Exclusive interview: Natallia Hunik – ‘Mission Accomplished’
In the FX space, there are a number of personalities who stand out for a variety of reasons (some good, some bad). However, few have achieved the almost legendary status of Natallia Hunik. The soft-spoken but fiercely determined Advanced Markets CRO surprised the forex world by announcing this week that it was heading to new pastures. Natallia was kind enough to grant The financial tycoons an exclusive interview to talk about her time in the forex industry and, never hesitating to give her opinion, Natallia gave candid opinions (would you expect less?) on the industry. Enjoy!
Natallia, you are leaving Advanced Markets after almost 7 years, why are you leaving?
I have reached a point where I believe I have accomplished my mission at Advanced Markets. I have taken the brand to the next level, built an amazing team globally and helped the company enter new market segments. It is time for me to move forward and share my knowledge and passion for financial markets elsewhere where my contribution can make a significant difference.
You are leaving the forex / trading industry for something new. How difficult was this decision for you?
I can’t say it was an easy decision, but I think it’s the best decision at this point in my career. While I will not stay in the margin FX space, I will always stay in the larger financial services industry, which will allow me to capitalize on my knowledge of financial markets and financial technology that I gained during of the last 15 years of my career.
And most importantly, I am convinced that you constantly need to learn and expand your horizons. I don’t believe you can do this by staying in the same space throughout your career. By learning best practices, gaining knowledge of common mistakes, go-to-market strategies, you become a comprehensive professional who can identify opportunities and areas for improvement quickly and effectively, and that’s what makes you valuable to the organization.
Thinking back to your experience in the industry, what changes, good or bad, would they have had the most impact?
There have been so many changes in the space, but when I look back I think I can describe four general themes:
1) Changes brought about by regulatory pressure.
When I started in space, US FX brokers were booming, then the focus shifted to the UK, then Cyprus and now offshore operations. This is all driven by the regulatory changes to which brokers have had to adapt.
The impact of regulatory changes is always twofold, on the one hand it protects investors, on the other, it pushes brokers to look for loopholes which in turn may not favor investors in the end.
2) Technological innovation
We have witnessed technological innovations of 2 types: a) driven by extreme market events and b) driven by user demand.
The first type brought better analytics, better backend processing and reporting, and the second type brought mobile apps, social trading, and the emergence of some non-MT trading platforms.
3) Develop multi-asset offers
Largely due to lackluster volatility in FX and a slight increase in crypto as well as the explosion in stock trading brought on by the pandemic and before the introduction of fractional stock trading, FX brokers have started to expand into different asset classes.
4) Increased risk taking, proliferation of the PFOF model
Growing pressure from regulators and irrational markets has forced many companies to increase their risk-taking.
As many lacked the capital cushion and expertise, they began to rely much more on emerging classes of retail market makers and PFOF (payment for order flow) agreements. While these practices have improved brokers’ operating margins in many ways, they have certainly made their operations as a whole less âinvestableâ due to the high risk nature of this business.
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In your time, you have cultivated an almost legendary status for your frank opinions, honesty, and expertise. What have been the biggest personal challenges you have encountered in the industry, and how have you overcome them?
Thanks for the kind words, I’ve sometimes been criticized for being too direct and too honest 🙂 Many thought I shouldn’t have shared some of the inner workings of the industry. I have always been and will remain the biggest supporter of transparency in financial markets. I think that by giving investors, brokers, hedge funds, traders and other market participants information on how the market works, I have helped them better navigate the landscape and make the right decisions for their businesses. And that’s what every business should do: solve problems, help customers, and not withhold critical information from them.
In your opinion, do women in the industry have a harder time making their voices heard and reaching the top?
I didn’t start from the top. I started out as a customer service representative, account manager, project manager, and salesperson at a Boston-based FX tech startup, offering commercial offerings and supporting a product in its initial phase around the clock, and I was under extreme pressure from powerful clients yesterday seeking their answers and pushing for immediate problem resolutions.
As I made my way, I was often the only woman on the management team, the only woman at the client meeting, and the first woman men had ever seen on the management team of a foreign exchange firm. It may sound difficult, but it pushed me out of my comfort zone and motivated me to outperform and outperform.
I have learned to use this to my advantage. Being the only woman in the room made me memorable.
Having said that, I see more women in the industry making great strides towards leadership positions and breaking stereotypes. It’s very inspiring, and when I meet female colleagues in the industry at various events, I always admire their caliber, character and charisma. The challenge for women in financial markets and beyond is the lack of female role models in their space. Certainly, there are some top female FX executives out there who would make great role models. The industry needs to keep up with diversity, and more successful female stories will give other women the opportunity to see a wide and diverse range of role models.
What challenges does the industry face and what do you think needs to be done to overcome these challenges?
In the future, the industry faces many challenges. It is an âinnovate or dieâ type environment where companies must constantly keep up with the competition, but also adapt and respond to external threats from, for example, crypto or fintech spaces. In terms of product or technology innovation, I think space can do a lot better. With the exception of a few large brokers, most have little product differentiation or their own intellectual property.