“Over-communicate your vision” With John Bartleman, President of TradeStation Group, Inc.

Over-communicate your vision. What I have found is that it’s easy to believe that everyone knows what you are thinking and when you say…

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Over-communicate your vision. What I have found is that it’s easy to believe that everyone knows what you are thinking and when you say something people are listening, but that is far from true. You need to communicate your ideas often and in multiple forms.

I had the pleasure of interviewing John Bartleman, President of TradeStation Group, Inc. In his role, John spearheads the company’s growth, including the company’s expansion areas of emerging technologies including chatbots, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cryptocurrencies and blockchain. He is also involved with the TradeStation trading platform, one of the top five trading platforms in the country.

Than you so much for joining us! What is your backstory?

I feel extremely lucky to have been involved in the leading edge of fintech for more than 20 years — starting my career as a product manager and, since then, continuously looking to improve the customer experience for traders. My journey with TradeStation began in 1999, when the company was called Omega Research. Back then, traders were installing their trading software using diskettes and CDs on their early Windows-based PCs. If you were trading at that time, you likely remember the pain of having to subscribe to a third-party market data source, and then manage and clean your own data just to see a simple stock chart. You would then have to call your broker or, if you had an online broker, manually enter your orders online. It was a great time to join the company — just as the Internet was taking off and our entire business was about to change. Within a few months of my joining the company, we acquired another company that allowed us to deliver our software over the Internet and provide real-time market data to our customers. This was a huge improvement in the user experience. Within a few months, we made a second acquisition that allowed us to fully transition from being a software company to an online broker-dealer. This further improved the customer experience by providing customers with the ability to utilize TradeStation’s services for complete market analysis and trading — an all-in-one solution. We then went on to enhance our offering to include equities, ETFs, options, futures and forex trading. The next big trading transition took place in the mid- to late 2000s, when we began to see the huge shift to mobile trading. In 2011, we went through another major transition when Monex — one of the largest online brokers in Japan — acquired TradeStation. The acquisition allowed the TradeStation team to bring our thriving technology to Japan, China and other parts of the world as we became part of Monex’s global vision. During this time, my career at TradeStation evolved from being a Product Manager to Director, Vice President of Product Management, Chief Growth Officer, President of TradeStation Securities and now President of TradeStation Group. While I am still a product manager at heart, as head of the organization I’m very excited to be spearheading TradeStation’s growth, including the company’s expansion areas of emerging technologies including chatbots, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began as President of TradeStation?

Having Monex as our parent company has provided me with an opportunity to experience a different culture, resulting in many interesting stories. I have traveled to Japan about 15 times and, for someone who is not a foodie, the first few trips there were horrible for me when it came to eating. I traveled with a lot of protein bars the first few trips. During one of my initial visits, we were taken to northern Japan to see the cherry blossoms and experience an authentic Japanese hot springs spa. At first, this sounded like it was going to be a great trip, but when we arrived at the spa I quickly realized that this was not like a U.S. spa. Let me just ask: would you want to bath naked with your co-workers? After that experience, we went to a dinner that consisted of many courses of raw food. It was only after the dinner that I was told that one of the things we were eating was raw horse (which was surprisingly pretty good). The night then progressed to hours of karaoke and drinking, and then everyone returning to the standard Japanese-style hotel rooms where we had four people to a room all sleeping on tatamis (which are small mats on the floor). All I can say is that it was a priceless experience!

What do you think makes TradeStation stand out during these disruptive times? Can you share a story?

These are interesting times where the lines between industries are blurring and disruption is everywhere. I believe that TradeStation’s DNA as a fintech company and our laser focus on our customers’ needs are what make us stand out. Our mission is to liberate people to do what they love. We spend a lot of time listening to our customers and watching how they utilize technology. TradeStation started as a company focused on early “quants” — quantitative analytics — aimed at providing solutions to allow our customers to program their trade ideas and see if they worked before putting their money at risk. This in turn gave customers confidence in their trading strategy and helped empower an entire generation of people to become day traders — allowing then to build a career trading with the flexibility to not only be their own bosses, but to work from anywhere in the world. We then expanded to focus on the needs of professionals who love to trade. These people have a “day job,” but they need tools and services, such as our mobile technology, to be able to trade on the go. Today, we are looking at millennials and Gen Z. These customers have grown up with Facebook, Amazon and Google and expect to have any service available at their fingertips, for it to be extremely easy to use and personalized and, in most cases, free. This group is more likely to have invested in Bitcoin than Microsoft, and they are not interested in the typical “Wall Street” offering. They tend to trust technology over humans and would prefer to talk to Alexa rather than a financial advisor. Moving forward, this is an area where we are looking at how to best leverage chatbots, AI and cryptocurrencies.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Over-communicate your vision. What I have found is that it’s easy to believe that everyone knows what you are thinking and when you say something people are listening, but that is far from true. You need to communicate your ideas often and in multiple forms.

None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story or example?

Over the years, I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to work with and learn from some amazingly talented individuals. Bill and Ralph Cruz, the founders of TradeStation, were instrumental in my early success at the company. Bill was like Steve Jobs to us and Ralph was the marketing mastermind. Together, they built the foundation for a great company culture that continues today.

Can you share what you believe will be the “Top 5 Fintech and Banking Trends Over the Next 3 Years”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. AI and machine learning — All we hear today is how companies are leveraging AI and machine learning to enhance a process or solve a problem. We see a huge opportunity to leverage AI to build better trading and investing ecosystems. AI is a vehicle to augment our customers’ trading capabilities throughout their entire journey — from automating the search for and analysis of trade ideas and models, to the execution of trades.

2. Chatbots and voice-based solutions — Many firms are engaging with customers via social media directly or via chatbots and voice-based systems, like Alexa and Google Home. We have shifted our mindset to engage with our customers where they are, rather than waiting for them to call or access our websites and apps. Recently, we launched a new chatbot via Facebook Messenger to engage with prospects and customers directly.

3. Cryptocurrencies — Cryptocurrencies are providing a mechanism to engage in commerce and to store value, while also creating a renewed energy around trading. People are talking about technical analysis, money management and all the core technologies TradeStation was built on in this new exciting space.

4. Blockchain — Blockchain is an emerging technology that is targeting the core infrastructure of the financial system, as well as other industries. While we are still very early in the evolution of this new technology, we expect to see many areas of the financial services industry being disrupted by blockchain technology over the next several years.

5. Personalized, comprehensive and simple experiences — Today, people expect products and services to be frictionless. We believe that the companies that survive will be the ones that provide the best user experience to solve customer needs.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My mother would drag my brother and me to the library every few days when we were little kids. This instilled in me a passion for reading and learning. Too many people today finish school and never develop a love of learning. We spend much of our time on social media or watching TV, but very little time learning about something new. We need to leverage the technology we have today to promote learning. I can access any book from my iPhone and read it anywhere. I can listen to amazing podcasts — personally, one of my favorite ways to attain new information — while I drive. People are more impatient today and like to consume information in smaller packages, so we need to find better ways to package learning in consumable, entertaining ways.

Thank you so much for these insights!

Originally published at medium.com

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