Baydog here. First time poster, two years on FI. I have been lurking in the forum shadows for a year or so. This is an essay rather than a post. As the actor said to the bishop, I apologise in advance for the length, depth and penetration. But if you push on through, you’ll feel the benefit.
I suppose you could call me a whale by most standards. At peak my port value was £215k. I am the guy Vespasian referenced in in Dan the Man’s recent thread. I pulled almost everything in January when I saw things unfold in China, and I hounded Vesp to do the same.
I probably had a lot more reason to do so. It wasn’t so much I was worried about FI going down, I was worried about myself going down. I run a food shop and I am exposed to many people every day. So as far as Covid goes, I am on the frontline. I am not married, and in the event of my death I did not want to hand over an FI password to my 9 year old niece as inheritance (she still doesn’t seem to understand the mechanics of the new matching engine. I’m beginning to doubt she even cares.)
I was also referenced in a screenshot of a conversation with Vesp in relation to FI finances. Someone raised the question where does your contact get his information. In response, I do not have any information. I am cautious, I do a lot of research. FI is a company based in Jersey and I have no information on FI finances. Before investing heavily, I asked FI if I could buy a nominal number of shares in the company so that I was privy to shareholder information (similar to the initial seedr investors). I did not get a response, and can therefore only speculate.
What I do know is that FI are market disruptors and venture capitalists, and the nature of such companies in their infancy (and beyond) is to accept losses to gain market share. There are several massive market disruptors who are barely profitable now (Amazon, Uber, Deliveroo to name a few.) I personally doubt that FI are as profitable as most seem to assume, but I am also aware that they have some large private investors who I am very confident are in a position to bankroll the company during these difficult times. If the company was not worth saving then I’d be worried, but anyone sitting here reading this knows what a phenomenal product this is, and the potential it has going forward.
On the screenshot with Vesp I said the Matching Engine is very much a move to save FI’s ass. I stand by this but it is not a criticism. The company has been paying out £2m in divs a month and what is the income? Very little trading going on to make commission and interest rates have been cut to 0.1%. That £100m+ pot in their account is now earning maybe £10k per annum instead of £1m per annum @1%.
One thing that is constantly at the back of my mind with such large sums of money involved is how the company can be sustainable. In my case, I put in £100k, made £8k divs, spent £15k on commission and made £100k in CA. How is that a sustainable business model? My feeling has always been at some point FI will need to make some fairly significant changes to tip the balance a little more in their favour. I think I read that on average only 7% of customers win at traditional bookies. At FI it seems far, far higher than 7%, and who is paying for the winnings? How does this balance out? These are some of the questions that tend to swirl around my head as the winnings keep rolling in.
My gut feeling was at some point they would need to make a significant change in the way people traded so that the company could become/remain profitable, and order books could do just that. I am under no illusions, I think it will be more work to make less money – but, at the same time I won’t have to worry about the health of the company. Their accounts will be more stable. I’d sooner make a stress free 50% then have to worry about whether I am going to lose my whole investment at any given moment to make 100%.
I support them making an extra 2% on the ME as it makes the model more viable taking 4% on some trades. In my head I can begin to see how they can become a profitable organisation. Until that happens I believe their finances will remain registered in Jersey where no one can see them. I mean, would you put £100k into a company if you could go on companies house and see they are losing money? Likewise, are you comfortable putting in a fortune when you have no idea if they are profitable? Well we all have. I don’t feel entirely comfortable, but I believe in the quality of the product and take the risk.
When the market has matured and the model is robust I believe we will see it go public and floated on the stock exchange. Until the finances are transparent some big guns will be put off – catch 22 in many ways. They have done incredibly well to gain the market share that they have, and it is a compliment to them and a positive sign of performance that others such as FS are trying to replicate their model.
That said, I can clearly see the issues that are being experienced by some forum members. I can agree with almost every point of view, even though there are conflicting sides to the argument. It is not right that such significant changes can be made without prior warning, but I can totally see why it has been done the way it has (and I doubt that this was the plan pre covid.)
Clearly we have not been given the full OB function as of yet. What we have been given is certainly not ideal, but I think that the disabling of IS was very much a necessity to protect everyone’s interests (all of which are impossibly interlinked.)
