How a Top Singapore FinTech Startup Gamifies Stock Trading

TradeHero is hailed as one of the best startups to come out of Southeast Asia’s FinTech hub, Singapore.  It is a mobile investment app that makes user knowledge and reputation the core of its gamification and monetization system under the motto ‘Trade Better, Together’.


Asia’s huge population, growing smartphone penetration, and an emerging middle class with increasing disposable income are driving unprecedented demand for digital financial services. In its turn, this demand is spurring innovation and the fintech industry is attracting huge investments.

Singapore is generally recognized as the fintech hub of Southeast Asia and has elevated financial technology to priority status within its ambitious Smart Nation vision.

Hailed as one of the best and most exciting fintech startups to come out of Singapore, in 2013, TradeHero raised $10 million funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers China fund (KPCB China) and IPV Capital. Today it boasts to be the number one finance app in over 90 countries, with 3.5 million registered users.

The TradeHero mobile app is a stock exchange simulator based on real-world data and built like a social network for stock market players.

“We want to gamify trading,” said TradeHero co-founder and CEO Dinesh Bhatia at Tech in Asia Singapore 2015. “People often ask me, ‘So you think the stock market is all fun and games?’ and I say ‘No, but the best way to teach someone about the stock market is with fun and games.’”


How it works:

On signing up players get $100,000 in virtual cash to build their own portfolios and make virtual trades in real time.

They can switch between different stock exchanges and countries, filter stocks based on Trending, Price Action and Unusual Volumes, and get the latest financial news and analyses

Users can learn the basics of trading and investing with quick video tutorials from the TradeHero Academy and follow other players who are doing well on the platform.

As their own stock portfolio goes up in value, so does players’ TradeHero status and they will climb the leaderboard. With increased visibility and a good track record, successful Trade Heroes attract followers of their own and get rewarded with real cash.


Players unlock achievements and earn points (=ROI) by making trades, win honorary medals as they level up, and ‘become Heroes of the market’ as they move up the leaderboard.   

Gamification arguably works at its best in a learning context and on TradeHero, ‘knowledge is power’.  The app provides a fun context and reason to learn about trading and investing and invites users to do so in several possible ways:

    • From a series of 2-minute video tutorials offered by the TradeHero Academy;
    • From the available real-time stock market information, news and analyses;
    • By gaining risk-free trading experience as they invest their virtual $100,000, and perhaps most importantly,
    • By following successful players with high virtual ROI

This last option is what turns the app from a simple simulation game into a social investment network and it is also key to its two-fold monetization mechanics, or in other words, it is how the app itself AND its users make money. The higher the virtual ROI, the better the reputation of a TradeHero player and the more likely she or he is to get followers willing to pay for access to this expertise.  

  • In-app purchases allow users to follow the best market players, get access to their past and open trades, and replicate their actions.
  • Monthly subscription fees for particular users’ feeds are shared between the app and the ‘Trade Heroes’ themselves. The latter earn real cash for each paying follower.


Monetizing information and reputation


Knowledge and information are key to success on the real market as well as in TradeHero. Virtual ROI in the app is thus an indicator of a player’s expertise.  

The higher that virtual ROI, the better the reputation of that player.

TradeHero could have been built entirely on the premise that people would be sufficiently motivated to play by their inherent need for recognition (as measured by the number of followers); by the gratification of seeing one’s efforts to learn and practice translated into (hopefully increasing) virtual ROI and progress in the leaderboard.

But the app goes further and offers a money-making opportunity for players who can capitalize on reputation and earn real cash by growing their following.


More external rewards

While Singapore is the uncontested fintech leader and bustling hub of Southeast Asia, its 5 million residents are also famously the world’s biggest lottery spenders, with $1,000 per capita annually (gambling being illegal in Singapore). The propensity for gaming – and competition – seems to be an Asian cultural characteristic and probably adds to the lure of stock markets and the TradeHero proposition.

In fact, TradeHero caters to this trait not only by offering practice for entry in what must seem an exciting world to anyone with a gambling streak. And not only by appealing to, and nurturing players’ competitive nature with push messages, badges, achievements and leaderboards.

Retention is further sustained through partnerships with major financial service providers and special time-limited challenges and competitions with real prizes. These provide additional ‘emotional highs’ and reinforce the motivation to play and compete. And it can’t hurt if they are also an additional revenue stream for the app makers and investors.

The latest such challenge has just kicked off for Malaysian TradeHeroes in a partnership with Kenanga financial group.



Featured image: TradeHero Facebook


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