New platform makes trading social again

When trading moved from raucous pits to computer screens, it created efficiencies, but what was lost was a sense of community.

When trading moved from raucous pits to computer screens, it created efficiencies, but what was lost was a sense of community. Traders found themselves alone in front of a screen, trading with no central market for information and without the energy that was found when the pits were vibrant. 

One company is trying to reestablish that sense of community — even if you are a new generation trader who has only ever known trading through a computer screen.
A trader’s platform is his lens into the markets, and for many customization is key, according to broker-dealer TD Ameritrade Inc.

“Today retail investors are utilizing social tools that allow an investor to have a more meaningful dialogue with other investors,” says Nicole Sherrod, managing director, Trader Group, TD Ameritrade. 

But, building an individual experience that exposes the data that matters can be time-consuming, particularly for someone new to the markets. So, a year ago the Omaha, Nebraska-based company launched thinkorswim Sharing, which allows thinkorswim users to securely and instantly share customized software settings for charts, workspaces, studies, trade and alert templates with others, giving both platform veterans and novices the ability to gain valuable market insights by being able to analyze each other’s strategies. 

The beauty of thinkorswim Sharing is that it all happens on the trading platform. No having multiple windows open to charting packages, news feeds, trading forums that you click in and out of and then try and share information by taking a screen capture of one program and forwarding it on through another, all while monitoring your trades. 

It allows users to create scans and watch lists with specific rules, and then share ideas that pop up with certain criteria in real time. 

“This is the tool for communication to enable visual sharing in other social communities,” says Sherrod, who often shares her entire personal settings with new options traders. “It’s a platform for sharing complex information very quickly.”

Traders are looking to build a following of smart like-minded people—this platform raises the level of dialogue for some of the top traders.

A quick glance of how traders are using the tool shows individuals sharing charts, scripts and other customized features of the platform. In doing so, existing clients can copy the settings right from the shared content. Prospects can see what is being shared to help better reinforce the strategy or lesson that the trader is sharing.  

The majority of traders are on Twitter today, according to Sherrod. “In a world where traders are limited to 140 characters, this capability allows people to have a more meaningful dialogue in social,” Sherrod says. “You have 140 characters to say what you have to say — and a lot more can be said with charts versus text. 

John Hart, TDA managing director, Trading Products/ Development, says, “With the sharing feature, you can click on charts that are shared on Twitter — if you don’t have an account you can see the links that go to the thinkorswim learning center page where you can learn all the capabilities that we offer.”

If you do have an account you can go to the “view this in thinkorswim” account tab and apply all of those precise settings to your own live chart.  This opens up opportunities for collaboration among traders. One trader can build on the analysis of another by adding a study or trendline to a shared chart that adds additional information or perhaps provides an alternate view of price activity. 

Even if you aren’t using TD Ameritrade to trade, if you sign up for Paper Money — TD Ameritrade’s virtual trading platform for non-clients — that will allow you access to most of the Sharing functionality.  
“We don’t discriminate because we want that information to get out there,” Hart says. “[There is] great potential for dialogue about the markets, so whatever tools you use, this is a great vehicle for sharing complex visual information about the markets.”

Visuals are helpful to a point, but sharing gives you the ability to continue the dialogue from a visual perspective. A typical trading platform workspace can have up to 5,000 settings, and users need a way to filter through the options quickly and efficiently so they can focus on what matters most — keeping tabs on the market you’re trading.

That’s where thinkorswim Sharing comes in. Within seconds, users can securely share settings with one another over e-mail, IM, or via social media platforms.

This technology also makes the transition from other TD Ameritrade trading platforms to the more sophisticated thinkorswim easier for new or aspirational traders. On the new thinkorswim Sharing site, clients have access to a number of pre-configured workspace setups, which will help them get up and running quickly. Whether they are an aspiring trader or a sophisticated futures trader they will find preconfigured settings to meet their needs.

“Thinkorswim Sharing is the latest release in a multi-phase project roll out designed to make our trading technology accessible to more investors,” Sherrod says. 
The company is focusing on education, but a different kind of education. Aside from Twitter, Thinkorswim Sharing also helps address a need for traders who are active on Facebook, myTrade, Google+, blogs and other social sites. 

Though it’s only been a year, the sharing platform is quite popular, with more than 20,000 tweets a day — approaching one million shares total — and there have been tens of thousands of users, mostly sharing charts, workspaces, grid studies and watchlists.

“We continue to push the boundaries of social media,” Sherrod says. “Trading technology is becoming more sophisticated and complex; not just sharing ideas but also platform settings of other regarded traders. We have built out a content arsenal— more than 40% of our traders are trading derivatives — to provide a platform for educational materials.”

Thinkorswim Sharing marries a state-of-the-art trading platform with the world of social media that can help build sophisticated connected trading communities.

About the Author

Yesenia Duran is Managing Editor at Futures magazine. She has covered the financial industry for more than 5 years. She originally joined Futures in 2002 after graduating from Northwestern University where she majored in journalism.