When asked if he’d have done anything differently during his career, Kevin Algeo, CEO of IG Australia, responds with a quote from renowned entrepreneur Warren Buffett: “In the business world, the rear-view mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”
And that rear-view mirror reflects quite a journey – after he completed a degree in politics and economics, he had the chance to shadow a family member in stockbroking. “I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t let slip,” Kevin says. “Being exposed to the financial markets, absorbing and digesting everything that was happening, it was fascinating. The language they were using, the interaction between markets, and the people – I haven’t looked back. I remember thinking to myself, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be getting paid for this.”
From there, Kevin moved from a career in portfolio management to IG South Africa as CEO. Having spent four years there, he moved to the Australian branch in 2017, spending only four short months as deputy CEO, before once more becoming an IG CEO. At the head of the largest CFD (contract for difference) provider operating in Australia, Kevin now believes in investing in IG Australia’s people and clients, to ensure its survival in a swiftly changing industry.
“For the immediate future, we’ve been preparing initiatives to improve our overall value proposition to traders,” he says. “Value doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper, although we have recently launched some new features delivering greater savings to our traders. I’m also referring to product offering, execution speed and the platform’s ease of use. Our longer-term strategy is clear – we want to continue to be a global leader in online derivative trading for sophisticated traders.”
One strategy Kevin is pursuing for the financial services provider involves staying on the frontline of technological adoption. As a niche, London-based broker, IG Group has long had the ability to move with agility, quickly adapting to new developments in the industry. For example, the company was one of the first to adopt online trading and was, similarly, early to market with mobile trading.
Maintaining a capable, passionate workforce is the other prong in Kevin’s strategy. “Being a global online business, two of our biggest ongoing costs are people and technology,” he says. “It’s imperative we attract and retain talented people and that we invest in technology to maintain our market leadership. These investments will ensure our business continues to grow sustainably in the years ahead.”
Kevin’s drive to create a future-proof, flexible, client-friendly organisation has led him to place special emphasis on supporting his team. He considers it essential to recruit individuals who exemplify passion, drive and the will to succeed but, from there, he considers it his duty to enable and empower them to achieve that success.
“The essential leadership traits of empowerment, opportunity, communication are words used every day, in every company when talking about people. It may seem a little clichéd, but I sincerely believe that these are principal factors in work satisfaction, which inevitably leads to stronger focus and engagement. I want to see my team succeed, and part of my role is simply to ensure that they have the platform to do so.” Recognition of each team member’s strengths is also top of the list for Kevin, and he ensures that everybody is in a position where they can be best utilised.
“A mentor once advised me to hire and surround myself with people who are better than me,” he says. “I’ve learned through my career how important this is. I back our team every day to deliver, and I feel I’m part of a team with a diversity of thinking, a team that works collaboratively to achieve success.”
“We want to continue to be the global leader in online derivative trading for sophisticated traders.”
On the flip side of the people element is IG Australia’s clients. It goes without saying that the company is driven to provide the best possible service, but the IG Group offers its clients support beyond its basic services. For example, the company is a co-founder of the CFD & FX Forum, a body dedicated to the industry-wide development of Australian CFD and FX (foreign exchange) providers, and to shoring up investor confidence.
IG Group’s basic services are accessible and inclusive from the start; accounts are free to set up, and considerable support is made available, in the form of community forums, service team contact and one-on-one introductory guidance.
Notably, IG Group offers market analysis, as well as free access to IG Academy, a resource to help customers better understand the process of derivative trading. With quizzes, seminars and a virtual trading system, IG Academy is available even for mobile, meaning that clients are constantly and comprehensively supported. Kevin says he finds it “satisfying knowing that we as a company regularly make a meaningful difference to our clients in examples like this”.
“We pride ourselves on putting our clients’ interests first,” he adds. “We have clear objectives and plans, and we work towards those. When it comes to our clients, we want to champion their interests, their protection and their overall trading experience.”
As IG Group continues to offer these comprehensive services, Kevin finds the company operating in an environment of significant regulatory change. While some might see it as a challenge, Kevin has not only recognised the reality of the regulatory environment, he sees it as a necessary state of the market; regulation is necessary to support the enormous growth of the markets in which investors are operating.
“We work closely with regulatory bodies in each of the jurisdictions in which we operate,” he says, “to ensure we understand both what is intended and required and how we can contribute to responsible growth in our industry. We’re fully supportive of any actions that improve the outcomes for our clients and traders.”
Of course, Kevin has faced his fair share of challenges throughout his career. The gone-but-not-forgotten global financial crisis of 2008 still looms in the collective memory of the finance world and, while humanity did come out on the other side, it was a time that forced many to learn and adapt, not least of all Kevin.
“The lead-up to the GFC was a defining factor in my career,” he says. “I was co-managing a derivatives desk. Each week, I felt we were living through history, during some of the most definitive moments of our times. Looking back, we managed the crisis extremely well, and the strength of the team guided us through it.”
Kevin also stresses that the challenges in one’s career aren’t necessarily just professional in nature. One of the most difficult times for Kevin was when he had recently taken over a sales team, and a young team member passed away. While it was one of the toughest points in his professional life, the response of the young man’s family and his colleagues gave Kevin strength. Tragic as it was, it demonstrates two things – the importance Kevin places on people, and the necessity of resilience.
“We come across so many different types of challenges, and we handle them differently,” he says, “but they all define the person that we become.”