Personally, I believe that they have done very well with the first phase of the ME. It has given the opportunity for some people to get out whilst ensuring that the market is appealing to those with a cash balance. If they enable a true IS I think we’d have seen the same thing as back in March when the fear kicked in and everyone was selling in a snowball effect.
Disabling IS has put some people in difficult positions. I bought 5000 shares in a 40p Bundesliga player shortly before the ME announcement, so I have cheap players in large quantities that could be difficult to shift. I tend to buy medium to long term so I am not too concerned, and I purchased knowing IS was already disabled. It is however an unsettling position to be in not having a definitive out, and it does alter the risk factor no doubt at all.
In earnest I have doubted FI many times over the course of two years, and they have proven me wrong each time (in effect proving me right to take the risk on them). My main criticism of FI has always been a lack of communication. Quite frankly it is pitiful. If people are to take them seriously it has to improve. I can reel off a list of the times they have implemented changes and everyone has kicked off. The worry is that they always do something to stimulate the market when people moan, and the artificial inflation means that the criticism drifts to the back of the mind (until the next downturn.)
Back in November 2019 they began messing with the deltas that affect the price movement of a player. FI had not communicated in any way that they would or could do this. Everyone on the forum was going nuts. I contacted FI and told them in no uncertain terms that they were exposed, and suggested all it needed was some wording in the terms and conditions to explain what could affect price movement. I don’t give a shit if FI get sued/fined, but I do give a shit if I lose all my money. And this is the same thing. Thankfully they have now added this wording to the T&Cs, but their propensity for making unilateral decisions is a constant gripe (changing terms of out bets.) Their behaviour at times is questionable. Murky. Worrying. Easy to ignore when the money is rolling in.
I have seen this repeatedly in my two years on the platform. Communication has been bad. I mean, when I signed up in March/April 2018 I could not find the rules of the game definitively. I read somewhere that if one of my players dropped out of the top 200 then I lost my bet and the shares disappeared. My initial stake was £5k, and I lost at least £2k in the first month or two panic selling players at a massive loss because they started to drift towards the bottom of the Top 200. I eventually found out that this rule had been long since abandoned. In spite of losing a lot of money, a month or two later I decided to sell my house and put the entire £100k into FI.
Now I am not a big gambler. Aside from a £100k acca, I have not really placed any bets in the last decade or so (I used to do plenty of accas in my 20s, but only a tenner a week.) Yet after losing nearly half my money quickly I was willing to go all in. In this sense I am a terrible advert for gambling responsibly. That said I put in plenty of research, and my bet was more on the company being fine than it was on me being able to make money in a booming market.
My house sold around the time of the share split, but I didn’t put it in immediately. I waited to see what the split factor was (turned out to be 3) and for the new PB Matrix to be unveiled. At the end of summer 2019, having seen the new matrix would favour more creative players and set piece takers, I took my decision. Rather than sinking £100k into the top 200 I plundered the squad lists and bought long term holds that I thought were insane value. I bought thousands of shares in rashica at 75p, Thuram at 80p, kuluveski at 55p, Lorenzo Pellegrini at 65p, Luis Alberto at 77p, Kostic at 66p, Brekalo at 54p, Cunha at 60p, Cuisance at 61p, florinel coman at 33p, Dennis Zakaria at 30p, Nkunku at £1.20, Neuhaus 60p, Saka £1.30, Gnabry at 98p, Amiri 50p, Ianis Hagi 50p, Havertz £2.20, and many others.
I pretty much made 100% on these players within a few months of the season beginning, and yet by November the forum was in absolute outrage. I was making good money but I was worried about my investment (not the picks in my port.) Many on the forum were threatening to leave the platform because the top end had ground to a halt. The owners of premium holds were kicking off because the shares cost £5 for a 2p div pay out. It was fine for existing owners as they had 3 times the shares thanks to the split, so they’d essentially be getting 6p payout, but for new owners they are paying £5 for 2p win.
Because of that lack of appeal on div return to new owners, there was no CA at the top end. I saw this issue coming which is why I steered well clear of the top200 with my money. It was always going to be an issue and I think it was a clever decision by FI to stifle the top end for a while. It would not be in their interest for the top end to rise post split, everyone had three times the shares – why would they want that end to grow?
