These days, every now and then, we come across an innovative idea that is addressing legacy issues, some of them lingering since ages. Such has been the extent of dynamism of the exciting entrepreneurial age we are in. Undeniably, advances in smartphone technology and data analytics are two of the many interesting reasons why we are able to make such tremendous progress.
One of such really breakthrough ideas that are changing the world of financial information access is the fintech analytics startup Call Levels. A real-time financial monitoring and notifications mobile app, Call Levels aims to equalize the playing field for anyone in the financial markets. People behind the idea of the startup were its two co-founders, Cynthia Siantar and Daniel Chia, both experienced financial services market professionals. In less than two years, Call Levels has amassed in excess of a hundred thousand user base and has raised multiple rounds of equity funding from the likes of 500 Startup and Lippo Group, among other angel investors. Interestingly, unlike many prophecies that see fintech startups as competition and threat to conventional financial services ecosystem, Call Levels sees itself as an ally. This thought process, along with a robust and fast innovating product that is being targeted across the user spectrum in the trading market, are factors driving its success. I gathered many such more insights in a freewheeling interview with the co-founder Cynthia Siantar, who recently was also recognized among the coveted Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Asia.
1) Hi Cynthia! Thanks for agreeing for an interview with Think Big Data. Tell us how were you drawn to the idea (of Call Levels) and how has the journey been so far?
It all started in a car ride conversation between the Daniel and I when we were discussing about “What is the ONE thing that all financial market participants needed but never had a good solution to?”
Call Levels, referring to the commonly used trading floor lingo ‘Call me when the price reaches this level’ was something Daniel used to set with his salespeople during his days as a hedge fund manager (client). More often than not, it continues to be a very manual, expensive process within the industry and provided only to premium clients. The non scalability of this process meant that most non-premium clients do not have access to this service. From this, we both decided to focus our relevant financial skills and experience to provide the best, most reliable price alerts for multiple assets and empower everyone watching the markets.
2) How is Call Levels different from companies such as Bloomberg Anywhere, Stockbit and AlgoMerchant? Do you consider them as direct competition? If not, then why?
It is true that Stockbit and AlgoMerchant target retail investors, which make up 75% of our user base. But one key difference between Call Levels and those companies is that we focus on immediate price alert services while they focus on other features.
Besides that, our app is presently completely free. Subscribers who use Bloomberg Anywhere have to fork out more than USD3000 per month and that is beyond the affordable range of most users, especially retail investors. (Stockbit and AlgoMerchant are offering paid subscription to their users.)
I don’t consider them as direct competition as we focus on the ONE thing that other products do not focus on and we put in all our resources to make sure it’s done very well. We are seen as a complementary tool by our users so it’s very beneficial to users who can use other tools complementary to ours.
3) Many see fintech as threat to conventional financial sector? Is that a myth? Please suggest w.r.t your experiences of taking Call Levels as a product to financial clients.
Our intention is to operate as an ally rather than to compete with incumbent institutions. Many institutions providing this automated real-time monitoring of prices and alerts to customers face the challenges of grappling with legacy technologies and manual processes. Call Levels leverages open API technology to overcome these challenges and build scale across markets and asset classes to differentiate the company. Call levels offers this solution on a cloud without the need of transfer of customer sensitive information onto this cloud, a key requirement for banks on account of data security.
4) What metrics does Call Levels track currently? Are there any product enhancement plans?
We track the number of users and the number of call levels created. We currently have over 110,000 users joining and setting Call Levels, and while most users set an average of 3 levels, our top users can set up to 50 new levels every day.
We plan to further enhance our app following many requests from our users. At the moment, we are actively working on adding more assets and useful features such as building in-app services that can connect our users to their preferred brokerage or trading platform the moment their alerts are triggered. We are also developing API on our monitoring technology to create a “plug-and-play” monitoring solution with other cloud-based platforms.
5) How efficient is your data system in delivering accurate price alerts at such a large scale? How have you achieved this success?
It was indeed challenging to build a very reliable monitoring system completely on the cloud with the ability to scale to a vast number of users without compromising on the quality nor resulting in large increases in server costs. Fortunately, our patent-pending technology has been really efficient in delivering accurate price alerts to multiple users, which we’re proud to say is further validated by our paid partnership with an established financial institution (DBS Vickers) whose interest in us is derived from the value that our technology can provide. Furthermore, the recent Brexit-related market volatility presented great opportunity for us. When pound sterling against the US dollar plunged 15% intra-day, we managed to send out alerts to over 2,000 users within a short span of time.
6) It seems you are catering to a wide base of customers and use cases across segments of retail investors, day traders, treasury teams, etc.? Does you offering suite differs across customers? How do you see each of these customer segments playing a role in evolving your product?
Call Levels is created for anyone with an interest in the financial markets. It doesn’t matter if a user is a retail investor or professional; they will need Call Levels just the same, though perhaps with different frequencies. Based on a recent user survey we conducted, we found that 25% of our users are professionals (Buyside, Sellside) and the rest are retail investors.
Learning from the feedback provided to us by our users, we are currently working on improving our app by enabling a more seamless trading experience that fulfils the needs of both segments. For example, we have received numerous requests from retail investors and professionals alike who would like to have their Call Levels quota increased, which they don’t mind paying for. Additionally, some professionals who use us have also expressed an interest in features such as the ability to add notes to each call level set for better client management. Without our users, we would be nothing. By extension, these features recommended by our users form a crucial insight into our development plans, allowing us to prioritise and scale our product roadmap more efficiently.
With that, we are intending to implement a monetisation model in future to enable users access to additional features if they so wish. We are considering the following ways:
1) Monthly subscription for unlimited Call Levels quota
2) Tiered Usage basis
3) Combination of the above
7) Do you foresee any data analytics challenges in your plan? We are probably talking about when you’ll be working with a multi-million user base.
I’ll start by talking about the potential of having a multi-million user base. We only require 200 data points for our analysis to be statistically significant. Having a database larger than that will definitely provide a more accurate view of the market, based on user interests.
For example, for Forex, 1 week’s worth of Call Levels distribution is able to predict next day returns of major crosses with up to 74% accuracy. Imagine how accurate it can get with a larger sample! For US Equities, an increased volume of Call Levels created in US Equities is a leading indicator of VIX Index (up to an hour).
In the future, server costs would naturally rise as we handle a continually expanding user base. As such, we have to employ several monetisation strategies for us to stay operational:
1) B2B: API for monitoring services, Partnership with Financial Institutions, Reseller model with existing technology providers of banks
2) B2C: in-app purchases for additional services
3) Data: Forward looking data / data analytics that can be licensed to other financial institutions or individual users
It is fascinating to realize that with Call Levels, all the trade information and analytics that wasn’t even available to the pros is being made available to an average Joe. Analytics and fintech can be a great leveler too. We wish Cynthia and the entire team at Call Levels the best for the future!
Website: Call Levels