buzz, Squad players, Triple Media, Dividend Cut-off time change-some of these were much maligned, but all made the index far better on the whole. Now on to the order book. We don't know exactly how it will be implemented, so I'm hesitant in making assumptions. The basics are as follows; you can place buy and sell orders at whatever price you like, so that if a player reaches said price, that sell/buy order is then executed. Sounds simple enough right? I think this change would actually be really positive for the top end of the market...the lower priced bracket players I'm not so sure on. I've had sub £1 in the queue for a while, knowing that when I bought those cheap players, the risk was usually minimal as I could sell back to Football Index for a very small loss. Now without instant sell, those cheap players are far more comparable to penny stocks or startups in company terms, high risk- but potentially high reward. Now Adam Cole did mention "liquidity providers" so whether or not IS, or some version of it is here to stay still remains to be seen, but I believe, and I'm only guessing here, that FI will create some sort of environment to maintain liquidity in the lower reaches of the platform. Remember, even with a share split Neymar's price may look daunting, so it's imperative (in my opinion) that some of those lower bracket players are still tradeable and see good action, for customer aquistion and accessibility reasons. There also remains the topic of issuance. I believe that if no one is selling a player, i.e the supply is too small for the current demand-FI will issue new shares to the next buyer. It's certainly exciting me currently more than concerning me, but I do empathise with those who are worried. I'd like to use hingsight here in order to allay fears; I used this platform only 2 years ago when there was no instant sell, no PB and a very small trader community. How far it's come so far is remarkable, so I can only hope that this next intervention by FI is going to greatly improve the product. To conclude on this section, I think it still remains to be seen how this will play out. I'm eager to ask 1000 questions to the FI staff at the next trader meet in London!
For me, I don't really see the reasoning behind it. I'm yet to be convinced by anyone that the Share Split is a 'good idea'. Now that's not to say it's a bad idea, but I don't really see any argument for it. For anyone that's screaming at their phone/laptop/tablet saying "But FIG, it'll make it more accessible for new users?!" well yeh maybe, for 3-6 months perhaps...I actually see this benefitting existing users far more than anyone who could possibly join the platform in those 3-6 months, so the argument that "yeh actually FIG, everyone who already has a portfolio will make a **** ton" is perhaps the (weirdly) more logical argument. To those who want a share split, what happens when players exceed prices that traders are willing to pay for them with respect to dividend returns? What happens when Neymar (inevitably) rises back to a daunting price post share split? Now these questions, I haven't heard a good rebuttal to. The only solution would be to increase dividends, which would then create this cyclic situation that would actually have people questioning the longeivity of the product. Now Adam mentioned the "Bitcoin" model where you can buy fractions of a player, and whilst I'm not sure whether or not that's the right answer, I do think a creative solution needs to be found where the need for consistent share splits + dividend increases is mitigated. On the other hand, as you all know I like to play devil's advocate (on the occasion even to myself), a share split may help reduce the spread that is created when the order book comes into the frame. For users, the difference between £13.50 and £13.25 is big, but the difference between £1.00 and £0.95 seems far more appealing.
My Future Predictions
- Share split will happen prior to order book implementation (disclaimer, I don't know whether or not a share split will actually happen)
- Football Index will shift to more PB heavy system in the future. Whether or not people like Media Buzz or not, I think that a natural progression toward more PB may be in everyone's interest. Whether it be the addition of competitive internationals or cup games, I feel that it would actually add value to those fringe players people often criticise traders for holding. On the index's side of things, it simply increases trade volume which then increases comission. I'm not saying this is a good things for traders with existing holds in MB players but I certainly think it will be something that FI look into. Indeed Mike on the podcast notes that many belittled the product for being solely media oriented. Remember FI want to expand their user aquistion radius as far as possible, and perhaps added PB incentives could be an incremental improvement.
- The order book implementation will probably happen around about the turn of the year. Now again, I don't have any information on this but I think Football Index will want to get this right. They'll take their time- this could be the biggest change to the platform since it's existence. I think it will increase liquidity in the top players, but I do think there needs to be a liquidity provider for those cheaper players which may have less demand.