The introduction of IPD’s in the previous winter during another period of stagnation put value in the bottom end of the market at the expense of the top end, and this switch in values is a move that FI uses time and again. It is in their interest to move value around, it keeps the game interesting. If all the value is always in one part of the market then the situation is the rich get richer. The early investors are the only winners, and that is not in FI interest. The model is based upon securing new users, so new users must always be able to feel that they can find new value, not just make the rich richer. FI have tested a number of methods to achieve this model. Recently they are becoming more and more obscure, and the last one with the points just was so complex I didn’t even bother reading into it. I can sort of see what they are trying to do, but I do not see the benefit of complexity when they are trying to attract new users. That is one of my issues with OBs, but I have to say the new system is very simplistic. That is a positive.
So, back to Nov 19. The top end was stagnant and making no CA and everyone was losing their temper. My favourite quote on the forum came from ellisandro, forgive me for the paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of ‘it was like when Russia told everyone that they would be getting a Lada and endless supplies of cabbage.’ It was at this point that I made my first intervention.
I am not on social media, I rely 100% on the forum for my information and to gauge sentiment (a massive part of making money on this platform.) At that time the forum became such a toxic place that I did not know what to do. I believed in my holds but everyone who owned the top end were losing their shit, and I was debating selling up like others. I contacted my account manager Dan and suggested that FI would do well to start building some bridges of communication between themselves and the forum community. All of this negativity is very off putting to the casual voyeur.
My suggestion was that FI should nominate half a dozen forum members who would all be given an FI contact (or form a chat group with FI involved) and would be available to take questions from forum members and communicate them with FI. I am a bit of an FI loner, I didn’t know anyone in the community aside from a couple of good mates, neither of which use the forum. I am not on social media and have no interest in joining. I believe the forum is a fantastic tool (I describe ericali in the same way). I read it fanatically even though I do not contribute. My feeling is that it could be improved a lot, and become far more of a community than twitter.
One thing that really struck me was a thread when people were asked their age. Most people seem to be kind of the same demographic, 30s – 40s. It’s like one big boys club isn’t it David. I’m pretty confident most members will get this quote as most have a sense of humour and have watched the same sitcoms etc. Reading a thread about championship manager 97/98 almost brought a tear to old Baydog’s eye.
The forum offers something for an age group that are not necessarily turned on by social media. We are the age group most likely to have real disposable income. I told Dan that they should take advantage of this weapon at their disposal (although he called it a massive tool.) Just after I’d shouted Dan Dan Dan down the phone at him and told him that he’d got chocolate mousse all over the valance we got down to business.
I suggested several members who I believed would be suitable for the role of mod. These were the following members: Advinculas, Janner, Vespasian, Ericali (he’s a very naughty boy), jonnyboywalker and Mick Turbo. I stand by all of these nominations, and several others have emerged since (I won’t name names but there are many posters who make excellent contributions). The ones I have suggested don’t all get a long, but that’s possibly a good thing in a democracy. I respect all of their views, as different as they can be.
I made the suggestion to Dan and he said it sounded plausible, but at the time I was getting so worried about my money with all the negativity on the forum that I took the matters into my own hands. Until recently I have not been able to log on to the forum. I only discovered that I could last night. So to contact someone I had to create a twitter account and send them a message. I had to trawl through old messages on the forum to find one of the aforementioned gents reference their twitter profile. Vesp was the first I found so I contacted him and asked if he would mind so kindly putting me in a whatsapp group with himself and Eric.
At this juncture, I have to be honest, I think I may be kind of responsible for the breakdown in relations between Eric and Vesp. I told them first of my feelings about the current market and where it was going and why everyone was losing their shit (as mentioned above, I felt FI were purposefully stifling the top and all the CA was to be made at the bottom.) I then told them that I was trying to put together a group of forum users who could act as the contacts between the forum and FI to improve communication. It was a Saturday evening, I was kind of boozy, and I probably rattled on a bit too much as Eric pretty abruptly exited the group and I never spoke with him again. It didn’t bother me, but it was kind of rude, Eric! You naughty boy you.
