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The secret behind 26 years of success: Phil Waters, CEO of OANDA Asia Pacific on creating memorable moments – Prestige Online Singapore

Over the past few years we have witnessed a real boom in terms of participation in the financial markets from non-institutional investors and traders.
Technology has simply revolutionised the way they approach trading. In Singapore, the proliferation of online trading platforms coupled with the rise in the number of automated tools available, has made it easier than ever to trade CFD markets. Helming pole position in this highly competitive landscape is OANDA, whose legacy in online brokering goes as far back as 2001.
Founded in 1996 by a professor of computer engineering and a leading econometric researcher, OANDA was the first company to provide free currency exchange information. 
Continuing to break new ground in the new millennium, OANDA has built an enviable performance record since the launch of our fxTrade platform in 2001 and has become an established, fully regulated broker in Singapore since February 2013. 
Recognised for its fast and intuitive online trading platform, OANDA has picked up numerous accolades year after year, most recently the best broker in Singapore for Overall Client Satisfaction by Investment Trends, as well as the most popular broker and best forex and CFD broker by TradingView clients in 2021. Unveiling a new brand identity to celebrate its 26-year history, OANDA reflects on its commitment to always putting clients first, with the core focus of empowering traders with the right tools to trade smarter.

At the helm of OANDA’s Asia Pacific business is CEO Philip Waters. Phil has a track record of success in the CFD trading sector, having spent a combined period of almost 13 years driving growth in the industry.
As the multi-asset online trading provider celebrates 26 years of history this year, Waters reflects on OANDA’s evolution, successes and future with Prestige.
Our 26th anniversary itself is a testament to the business, because there are a number of brokers in this industry that have tried and failed. OANDA is truly a pioneer in its field and one of the first to make a move into digital, self-directed trading. 
While we have continued to adapt to emerging technologies, our approach to innovation has always been focused on listening to our clients and delivering best-in-class, intuitive digital experiences and tools that empower traders to trade smarter. The number of awards that OANDA continues to win every year – including ‘Best forex and CFD Broker’ and ‘Most Popular Broker’ by the TradingView community for 2021 and #1 Broker in Singapore for Client Satisfaction for two years in a row in 2022 and 2021 by Investment Trends – speaks of our commitment to a very strong and clear vision.
This year, to celebrate our 26-year history, we have unveiled a new brand identity, reflecting our commitment to always putting clients first.
One of the secrets is providing “positively memorable moments”. A risk of digitisation is that businesses will prioritise the digital user experience exclusively over the all-round client  experience. We don’t see those things as mutually exclusive.
We strive to create a digital experience that is meeting the user’s expectations 95 per cent of the time, as most people these days are self directed. But there is 5 per cent of the time when a trader needs support and help on how to optimise tools or funding-related issues. The availability and the quality of the services provided in those moments make for good client outcomes and high client satisfaction. We perfect the client experience from a digital point of view, and at the same time make sure it’s not at the expense of providing a really high touch service as and when it’s needed.
OANDA was born out of the belief that the Internet and technology would open up the markets for both currency data and trading. Over the past 25 years, there has been a surge in market participation from non-institutional investors and traders. 
From a technological, evolutionary standpoint, we’ve come a long way, even just in the last 18 months. We enable smarter decision-making with powerful research tools on a trading platform that has been engineered for speed and reliability.
One area that we excel at is the onboarding process, which we’ve made as frictionless as possible, because it’s the first experience a client goes through, and intent exponentially drops away if it takes more than a necessary period of time. 
Another way in which OANDA has evolved is in its development of risk management tools – a key element to smarter trading through, Guaranteed Stop Loss Orders (GSLOs) and Stop Loss Orders (SLOs). To add to that, we are one of the few MAS-regulated brokers who provide margin relief on both GSLOs and SLOs, an important aspect for the active trader lifestyle.
The pandemic brought about a rise in economic uncertainty that dampened confidence in the financial market. At the same time, more individual investors have sought non-institutional trading solutions as an alternative to traditional wealth management. We saw this evolving landscape as an opportunity for growth. 
The pandemic acted as a catalyst for us, compelling us to concentrate our efforts on development. It allowed us to create a best-in-class digital experience: getting the fundamentals right – everything from signing up for an account to logging in, funding, and trading – to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience paired with powerful tools. 
This evolutionary shift is now the backbone of our future growth: We have evolved to provide an award-winning, multi asset trading experience that fits in busy lifestyles.
My job title is Chief Executive Officer of OANDA Asia Pacific but I don’t see myself as being a traditional CEO, who I see being quite removed from the day-to-day business. That is the opposite for me. I have a high attention to detail and I’m hands-on. I think more like a business owner, and it’s something that I try to instil across the board here. When you think like an owner of the business, you become hyper-aware and in-tune with the business’ needs. I do everything from switching the lights off at the end of the day to being on a board meeting and everything else in between.
The truth is that I’m extremely lucky to have a very strong group around me in Singapore and this business would not be where it is today without these people. I see one of my primary responsibilities as being an ‘enabler’, because it is these people who know this market the most and know what our clients want. My task is mostly to help steer the ship in the right direction, and at the right pace.
We have significantly transformed our operations in Singapore, driving company growth and strengthening our reputation. As a global business, and in my other capacity as Regional Head of business, the benefits of this transformation have also extended to the broader region. In Singapore, the proliferation of online trading platforms coupled with the rise in the number of automated tools available, has made it easier than ever for retail traders to participate in CFD markets. 
What we intend to do here and in the APAC region is to double down and play to our strengths, especially in creating “positively memorable moments” for clients. These moments are glimpses of brilliance that arrive in all shapes and sizes, but more often than not, they involve doing the simple things well. I truly believe it is these memorable moments that will help build the deep-rooted client relationships upon which OANDAs future success will be built on.
While the pandemic allowed us to zero in on perfecting the digital journey of our clients, it put a pause to face-to-face opportunities. Physical contact is something our clients really value, so we started as soon as we possibly could to re-engage with our clients in person, even encouraging them to come to the office to have a coffee with us. As such we’re looking to ramp up more informal client activities including seminars and workshops in Singapore, and through the relevant OANDA group subsidiaries, extend the same strategy across the broader ASEAN region in 2023.
Founded in 1996, OANDA was the first company to share exchange rate data free of charge on the Internet, launching an FX trading platform that helped pioneer the development of web-based currency trading five years later. Today, the OANDA group, which includes OANDA Asia Pacific and other subsidiaries of OANDA Global Corporation, provides online multi-asset trading, currency data and analytics to retail and corporate clients around the globe, demonstrating an unrivaled expertise in foreign exchange. With regulated entities in nine of the world’s most active financial markets, OANDA remains dedicated to transforming how the world interacts with trading, enabling clients to trade global market indices, commodities, treasuries, precious metals and currencies on one of the fastest trading platforms in the market. Find out more here.

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