- Football Index will look to implement an add-on in order to create a new stream of revenue. I've spoken about this quite frequently on the podcast and on twitter. Indeed I pitched the idea of a fantasy football add-on to the platform to both the guys at FI (at a trader meet) and my followers on twitter. It got a mixed response, and I'm not entirely sure that it's the answer, but surely it makes sense for a business to have more than one stream of revenue. Users will point to the money the index make from deposit money which gains interest, but let's be honest- that's a smidge over an inflation and pretty much negligible. So then we have comission, which I believe will one day be in excess of dividends paid out (I don't believe they're currently there yet) which will probably be a weight off their shoulders. However, to expand you need capital and I think Football Index may need more than just excess comission money to develop the business substantially enough to make it a proper challenger to existing gambling brands.
- 200,000 users by Christmas I think this one is quite easily achievable. With the World Cup, and extended, expansive advertising Football Index should have done more than enough to aquire an extra 50,000 users by then. This is a cautious estimate I think!
- The PB scoring matrix will probably change(at some point). Yes I know a lot of people don't want it to, but I think Football Index will make a change to the scoring matrix. Maybe not before the next season starts but I don't think it's as far away as people think. (again disclaimer I have no idea if this will happen, just my opinion.)To quote ASP on my podcast: it's easier to turn around a fishing boat than an oil tanker so it makes sense that changes are implemented before mass adoption of the product.
- We'll start to hear people on the street talk about FI, and see people scrolling through the app in public Between my second year at uni, to the end of my 3rd year nobody really knew what Football Index was. However literally in my last week of studying, I overheard a bunch of lads speaking about it and I found it really strange. It'd taken that long for me to hear someone that I didn't immediately know, speak about FI. Now with so many bus ads, I've been walking on the street with colleugues and friends and they've pointed it out to me uttering something along the lines of "oh yeh, that's that thing you're involved in right? The thing you mentioned a while back?" I think we're going to see more and more people join the platform just because of the network effect, and therefore more and more money pumped into Football Index.
- Other sports might not be that far off? I think Football Index will probably venture into other sports. Why not right? After they improve the current product- why not create other index's for other sports? NBA, NFL and other big sports were mentioned in the podcast so I don't think it's too unrealistic to believe we'll see some of these sports implimented in the next couple of years.
- I think we're in for a period of volatility at the beginning of the 2018/19 season Considering a lot of money has gone into 'Next season's PB players' I think we'll see a big period of volatility at the beginning of next season, perhaps in the first 5-15 games. The only reason I say this is because many variables will have changed from last year, which makes certain players more or less valuable. Now, the reason why I think there'll be volatility is because we don't know if it makes them more or less valuable. Who would have guessed that Alexis Sanchez would perform so poorly at Manchester United? Conversely who would have guessed that Mo Salah would take the league by storm? How will a change in manager for Arsenal and most probably Chelsea impact their PB scoring? There's so many variables at hand, that can and will change that it's impossible to say whether a player will replicate/impove/worsen last season's PB scores. There's the obvious exceptions in Ronaldo and Messi who have done it over the course of 10 years, but a majority of players will become less or more valuable with regards to PB next season. I wouldn't be afraid of this period however. This may be an amazing opportunity to pick up someone like Salah, who does 1000% returns over the course of the season! Look forward to it, don't be scared!
- Many World cup players are already over inflated....but that won't stop FOMO I've spoken about how many World Cup players are already overpriced (In comparison to the rest of the market, not dividend returns) but I do still think we'll see big trading volumes due to FOMO. Whether it be a breakout star, or a tournament favourite (Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, Muller, James) performing exceptionally, I think we'll still see large price spikes and crashes during the World cup, even in those aformentioned highly priced players.
To conclude, I think I'm certainly more excited than concerned for the future of the platform. With extensive advertisment, innovative changes to the product and improvements to the usability and practicality of the platform, Football Index will in my opinion, go from strenght to strength. Who knows where we'll be in a years time!