Over the next few days the forum tempers hit fever pitch. There was talk of an insider (which I suspect may well have been me who was being refereed to.) I think perhaps there was suspicion that because I had an account manager and had a strong portfolio performance whilst most others were doing shit, added up to being told things that others were not. I can categorically say that this is not the case. Even to this day I usually only find out about announcements because the market is lighting up.
This is another reason that the forum needs lines of communication – some of us don’t use twitter! I am generally the last person to receive information and I have an account manager. Vesp rightly seemed pretty suspicious of me, and it wasn’t helped that within a week of me contacting him a dividend increase was announced (kind of looked like I was trying to calm things until the announcement – which is again kind of what it looks like I am doing now before Tuesdays announcement). The single common denominator is the vibe on the forum. I start to worry when there is prolonged negativity. Every time this happens FI do something to sort the problem – but the pandemic is not really something that FI can sort alone. They do need our help on this one.
What brings me to write this is kind of a sense of duty. I have done very, very well out of FI. Beyond my expectations. Whilst I pulled the lot, I have this week started depositing again. I have mixed feelings about most aspects of FI right now, but I owe them a hell of a lot. I can see higher risk and lower returns, but I am spending more time on the platform now then when I was making easy money because the ME has captured my interest. It’s a funny old game.
What I would like to see is the forum community pull together to facilitate active change. Everyone has their own agenda, and this is understandable, but it is not always the best route to follow. My role in the Eric vs Vesp battle highlights this.
Shortly after Eric left the group myself and Vesp continued to chat. We both agreed that there was more money to be made at the bottom, but that it was important to promote the top end. Growth at the top end is good for everyone, it all trickles down. My only problem with Eric is this – he has an inherent need to prove himself right even if it comes at the expense of damaging the market. I like Eric, a lot. I agree with much of what he says. But far too often he makes arguments just to satisfy his inherent need to be proven right. This is not an insult, it is behaviour that I recognise from my own personality.
Almost immediately after our discussion Eric took it upon himself to start relentlessly bashing the top end of the market and telling everyone that the money was at the bottom end. It was not my tip, Eric was already trading the bottom end, I think my discussion just affirmed things in his mind. He could have carried on and made money quietly, but he chose to prove himself right in the public forum instead of being able to just happily look at his bank balance.
It is the inherent need for people to see that he is right that incites arguments. He thrives having arguments as it gives him a platform to prove himself right. Yes, he was absolutely right, anyone could see it. But by constantly bashing the top end of the market he damages the platform for everyone.
Me and Vesp (and several others such as ste and janner) could see this, and Vesp took it upon himself to talk up the top end even though he was not involved in it himself. Eric was dishing out his ridiculous cups for the top risers some fucking Algerian playing in Mexico who was making 20% in a day whilst TAA was only going up 5% a month. Anyone with sense could see that Erics thread was inflammatory. He was creating arguments because he knew he could prove himself right, and he was pitting himself against good forum commentators like Vesp and Janner to make his point at the cost of the market, which they were arguing against trying to protect for the greater good of the market.
It was not my intention but I kind of pitched them against one another. Eric was standing up for his strategy and Vesp was standing up for the market. It ended up dragging a lot of other forum members into the equation and soon really divided a lot of people into either camp. What is quite remarkable is that in the last week they seem to have switched roles. Eric is now acting in a way to defend the platform whereas Vesp is doing the damage and becoming the villain. It’s a funny old game.
I am pretty damn confident that Vesp will come back around. I’m sure I am not alone when I say it is disappointing to see him turn on the platform. That said, what many of you will not be aware of is how hard he has worked since I made my introduction late last year to maintain a level of balance and help new members with advice. Sure we know the way he trades, and it can involve use of IS a lot – and use of IS does destabilise the market, but we all do it at times when there are injuries etc. Crisis brings opportunity and many buy on the injury for a solid rise when everyone is done with the IS. For large investors I think stability is important, and with no IS function stability will be increased massively. This could attract big money, potentially.
I have the luxury of having a fresh pot of money so can react to these changes that FI have enforced upon us. I had told Vesp last year that I would sell everything before OB’s so that I could learn the new market a bit before committing to it. Covid brought that forward, unfortunately Vesp didn’t react and he’s one who is in the upset camp (as would I be in his position). The problem is that we are all so interlinked. I like to lurk in the shadows and keep my beady eye on sentiment. I’m sure there are plenty of others lurking who get very edgy when there is a bad vibe. There has been a bad vibe since I got involved, as they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I was hoping to make the forum a more positive place because it is important to people who are reading.
Fi don’t help themselves, they are very much the antagonists right now. They have changed our bets again. I can quite understand the points of view of Vesp, Mr White, Dan the Man etc, I’m in their position too on some holds. They are not the bad guys in this, their point of view is correct and it is valid. I can also appreciate those making the argument against them. It is in their interest to talk the platform up, everyone is worried about their money. People naturally want to paint a positive picture because its how their position grows.
On this matter it is almost impossible to reach an agreement. These are unprecedented times. I can appreciate why FI have done what they have done, I can appreciate why people are angry and I can appreciate why people are trying to silence the critics. I don’t really have a side of the fence to sit on, I have no idea what to expect from the next year or two. I don’t really see a vaccine being developed so our lives are going to be disrupted a fair bit for a fair while.
I called in January that the Euros will be cancelled and I still struggle to see aspects of European competition going ahead for a year or more (2 week quarantine etc, and I believe it will get bad again in Winter.) The decision makers at FI are operating under similar circumstances, it’s as much a guessing game for them as it is for anyone else. They will have as many concerns as anyone else. It is in their interest to be positive and bullish, it is the consumers right to be unsatisfied with the product and ask for their money back. Somewhere in the middle of this is a solution, and I hope that FI can open some dialogue in a better way than a Twitter Q&A that I won’t be tuning in to.
I am as unsure on the future as anyone else. Every day I have to worry about what customers are bringing into my shop. I imagine it is the same feeling for FI employees reading the forum right now. FI and the community can work together to appease each other, but it does require a joint effort
Sure we’ve all been fucked over in ways that we could not foresee, including FI, but crisis always brings opportunity. As long as the platform is healthy I will feel safe making deposits. If I have to worry about the finances of the company then I will take my money out.
I think everyone has to try and adopt a balanced view between their own needs and the needs of the company, and then decide if they are willing to meet in the middle a bit during these difficult times. If it is viable, then FI should find a way to privately appease individuals. If it is not viable, then they should perhaps tell us that this is the case, but offer us some details on how it will be resolved. We are not unreasonable people, we all understand the circumstances.
FI probably assume that, as “gamblers”, we will all soon forget any wrong doings if people are making money – and they have been proven correct up until this point. Currently I have re-invested around £15,000 of new money since the ME, and I am very happy with the savings that I have made. I have not really settled on a strategy yet, but do not carry the same level of fear of the lower end of the market as others. I think in time the market will learn the new normal just like in the outside world, and FI will create value across the market as it is in their interest. But this just illustrates my point. People see the growth and forget their concerns, and FI seem to bank on this with every promotion.
When things turn sour FI tend to throw some artificial stimulation, but in this case it is something very different. Covid could not be reasonably planned for. They have done a decent job. But the lack of communication probably in legal terms could be deemed pretty questionable. It’s not great to be strong-armed into accepting new terms and conditions when no one has been given any forewarning about the implications of these changes. I don’t think they could really have told anyone that IS was going to be disabled or everyone would have sold off. It’s a very difficult situation for everyone.
It is however an opportunity for the community to pull together to affect positive change, and this is beneficial to everyone including FI. We need transparency and communication if we are to continue to feel that our money is secure (in what is essentially a dictatorship.) A democracy is more favourable. Trust is important and this would be a good step forward in the process.
I don’t have a personal agenda. I am not seeking self-promotion. I am not worried about my investment, I am playing off 15% of my profits from FI. I am not in any camp and I am not pushing anyone else’s agenda.
What would be a nice gesture by FI is if they find a way to facilitate some kind of community moderator roles for the forum. This would not involve content edit, no one could delete threads or ban members etc. They would be go-betweens, recognised points of contacts that forum members can approach with questions and concerns to take to FI and get answers. All a Twitter Q&A will result in is more questions and screenshots that will be used against you the next time the goal posts are moved. The market is maturing and regardless of current circumstances, I feel it is time for the company to begin to develop a more proactive approach to improving communication.